Much, long ago, near Tokyo lived an old and respected samurai who had won many battles.
His war time had passed. This wise samurai was now devoting to teaching young people, even though the legend survived, which still can defeat any opponent, no matter how strong.
On a summer evening, a warrior known for his arrogance and little cavalry came to his home. He was famous for his provocative character and the few scruples. His strategy was to provoke the opponent until this, moved by anger, lowered the guard and attacked blindly. It is said that he had never been defeated. And that afternoon was about to destroy the legend of the old samurai to further increase his fame.
Soon the warrior began to insult the wise samurai, throwing stones to him and even spitting in his face. Thus the minutes and hours passed, but the wise samurai remained impassive without pulling the sword. Arrived the evening, exhausted and humiliated, the warrior called for victory.
The Samurai disciples, annoyed by the insults he had received, did not understand why the old man had not defended himself and considered his attitude as a sign of cowardice. So they asked him:
- Master, how could you endure such unworthiness? Why did not you pull your sword knowing that you were going to lose the battle rather than act in such a vile way?
The master replied:
- If someone comes with a gift and you do not accept it, who belongs the gift to?
- To the person who came to deliver it!
- Well, the same applies to anger, insults and envy ...- said the samurai. - When they are not accepted, they continue to belong to those who have taken them with them.
Toxic people who want to make us "unwanted gifts"
In life we often meet people who carry with them a heavy burden of dissatisfaction, guilt, anger, frustration and fear. These people sometimes are not even aware of this, but they can always act as a garbage truck, trying to download a bit of their weight on the others.
How do they do it?
- Through destructive criticism that is not meant to help us improve
- Making us feel guilty about things that are out of our control
- Taking off the value of our efforts and achievements, with the aim of undermining our self-esteem
- Inoculating their own fears to prevent us from moving on with our dreams
- Lamenting continually for everything, showing an attitude of chronic victimism trying to infect us with their pessimistic vision of life
- Discharging their frustrations on us, looking for a reason to discuss and getting angry for no reason
- Considering us responsible for their mistakes and discharging their dissatisfaction on us
Learn to respond, not to react
All these behaviors are nothing but provocations. We must learn to see them as the "gift" to which the old samurai was referring to, so it is up to us to accept or reject them.
The first step is to understand the subtle difference between "to react" and "to respond". Most people simply react to circumstances, which mean they will always be at the mercy of these. For example, if someone screams at them, they get angry and react screaming too. Each stimulus follows an immediate reaction.
There are other people who have learned to respond. Responding is a conscious act, implies a decision and, consequently, it also means that we have the control. We can decide how to respond to circumstances, without losing our emotional balance.
Turn off your internal buttons
The solution to stop reacting to provocations and these unwanted "gifts" is quite simple: turn off the buttons that make us react automatically when others press them.
Each one has a custom configuration of sensitive buttons. Generally, these buttons are configured during our first years of life, so somehow when someone activates them, we feel helpless and victims, it’s like turning out to be an insecure child and the emotional response of the brain to danger is reacting immediately, attacking or escaping from the situation to restore security. None of these answers are mature and, of course, carry a huge emotional cost.
What to do?
1. Start to find out what these buttons are. You will realize that they usually react to situations that generate some states, like feeling ignored, despised, rejected, humiliated, weak, inadequate, stupid, embarrassed, helpless... Think of the circumstances in which you lost control and you have responded automatically, try to find common points. So you can discover the dynamics behind these buttons.
2. Desensitize yourself from past experiences. Once you have found the states that make you react, you have to find the negative experiences associated with these, the disturbing events that in one way or another have created these sensitive buttons. You can revive those situations and ask how you would react now, as adult and after many years.
The idea is to realize that your past does not define you and you are now mature and able to handle these feelings differently. You will realize that you have left behind those problems when thinking to them or to a reaction you have had, they will seem ridiculous. Laughing at the past always indicates that the wound is healed.
At this point, the behavior of the others will seem less provocative because you will give it less importance. Thus, their unwanted "gifts" will not trigger an immediate reaction that will make you lose the serenity. But there is still a passage.
3. Separate yourself from your emotions. There are instances where, apart from our emotional buttons, the behaviors, the words and the attitudes of others can disturb us. It is practically impossible to control all of our emotional reactions, but we can learn to manage our attitudes and behaviors. We can choose to respond rather than react.
It is therefore essential that you do not identify with your feelings. Think of your emotional states as clouds that now cover the sky, but soon there will be no more, unless you grab them. Therefore, take a step back, take a deep breath and find the balance to answer assertively. Your emotional health will thank you.
And always remember that no one can harm you without your consent.
The old samurai: The story that teaches us how to respond to provocations
4/ 5Oleh Jennifer Delgado