If I were a smoker, I probably would have lit up a cigarette.
Since I’m not, I bit my nails (a bad habit that I’ve obviously kept from my childhood).
It was Wednesday. 3.15 am. Once again…
Once again, I overreacted. Once again, I was riding the tiger of anger and frustration…or in other words, I surfed the wave that I thought I would never surf again.
I was sitting outside on the balcony, under the protection of the night sky, listening to the cars on the highway and asking myself where all these people were driving to in the middle of the night.
Although I was thinking over and over again what had happened only a couple of minutes earlier, I could’t find an answer to what had really made me yell and react in that way.
It definitely wasn’t only because of what he did.
This ‘tiger of anger’ that I was riding felt as if it was coming from a much deeper part of my being. I was aware of my overreaction in the moment when I smashed the picture frame, but I still wasn’t able to get off the tiger. Rather, I felt like I was a prisoner to this emotion, unable to escape.
Perceiving the outer world, no matter what the situation, comes from our own individual mindset. Simply spoken, it´s our mind that shapes our environment. It´s like a filter through which we see and experience our life, or like different kinds of glasses that we wear at different times.
Take this familiar situation: if you are in a good mood, you naturally see friendly, positive people everywhere, don´t you?
The same applies for when we are feeling down or upset.
As our conscious mind is shaped by information coming from our subconscious, it affects our ability to see things as they truly are. Everything we experience in life is therefore influenced from the outset by this pre-existing ‘conditioning’, and causes us to see events through this self-made, conditioned filter.
Neuroscience gives us tangible results, making such things easier to understand. It explains to us that because of the way our brain physically changes its structure, the things that our experience have a far greater, lasting impact that go way beyond the brief, subjective moment of the single experience.
These experiences make enduring changes to the physical tissues of our brain, which subsequently affects our wellbeing in general. This scientific evidence is a fundamental reason to be aware of the situations we find ourselves in, knowing that our actions, words and moreover our thoughts in these times make a lasting impact.
So ask yourself: Why am I actually riding this tiger right now?
All the negative emotions we feel are stored in our brain as memories, leaving a small residue of pain and suffering, and go on to shape the subconscious of our mind.
These negative experiences (as well as positive ones of course) not only impact on our subconscious (called implicit memory—which establishes the interior landscape of our mind), but also sculpt our brain. Thus every single experience is constantly shaping our brain. The term for this is Neuroplasticity.
For example, if your ex lied to you several times in your previous relationship, you will tend to have a lower level of trust going in to your next relationship, regardless of how that person actually treats you.
That is what is meant by having a ‘conditioned mindset.’ It is one that exists as a result of our existing mind patterns.
Most of the patterns we repeat are done so subconsciously, and that’s the dangerous thing about it. If we don’t practice awareness and try to understand how our mind works, we end up being caught in a destructive circle, unaware of how to escape.
The tricky thing about these negative implicit memories is that we are not aware of them, and they affect us even when our positive experiences outnumber the negative ones. Negative implicit memories naturally grow faster.
It takes time and effort to clear away old structures and build new ones.
I’m sorry to let you down here, but there is no reset button that you can simply press to make them go away.
In summary: We are constantly planting seeds. Every single experience we have is automatically met with the same, conditioned response system that we have constructed.
So the question is: from which kind of garden do you want to perceive? One full of weeds, or one full of flowers?
Once we make this choice, we are responsible for the outcome. We are our own gardener, since the garden doesn´t exist independently. We are each responsible for what kind of plant blossoms.
With every thought, we either pull weeds or plant flowers.
We all have weeds and flowers in our garden. What I am interested in is which kind of plant I will grow today, in this actual moment, right now.
So, after biting my nails to the bone, I switched off light, went back inside, and chose to plant one more flower in my garden.
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Asst Ed. J.Andersson/Ed: Bryonie Wise