I’ve discovered a peculiar trick for coping better with negative events in one’s life. The idea is to try to find a reasonable explanation. I suspect that this may be connected to meditation.
Nowadays it is very easy to be reactive in life. In other words, letting external events to drive you - your emotions and your actions. The most prominent example is getting angry when something goes wrong. More often the target of one’s anger is another person, but it can be a company or just the situation itself. I don’t see any benefit of such anger. It does not help to solve the problem, but instead biases your perspective, can make the problem worse (especially when other people are involved) or in the best case just takes your time and energy.
My little trick
Recently I’ve understood that I’ve been using a peculiar trick in such situations without recognizing it. Imagine that something negative for me happens, which normally would make me angry. For now, let’s assume that there is another person involved and this is their fault. The moment this happens, I am immediately ready to jump into a negative reaction. However, instead of doing this, I try to take other person’s perspective and see why they could have done what they did. In particular, I try to find some plausible explanation of their action. Ideally the explanation should be such that, if I were in a similar situation, I could imagine myself doing exactly the same as they did. Somehow once I find such an explanation (usually this happens very quickly), I don’t feel an urge to jump into the negative state at all. Unfortunately, I don’t know why this works.
Let’s consider an example. You take an underground and there are construction works. As a result your train does not go directly to where you need (as it normally would), instead you have to e.g. stop and switch trains. Our natural reaction would be - “this is a bad service, why do I have to pay for this, I hate this company, they always have these problems, I am angry”. However, one can pause for a moment and try to imagine themselves leading such a company. It is actually hard. And stuff breaks a lot, so one needs to repair and maintain. Thus, I would likely do exactly the same closures to be able to do construction works.
Another example is crossing a street on a crosswalk. Let’s say we are in a country where it is common for cars to give way to pedestrians on crosswalks. Then imagine that a car does not give way. I.e. you had to stop for them to drive by, otherwise, you would probably get hit. Again, the first reaction is exactly the same as above. However, if I were a driver, I could imagine various situations. First, this is just a game of probability, so even if I were a very strict driver, eventually some coincidences would align and I could do something similar (e.g. just not noticing pedestrian by chance). Or perhaps the driver was really badly in a hurry.
This is easier to do in situations involving other people (since there is some other perspective to take). However, with some practice one can do something similar for general situations. E.g. one started having foot pain. It is very easy to be sad and angry about this. Instead one can remember that they did a lot of aggressive running recently and shouldn’t have pushed that far. Somehow this helps to cope with the situation better and avoid emotional reaction at all.
I suspect that meditation can be a prerequisite for this trick. In other words, whenever an emotional reaction happens, one needs to stop and don’t follow that reaction, but start reflecting instead. I speculate that meditation helps with this. That’s partially how meditation works - you get thoughts, but choose not to follow them. Thus, if you have difficulties with going to the meta level instead of an emotional reaction - perhaps try a meditation.
This may also be related to emotional intelligence and empathy. In order to find a plausible explanation, you really need to take other person’s perspective and imagine yourself in it. This can be non-trivial.
As I said, I don’t know how or why this works. I suspect that finding a plausible explanation may be not the key. E.g. it could be that getting distracted is the most important part. In other words, perhaps if you just start dancing when you feel an emotional reaction to a negative effect, this could have a similar distracting effect. This is an open question.
One step further
It is also possible to just somehow rationalize a situation or look at it from a different perspective instead of getting angry. In our underground example, one can try to remember how often does something like this happen. In my case, it was not often and this did help me to have a healthier view on the situation. Alternatively one can treat almost any situation as an adventure. E.g. in the underground case, one was passing this station numerous times and it just felt boring, but here something new is happening and this feels like an adventure and adds variety into life. I agree that this may sound artificial, but I hope that you see the idea.
Happy conscious reactions!