2004-12-17 / Columnists

The Inner Voice

by Marilyn Gelfand

Life is always said to be so unpredictable and we say that we must always go with the flow in the present moment. On the other hand, people, themselves in their daily lives, often are very predictable. It is important to see people as they really are so we do not have emotional reactions to the behavior of others when they do not do what we want as usual. There is no point to expect someone to act differently than the way he has been acting for the last several years. Why would that person change now? If you get upset, then you are only fooling yourself. It is much better to say that this is how this person will act. Then I don’t have to create my own suffering hoping that this time it will be different, and instead deal with the actions as they are likely to occur. I can predict what will happen, then choose ahead of time how I would want to act in those circumstances. Then I am dealing with reality as it is.

It is often helpful to compartmentalize what is predictable in others so we can detach from our own reactions to what we dislike, and instead deal with the present reality. I may have one compartment for a teenage daughter, another with an elderly fragile parent, a boss who is always irritable in the morning. These can be my present compartments, and those in my life will act as they are. There is no sense in being offended by the boss who is irritable to everyone in the morning if that is how he is with everyone. In these circumstances, it is best to stay out of his way until the afternoon.  When you can detach from the predictable behaviors of others, there is often humor that can substitute anger. It is what it is.

As much as possible, if the actions that you choose are thought out ahead, you will feel more in control of yourself when the person behaves in a way that makes you fly off the handle.  You will be following your own plan of what to do in this situation. Maybe when your action changes, it may actually alter the reality when you respond differently.  But that will only be known in that present moment.

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