Thursday, April 15, 2010

Commiserating

Almost daily now, we are faced with the issue of how to deal with the challenges our friends are going through. How do we handle these situations and stay uplifted ourselves? How do we steer clear of the swamplands of negativity and remain steadfast in our integrity so we can set an example for others in these times of great change?

Commiseration is another kind of agreement that is so subtle that we can be up to our neck in it before we realize what's happening. You know how it goes: someone starts complaining about something, and you find yourself agreeing with them - and even, perhaps, telling a story about how you've had some of the same sort of problems they're talking about. On the surface it seems harmless enough, but underlying it all is the reinforcement of situations that really don't do anybody any good. It's just another way we sabotage ourselves.

Oftentimes, when people are looking for someone to commiserate with them they have a vested interest in their suffering. They don't really want to change; they're seeking validation for their problems; they're looking to keep things the way they are, instead of getting better. They want to continue to receive the money, the medicines, the perks, or the attention that they've become accustomed to receiving.

That's how we can tell the difference between commiseration and compassion. The person who evokes our compassion is truly suffering and looking for a way out of it. The person who wants you to commiserate with them is usually protecting the status quo. It is for us to discern which is which by checking in with our feelings. Compassion elicits a feeling of love and empathy toward the sufferer, while commiseration leaves us feeling down and asking ourselves why we felt we had to add to another's problems (and our own) by agreeing with them.

I was having coffee this morning with my buddy, Jason, and before we even got into how we were going to approach our day's work, he started grumbling about how the money was short, the customers didn't appreciate him, and how his back hurt all the time. Then he went into a rant about the doctors and how they put pins into his back 10 years ago - and almost before I knew it, I was telling him about my own history of back problems. I started describing how my injury occurred, about the same time as his - and then I caught myself - and I stopped in mid sentence . . .

Knowing that my thoughts and my words are creating my future, why would I want to be agreeing with him around a subject that was apt to bring both of us more pain? It made no sense. If my intention is to be in agreement with him, wouldn't it be better to rally around a subject that is more positive and productive? Wouldn't it be better to dwell on things that are apt to bring us more happiness, comfort, peace, or abundance?

From that moment on, I've stayed more alert and aware to what I'm saying. And anytime Jason goes back into his stance of wanting me to commiserate with him, I switch the subject to something more positive. I'm not sure how long it will take him to catch on, but, for me, I begin to feel better the minute I stop commiserating.

In the moment we change a habit pattern
we also raise our consciousness.
~photo by Claudia

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