Confusion in The West
by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
There’s a great deal of confusion among people that I’ve met in the West. I’m sure it’s the same in the East, the North and the South. Specifically, people often blame others for how they react to a situation.
The first thing that people often do is blame another human being for how they feel. The second thing that people often say is that they blame you for how they react to their feelings. For example, if you say something that hurts my feelings, I might say something back that is defensive and attacking. Then when you call me out on it, I might say, “Well, you made me do that.”
This is a very big mistake. Unless a person slaps you in the head or does something physical, causing danger or physical pain to your body, you are 100% responsible for your own feelings. You are responsible for whether or not something is hurtful to you or makes you happy.
When someone does something to you that is hurtful, you might be able to say to them that whatever they did really hurt your feelings. And then explain to them why. Whatever reaction that you have, that reaction comes from your free will. It's your decision how you will react next. It’s important to take responsibility. It’s important to see yourself in action. If you don’t, then you will be at the mercy of every human being, every creature, and every event.
I feel the way I feel because that is who I am. I behave the way I do because I choose to behave that way. Of course there are things in the external world that will influence my decisions. But I have to be mindful, watch my reactions, and decide whether or not my responses and reactions are skillful. My responses should be compassionate to myself and to others.
Am I a volatile person? Am I extremely reactive? Am I extremely sensitive to criticism? Do I have a low toleration for the frustration of not getting what I want? The most important thing for me to observe is what other people do that trigger me to react in a way that’s not appropriate. For me, when someone says something that’s hurtful, the most skillful way for me to react is to take a deep breath and feel the hurt.
My reaction has to be to tell the other person that I feel hurt. And if the other person gives me the opportunity, I have to tell them why I feel hurt. And I have to do so without blaming and without starting a fight. I don’t have to respond to someone hurting me by hurting them back. That’s irresponsible.
In life there’s a stage during which you’re innocent and you believe that everything in the world is easy. Your parents gave you things. Things hopefully just appeared as you needed them. But then you reach an age at which you realize that life is filled with all kinds of turmoil—especially with other people.
You realize at a certain age (maybe around 13) that the world is filled with lots of grownups who are just big babies. Realizing that isn’t judgmental; it’s just realistic. It’s necessary to understand that there are adults that are fully grown and fully developed physically who behave and think as if they are still very young children. Wherever they are stuck mentally and emotionally, you will need to develop skills to navigate and negotiate through other people’s childhood problems, as well as your own.
Meditation will help you develop these skills. This is so because it teaches you to become mentally focused as you go about the process of living. You will more quickly and effectively recognize things that trigger you to react negatively or inappropriately to and correct your behavior on the spot.