Different themes of retaliation often whirl through my thoughts. It is the one feature of human behaviour that has debilitated our growth as an individual, a community, a nation and geo-politically. There are countless examples of how cycles of retaliations eventually demolishes us into human rubble – World War II, the Yugoslavian conflict, Rwandan genocide, the current state of major pockets of the globe….so much of the ruin and destruction from these events are debris of retaliations each side has harnessed against the other, often ending with one side unleashing overwhelming atrocity against the other. My friend joked that from a safe distance, it looked like playground fights where there were no adults to intervene and coax everyone to take a deep breath and rise above the ‘You started it!’ ‘No you started it’ spat. When it comes to world events, I admit I am very much a breathless spectator and not so much a useful interlocutor.
But what of as an individual? It’s been one of the main tenets of my journey for progress. How do we rise above the compelling instinct to retaliate when provoked. Sarcastic put-downs, condescending admonishments, saccharine words wrapped in passive aggression, velvet gloved commentaries… the repertoire of low-grade reactions when angered are endless and nasty. The hard work is to take a step back, sit with the fury, examine the root cause and most difficult of all, respond with your mind, not your gut. If you must respond with words or action, say and do with constructive reason, not for revenge.
Quite often, the valve that activates anger, is usually the same valve that activates fear. And when digging deep into the fear, it usually rotates around the need to feel validated. Yes, it’s that old chestnut of self-affirmation being the answer again. It is an ongoing and complex process, and this year in particular, owing to the global shift in our life experience, these questions couldn’t be avoided. Most of us have come to the realisation that some cycles are meant to be broken out of and it usually starts with learning to approve ourselves, independent of external perception of our self image. Let’s keep up the momentum and step into the next year more evolved and content with our space in time by letting go of the temptation to instantly gratify, and invest deeper into the long term gains of a life well lived.