Sometimes while undergoing a change we notice the external symptoms have faded away. However, we fail to read or ignore the subtle symptoms. E.g. you have made a resolution of not getting angry and be loving and friendly with your office people. You have made good efforts in this direction too. Now you wear a smile at your workplace and talk to everyone lovingly. Earlier, when you disagreed with someone you would have an argument with them but now you try to remain calm and not react. Even others are convinced that you have changed. But you still feel some level of irritation inside. You are able to hide it from others though. When you notice the weaknesses of others, you despise them but have learned to not point them out.
After some time, these subtle symptoms come back as a full-blown habit and thus cause huge disappointment. One bad day and it will just burst out. When this happens, you start doubting if it is ever possible to overcome anger.
The real cause of disappointment was that the change was made only at an external level.
We just stopped working on it too early and didn’t take it to its last stage. Any change passes through various stages. e.g. When I resolve to overcome any habit like the anger I pass through the following stages –
Triggers and reactions are immediate: One cannot even notice when the reaction was initiated. For Eg someone did something unpleasant and even before I could think, I start yelling and throwing tantrums. I don’t realize that my reaction was wrong.
Awareness starts: After putting in some efforts listed here one is still not able to control the reaction. While reacting, one gets to know that whatever is happening, is not correct. However, there is not enough strength to change. Eg while yelling at someone after a few seconds I become aware of it but do not have the strength to stop.
Awareness increases: Over time, the triggers are the same and so is my reaction – I start yelling. But while yelling I will be able to tone down my voice.
Realization starts: In due course of time the strength inside increases. Now, the realization of my reaction comes as soon as I start reacting.
Pause: Now while reacting one is able to pause and change even if it happens in the middle of the act, or at the fag end. Eg I start yelling immediately but quickly change the tone of my voice and even say a few kind words towards the end. Now though one is reacting there is a simultaneous change inside. While I am unable to stop the reaction I am able to quickly change it, or leave the topic
Actions are controlled: In this stage, I am able to control my reaction externally (i.e. I don’t yell now). When there is a trigger I do not react but I respond calmly but there is slight irritation inside. The underlying thoughts of anger have not gone. Actions are controlled but not thoughts.
To control anger I may avoid the person at times, as I realize that I am not in the right frame of mind to interact. I have made up my mind to interact peacefully, but still, there is a slight disturbance inside in the form of subtle thoughts and feelings.
Response: Any trigger does not lead to a reaction. One is not required to battle anymore and is able to respond to situations calmly. This is the journey from reacting to responding. However, if one does not take the next two-step it is quite possible that one may start reacting again if not fully at least partially.
Love & Compassion: Here one starts to think from the other person’s point of view and tries to understand the other person’s weaknesses and limitations. One realizes that no one is perfect and everybody is going through their own journey and hardship. This increases my compassion towards others and any hurt or pain exchanged in the past slowly gets dissolved.
Wisdom: This is the stage where my love and compassion is not for any specific person or situation but for everyone. The previous stage is a laboratory, where one is creating loving principles. However, that stage may end up as an adjustment at times. In this stage, maturity goes beyond a specific person or situation. It is no longer an adjustment but has become a part of one’s nature and deep understanding. I can use it to foresee things and align myself, well in advance, whatever may be the situation.
As the wisdom increases the change inside me becomes permanent. Self-love, self-respect, and self-talk play a very important role to increase my wisdom. More about it here.