Lessons learned – an essay on anger and guilt

I’ve just returned to Mysore from Rajasthan, ‘up north’ – like back home, it’s significantly more chilly up there!

So, I’ve said on here before that I feel like India is teaching me all kinds of lessons, and not necessarily the ones I expected – well, last week was no different. You may have noticed I’ve been away from the blog for a while. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly I’ve spent most of my ‘romantic break’ being bed-ridden with a flu that morphed seamlessly and grotesquely into a sickness bug. I don’t want to divulge too many unwanted details, but the last time I actually vomited was back in 2001, when I last visited Rajasthan – the ‘Land of Kings’ seems to be one of the few global triggers for my gag reflex.

The second reason is that I’ve been a bit scared to return to my blog if I’m honest. In fact, this post is written in the spirit of facing my fears. I heard that my last post caused a bit of upset, which, now I read it back to myself, I can quite understand, and for which I feel mortified. What was meant as a light-hearted insight into India’s ubiquitous and actually quite endearing capacity for noise turned into a bit of a rant. When I look back, I wrote it at completely the wrong time – at a time when said noise was keeping me awake and when I was already grumpy and tired from a prolonged period of noise-induced lack of sleep.

It is a healthy reminder to me of the power of words and how there is a fine line to be made between my desire to write with honesty and my desire to shine a positive light on life. But life isn’t always sunshine and laughter and, like everyone, sometimes I get tired and my tolerance wanes. I still want to record those darker times that I’m not proud of – because they are part of the whole human package. To deny them definitely isn’t honest. But I’ve been reminded that it’s best to do so after some time to reflect, rather than in the heat of the moment. Only then can you report the actual truth, because in the heat of the moment we find ways to disguise truth from ourselves. And also, with time to reflect and analyse, I genuinely believe it’s possible (and very helpful) to find a positive outcome from any situation even if, as in this case, it’s a lesson learned.

None of us is perfect and we all sometimes do things, say things and, it seems, write things that we regret. But all is not lost as long as we learn from our mistakes and try and become a better person moving forward.

Luckily, when I discovered the negative outfall of my last post, I was mid-way through reading ‘The Art of Happiness’ by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, an American psychiatrist. This book encapsulates my favourite kind of ‘eastern wisdom meets western rational thinking’. (And, in the spirit of finding positives from crappy situations, having time to read this has been one of the positive outcomes from my enforced bed-rest this week!)

As I descended into a negative thought spiral (‘Woe is me – how could I be so thoughtless? I’m such a bad person!’ etc) I suddenly halted, realising this event was an opportunity to think about some of the Dalai’s teachings. Firstly, he had warned of the dangers of anger. I’m not a particularly angry person, but I’m certainly not immune, and hunger and sleep-deprivation can bring on an irrationally irritable state in me, which I guess is a form of anger. The Dalai warned that succumbing to anger not only harms you in the immediate term, through creating stress, body tension, raising blood pressure etc, but it also harms you in the long-term as the outfall of your anger will inevitably return and bite you on the bum at some point (I’m paraphrasing). In this case I saw how, from writing my blog in an irrationally irritable mood, bad things happened as a result, making me feel much worse in the long run. So, lesson learned.

Secondly, the Dalai’s teachings on regret versus guilt really helped me. I have a tendency to harbour huge, out-of-proportion feelings of guilt that can plague me long after everyone else has forgotten about whatever ‘disaster’ I am torturing myself over. I have made good progress with this, but it still keeps me on my toes. But the Dalai speaks about accepting regret as a valid emotion when we’ve done wrong. He advises that it’s OK to hold onto regret as a way of reminding us not to make the same mistake again. Yet this regret shouldn’t be allowed to morph into guilt. Guilt is a pointless emotion, which keeps us living in the past and just serves to prolong our own suffering whilst usually doing nothing to rectify the situation at hand. Guilt is emotionally tiring whilst regret is a quiet helping hand.

So I’ve taken this on board and, from initially feeling like I couldn’t possibly return to Mysore – for shame! (this actually went through my mind…), I am instead using the episode to learn some important lessons, both as a blogger and a human, and move on, stronger and wiser.

I will still endeavour to write with honesty, but I think I’ve learnt that if I’m experiencing any hint of anger or irritability, then I should postpone my blogging until the feeling has settled and I’ve had a chance to reflect on its source. Because anger is not honest. Anger is blame, exaggeration, displacement, blindness. It is is a mask that hides the truth of a situation.

7 thoughts on “Lessons learned – an essay on anger and guilt

  1. Becky, it is refreshing to read a blog where the writer is being honest and recording life as it is and not just putting a spin on it and presenting it all as perfect. Keep writing! 🙂

  2. I just read your noisy post, and it doesn’t look that rant-ey to me! It just seems like your usual honest, humorous and insightful style. Quite frankly I’d also be struggling to embrace the world with love and compassion if it was preventing me from sleeping. And even more so if I was ill. So, whilst it’s a wonderful opportunity to try to apply some of the Dalai Lama’s teachings, I think you could also just try to give yourself a break. Be nice to yourself. You are wonderful.
    V xx
    PS love you lots and miss you lots too.

  3. I agree with Verity; it did not read like a rant to me, or even angry. (I didn’t read it when you wrote it so have just gone there after the opening lines of this post.)
    It is worth noting that each of us reads (or hears) words from another person through our own filters, not yours. I certainly have come across this in the past; “bolshy and aggressive? What me!” This, of course is something that you cannot control so just leave people to their own interpretations. Sometimes it is worth attempting to explain what you meant and sometimes it just isn’t, as the other just doesn’t want to hear it. Think about how you could have done it differently if you didn’t want that reaction, but don’t necessarily change. Enjoy it that you have pushed a few buttons.
    I speak also as one who agrees with you about the constant random noise that makes up life in India. It would not be the same without it but sometimes it can be a little too much. In Bhopal, I was woken each morning around 05:15 by the HUGE speakers on nearby mosques calling us all to prayer – and they weren’t all timed precisely the same. Then we had 9 days of the Hindu Durga festival with the home (a lean-to) opposite putting large speakers in the front and directing them straight at the windows of my room, and playing high volume music most of the day and night.
    How did you enjoy Rishikesh? I enjoyed my 4-week intensive course there but did not warm at all to the atmosphere of the place itself. It felt a very clangy and clashing sort of energy, not calm and comfortable at all. It was interesting that when I walked down the street and smiled or said “hello” to a pale face, I was completely ignored. Didn’t get even a single smile back. Maybe there is too much competition between the schools and if you are not in my class then you can’t be doing ‘right’ yoga – but that, of course, is a judgmental statement!!
    Enjoy the rest of you stay, and blog. Hug, Ian

  4. PS Looking at that blog, I didn’t see a mass of comments expressing upset, in fact there are no comments there at all. So where are they. Either they were in private correspondence or you deleted them? Neither of which is very honest.
    So maybe they were writing at a time that was not appropriate to them and they should have taken the time to read it again in a different mood?
    another hug, Ian

  5. Thanks for your comments Ian – great to hear from you, and you talk a lot of sense. Sounds like you’ve had to deal with much worse noise than me in India! (And the negative comments were verbal, not through the blog – nothing major, but I’ve learnt that I tend to massively over-react and am very hard on myself if I think I’ve upset someone. In fact the whole experience has been a big learning curve, so it’s all good! Onwards and upwards… ;))

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