The great thing about my communications major is that I get to read some pretty awesome books, like Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. In a way, college is proving to be like having my own private therapist, except I don’t have to physically voice my personal issues with anyone and I get to reflect inward much more. I am an introverted, introspective person as it is, so getting a chance to improve myself for me is always a plus.
However, in my studies I have also learned that most people don't already know these vital aspects of interpersonal communication, or just communication in general. What we don't realize is that being a competent communicator doesn't just "help" you, it's actually crucial to making our world turn. Being a competent communicator is something I could write a book on and still not be finished, so I’ll get to the point.
In his book, Tolle talks about something called the pain-body. According to Tolle, everyone has a pain-body, which consists of old emotional pain we have accumulated throughout our lifetimes. These pain-bodies are alive within us and feed off of our negative thoughts and identity enhancers we assign ourselves. Identity enhancers can be social roles we feel the need to assume (i.e. employee, student, wife, etc.), or physical objects we choose to identify with (i.e. makeup, clothes, cars, things that make us feel better).
Our pain-bodies can be triggered by even the slightest thing: a scent, something casually said by a friend, anything that could possibly relate to something painful from our past. The key, according to Tolle, is to stay present. Instead of allowing your ego to take the reins of your mood and fight for its pride, we need to distance ourselves from our egos.
There are 3 steps to confront your pain-body:
1. Realize you have been triggered. Ok, you're not feeling so hot. Maybe you're anxious, or furious with someone/thing that hasn't gone your way. Many people believe that emotions are uncontrollable, but the truth is that emotions actually come from our thoughts. So, if you force yourself to think happy thoughts, you will eventually feel happy. Yeah, it's really that simple! The only hard part is actually applying this practice to your life. It takes a lot of strength, but remember as Anthony Robbins says, "there is no such thing as failure, just results," so if you fail the first time, keep trying. Rome wasn't built in a day.
2. Observe what that trigger is. This is where the competent communication skills come into play. If it’s a person, which it most likely is, tell them in as neutral a tone as possible, “It made me feel this way when you said this, were you thinking point a or point b?”
Then - and this is the most crucial step - stop talking and wait for feedback. The biggest mistake we make is to continue talking. Let the other person give their side of the story, don’t try to add filler words because it's uncomfortable to confront someone who has hurt you. Be an active listener; don’t sit there and think of how you will respond instead of actually listening to their feedback.
3. Contemplate why it is triggering you. What from your past is causing this thing to spark your emotions? This may be painful, but it is important to think of your past and why it's still affecting you. It may be something you have pushed aside, but the truth is that we can never truly "push aside" anything. Everything that happens to us stays within us until we deal with it. Find a way to free yourself of this painful memory, whether it be seeing a therapist, going for a run or simply talking to your best friend over tea.
Now that you recognize your pain-body, you are in the present moment. This higher degree of Presence is not easily attained and takes much practice and discipline. Realize there is no reason for you to identify with your pain, it is only a part of you if you make it that way.
We have all the power to free ourselves from our pain. When you realize this, you won’t feel the need to be right, get your way or to make others wrong. When you are Present, you are no longer carrying your past with you. The only thing you are concerned with is appreciating your current surroundings; it is then that you are at peace with yourself.
If you pull anything from this article, remember this: feelings are not facts. Thoughts create feelings, not the other way around, and most importantly, you have the power to stop your negative thoughts. It is your choice whether you change your thinking patterns or not, no one else’s. Don’t make excuses and then wonder why things don’t change. Take control of your life and realize the world is not something that happens to you, you and you alone control your life.
These can sound like harsh words, but they're only meant to inspire. I'm definitely still trying to absorb all these teachings and practice them in my life, and I can tell you it's not easy to change. Having anxiety and depression, I know personally that it takes years of practice and patience with yourself in order to see a change, but in the end I'd rather practice a little bit every day to get just a centimeter closer than to stay drowning in my own negativity.
We are all beautiful people and deserve to let our true selves flourish. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to free themselves of their past pain and suffering. This is just one of the many topics he discusses, and I wish write on this book forever! This book changed my life and I hope it helps you the way it did me.
Does anyone have anything they want to add, ask, or examples from your lives where you have applied this logic and found interesting results? List your questions & comments below! Also, if anyone has any questions for me about my experience, you can email me here.
“The past is just a story we keep telling ourselves.” - Samantha, Her.