Being a rainbow in someone’s clouds can mean telling them something they’d rather not hear but they need to learn. I like to think of this as tough love. Some of the most impactful tough love I’ve ever received was doled out by my big brother.
Deal With It, Or…
As I was growing up, when I had a bad day, my older brother Gary would tell me, in his wise and caring but semi-tough way, “Lisa, you just have to deal with it. Getting upset will not help. In fact, it will make things worse.” Following Gary’s advice, after indulging in some Oreos (double-stuff preferred) to soothe the pain, I’d buck up and do what needed to be done to resolve the problem without feeling sorry for myself.
Engage In Conscious Choice Making, Or …
Many years later I learned that in advising me to deal positively with challenging situations, Gary was aligned with Deepak Chopra and the Dalai Lama. Deepak Chopra deals with it by engaging in “conscious choice making”, which recognizes that between stimulus and response is a space in which we can choose how to respond:
“Unfortunately, a lot of us make choices unconsciously, and therefore we don’t think they are choices – and yet they are. If I were to insult you, you would most likely make the choice of being offended. If I were to pay you a compliment, you would most likely make the choice of being pleased or flattered. But think about it: it’s still a choice. I could offend you and I could insult you, and you could make the choice of not being offended. I could pay you a compliment and you could make the choice of not letting that flatter you either.”
The results of consciously choosing how we respond to even the most basic situations can be profound. Standing in line at the grocery store or airport, when the person in front of me has too many items for the express line or metal items in their pockets, I remind myself that I can get upset — or not. The choice is mine. And choosing to get upset is never a good idea. Instead, I take a deep breath, smile, and do my best to make productive use of the extra time life just handed me.
Cultivate Positive Mental States, Or …
The Dalai Lama deals with it by cultivating positive mental states such as compassion and kindness, and avoiding negative mental states such as anger and aggression:
“I think that to a large extent, whether you suffer depends on how you respond to a given situation. For example, say that you find out that someone is speaking badly of you behind your back. If you react to this knowledge that someone is speaking badly of you, this negativity, with a feeling of hurt or anger, then you yourself destroy your own peace of mind. Your pain is your own personal creation. On the other hand, if you refrain from reacting in a negative way, let the slander pass by you as if it were a silent wind passing behind your ears, you protect yourself from that feeling of hurt, that feeling of agony. So, although you may not always be able to avoid difficult situations, you can modify the extent to which you suffer by how you choose to respond to the situation.”
(From The Art of Happiness.)
Don’t Piss On Your Cheerios
As I see it, the “tough love” from Gary, Deepak and the Dalai Lama basically boils down to this: don’t piss on your Cheerios. Take a minute to recognize the space between stimulus and response. In that space, choose to deal with a negative stimulus in a positive fashion rather than choosing to get upset and ruining your day. Of course, transforming our outlook in this fashion takes time and practice. As the Dalai Lama explains, “eventually, as you gradually build up the positive practices, the negative behaviors are automatically diminished.” This is good news, because no one likes soggy Cheerios.