Getting Upset

Carl Jung called it a complex – when you get upset at something which may seem to others to not be anything out of the ordinary. What’s being activated is something that’s outside your conscious awareness, something within yourself that you have neither noticed, nor made efforts to resolve.

I remember one PTA meeting where the woman who was speaking, was standing, addressing the small assembly, going on and on about something that was wrong with the school system. I don’t remember the issue, the only thing I remember was how upset she was and how uncomfortable everyone was around her, restless and fidgety. Her audience had lost interest in what she was saying and was squirming to get out of this heavily charged emotional atmosphere. Almost as if they were all being subjected to some unseen poison that was invading the room, something that no one wanted to continue enduring.
Upsets are like that, wherever they happen, whoever they’re with, they hurt. They’re not right, they feel wrong. They feel destructive.

Yet we do that all the time. We even feel quite entitled to spew our upsets onto anyone, as if we had a god-given right to do so. Every right. Perfectly normal.

And yet we’re actually talking about ourselves – the destructiveness belongs to the one in the mirror and the target is quite rightly something that needs to leave. Yet we rarely see it.
“Oh I got so upset with him” is a common expression you hear.

My daughter was yelling at my grandson years ago. He was 4 and he’d just mislaid his Gameboy/ some handheld device, which was the latest thing to show off with at school, very expensive. It wasn’t even the child’s negligence or fault, because another adult had asked him to put it there. But it caused a major upset. I didn’t understand at the time, what was really going on. I only knew the child was being hurt unnecessarily. Because she was in fact very angry and critical and blaming. Upset way out of line with a little 4-yr.- old losing a toy. In retrospect, it was probably anxiety/ guilt about having spent so much money on this must-have toy, and actually, unrealistically, expecting the child to worry about losing it.

Same with my husband: he often would go on about lazy people. “Did you see that, the man actually takes a cab to the corner store – how lazy can you be!” Others couldn’t figure out what he was on about. “So?” But to him, it was outrageous, terrible! It was only long after, that it occurred to me that he felt he himself was lazy. So any other lazy person was the catalyst for the upset about something that was not fully realized in himself and needed first of all recognition and secondly correction.

They say one of the purposes of marriage is to have all your buttons pushed i.e. have all the things you haven’t looked at coming to the fore – to be corrected, I imagine, for you to grow up. But then the same would apply to children to some extent as well. To raise them, they trigger all your blind spots by pushing all your buttons.

No wonder we’re treating our children so badly – we haven’t grown up ourselves.

So next time you get upset at your child/ spouse – STOP! And as Thich Nhat Hanh tells us:
Take a deep breath and smile!
Then make a note of it in your journal and it goes on your Chopin Liszt. (your to-do list).


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