I have always been a high maintenance person. In fact, my symptoms are so severe that people from my inner circle used to tell me that I need to give myself a break. I didn’t spend much of my time in cleaning and perfecting my residence area, but I didn’t create much mess and didn’t like it when someone else created a mess there. And I always made a point to remind them how ugly it all is appearing.
But there was a character in my real life whose symptoms were even severer than mine. I used to listen to his rants about how things are going bad, and he should get a better, cleaner environment.
I used to think ‘Why if he is so irritated of disturbance, doesn’t he clean his surroundings all by himself? He has two hands, he can easily move with two legs he has gotten, and he has all the time in this world as he doesn’t do anything for a living,’ At least I was more bearable than him as I didn’t fuss about the cleanliness of others’ environment.
I wondered and wondered until I fell into that pit myself. And only after I fell into the pit that I understood how this cycle of ungratefulness works.
My First Complain:
Although I always told people around me why their behavior is bad and what could they do to improve it, I never combined these talks with feelings of resentment.
But one day, I had enough of mess, and no one seemed to care. So, I felt as though I had taken up the job of housekeeper. What was the responsibility of everybody else? To make a mess?
And that day I complained.
‘You never keep the things in order.’
‘I am always the person to take care of all the things.’
‘I have told you a hundred times not to throw your belongings in my room.’
And things went downhill from that day onwards. I saw that my full-of-emotions complain had just as much effect on these people as my clear advice before it. But these complained had opened the door for me to complain more. And soon I was nothing more than a complaint-box.
I learned that unsolicited advice creates tremendous (adverse) effect on the advisor when he combines it with negative emotions.
The series of Complaints:
But this realization was not enough to stop the flood of complaints that came out of my mouth every day. It did not help me in managing my anger.
I kept complaining about people’s behavior. I got some response from them, but it was not enough to fulfill my desires of cleanliness, and my resentment rose even higher. (Now I think that even a positive response from these people would not have ended the flood of complaints that was coming out my mouths. I would have found some other minor things to fuss about.)
My second lesson was that frequent complaints had little (to no) effect on the listeners instead it increases resentment for the complainer.
The Loop of Resentment:
My condition deteriorated even after the second lesson. My resentment grew to the point that I would no longer bear the (perceived) irresponsibility these people were showing by not caring for the environment. Before that, whenever I encountered things displayed from their original place, I would empathize with the person who forgot to put it at the right place and would be worried when he would not find it when he needed it. This empathy prompted me to put it back in the right place.
But once, I was caught in the loop of resentment; I started empathizing with myself. ‘People treat me like a slave.’ ‘They don’t give a damn about the service I have provided without saying a word.’ (In fact, I had said thousands of words.)
This resentment prevented me from righting the wrong.
The Trap of Inactivity:
As my lack of motivation to help others progressed, I understood why that resentful and full-of-complaints character had fallen into the trap of thinking himself as an unsung savior of the world. Maybe in the past, he was like me saving others not only with his actions but also with is innocent (in his own opinion) advice. Maybe after years of sincerely advising them, he forgot the difference between advocating and complaining. And then the circumstances would have pushed his complaining behavior into resentment and, later, in laziness.
And now, the person was a world savior only in his own eyes while others knew only the toxicity.
This realization was hard. I couldn’t compare myself with that man. Do I really appear that bad?
Me: But I did this and that for others.
Realization: That person also has served the world in the past.
Me: I have their best interests at heart.
Realization: You had their best interests at heart. Like he once had.
Me: But I tried my best.
Realization: He also thinks so.
Me: I don’t want to be like him. What should I do?
Realization: Understand that opposite of realization is resentment.
Me: Now, I know what I have to do.
I thought I knew what I need to do to get my previous positive self back. I had to develop gratitude. It was easy enough.
Only until I figured that I had all that feelings of gratitude that I needed. I was able to appreciate the service, support and love others were providing me.
Yet I was bitter. Something was amiss.
One day, when I had chosen happiness as the leading emotion of my day, I accidentally uttered praise for my mother. That simple sentence had not much value for my mother (although my lips rarely praised others) but it left me with enhanced happiness than my choice for happiness had ever brought to me.
And surprisingly, no negative phrase wanted to come out of my mouth that day. It was a great achievement: no negative phrase for complete eighteen hours that were left to go!
I knew the spell of that appreciative sentence would wear off soon. So, I didn’t depend on a single spell. I uttered another the next day and another and another. Now, people identified me with y thankful nature.
Breaking the Chain of Resentment
But I was not happy yet. Sweet language is just a part of the overall happiness of a person. To be completely happy, I needed content heart, calm mind, and cooperative support network. Although the gratitude I expressed now formed part of my thoughts, I could not ignore the reality appeared in the form of disrespect people showed towards my desires and wants.
Complaining had failed me.
Inactivity killed my thoughts.
The only tool which was left in my toolbox was calm congruence.
There must be some reason that people are not respecting my boundaries when they respect others’. What was it?
It was that I was taking the pressure they were putting on me. First, I let them get away with it by cleaning their mess. Lately, I encouraged their behavior by complaining and showing aggression. Instead of insisting upon my request, I diverted their attention first to my service then to my behavior.
Now I had to let them fuss on my request only.
Whenever someone is violating my boundaries, I told myself, ‘I have to politely tell them to stop. I will tell them what I want from them and will insist that they comply with the request.’
The trick worked most of the time, and in times when it didn’t work, I reminded them my status as an individual by not righting their wrong for them. Yet, there were exceptions which I had to tolerate.
‘It’s okay; we are humans. But at least try to consider boundaries.’
Once I established my healthy boundaries and lowered my expectations from people (which were not very high from the beginning), I felt that I have enough positive energy to forward to other people.
Redefinition of boundaries was key to managing my anger and calm congruence allowed me to create as much distance as possible between me and my negative emotions.
So, I practiced both skills. And received multiplied happiness, gratitude and liberation in return.