January 6, 2017

How To Handle Upsets in Life

Being Here Modern Day Tales of EnlightenmentApply the brakes and back out

Sarah was sitting to our right and it was clear that she had a burning desire to speak. My wife Ariel and I were leading one of our Monday evening seminars in Manhattan and Sarah was radiating her frustration – the subject of which was yet to be revealed.

Ariel must have decided to give her a bit of help saying, “Who has a question or wants to say something?” Her gaze floated across the sea of faces and landed with a smile on Sarah.

Sarah is an African American woman in her early 40s. She has a fiery nature, offset by her natural elegance. She leapt at the chance and jumped to her feet.

“Ariel, Shya,” she said, “I’m so frustrated I can hardly stand myself.” She waved her hands with a dramatic and slightly humorous flourish.

With mock seriousness I asked, “What happened?” which caused Sarah to chuckle and ratcheted her tension down considerably.

“I keep getting upset! It drives me crazy. And I can’t seem to help myself. I go from upset-to-upset; they keep growing like weeds!”

“Do you drive?” I asked.

“What?” Sarah looked confused. She was just about to tell us the dramatic details of her upset. But she didn’t know that repeating those details could very likely restart the cycle of being upset again.

“A car. Do you know how to drive a car?”

Slowly she nodded yes. I could tell she was wondering where I was going and what it had to do with being upset.

“Well, if you were driving your car and you made a turn onto a one-way street and discovered that you were going the wrong way, what’s the first thing you’d do?”


The group laughed and Ariel smiled, too, as she said, “Let’s assume that screaming is not necessary in this situation, OK?”

I asked again, “If you turned onto a one-way street and discovered that you were now pointing the wrong direction, what’s the first thing, aside from screaming, you should do?”

“Look behind me.”

“Well if you did that, then you might keep going and hit something.”

“Oh, that’s true,” Sarah said. “I’d stop.”

“Right, you’d apply the brakes and, if possible, you’d back out. Upsets are like that, Sarah. When you start to get upset, just apply the brakes and back out.”

Ariel continued, “Many years ago, Shya and I rented a home and our landlord lived next door. He was a very disagreeable man and we found ourselves repeatedly upset by his behavior. One very hot summer evening, Shya and I went for a late night walk. There was no one around since we lived in the country. As we walked up the road we brought our landlord with us… in our complaints. He went up the road and down, keeping us company as we found ourselves once again upset by something that had already happened that we had no hope of changing. We were deeply in the upset and complaint compartment in our minds. This is the equivalent of driving down a one-way street in the wrong direction. Right then and there we agreed to back out of that compartment. And you know what, it worked.”

Sarah looked thoughtful. This was clearly something that never had occurred to her. A slow smile spread across her face. “Really, do you think I can do that?” and then a moment later, “How do I do that?”

All of us had a good chuckle at that.

“Well, Sarah, when you’re complaining, you’re saying that things shouldn’t be as they are, that the moment isn’t perfect.”

“But it isn’t… just look at my hair! In all this humidity it just goes frizzy.” She grinned.

“Ahh, Sarah,” Ariel continued. “You hit on the key. A full blown upset is just the tip of the iceberg. If you find yourself rolling from one upset to another, start by looking at those small seemingly harmless complaints.”

Sarah cocked her head to the side, “How do you mean?”

“Let’s go back to the Three Principles of Transformation, shall we?” I prompted. “The first principle is: Anything you resist will persist and grow stronger. Take a small complaint. Any complaint is a form of resistance. The more you complain about your hair, for instance, the more attention you place on it. The more weight it takes on, no pun intended.”

Sarah smiled, touched her hair and nodded.

“Next is the Second Principle of Transformation which states that you can only be exactly as you are in any given moment. In other words, you can only have the hair you have or be standing where you are right now and you couldn’t be in any other place being any other way, really. Of course each of us has a fantasy of how things could be or perhaps should be different, but Sarah, you can only be here exactly as you are right now.”

Sarah still looked a little confused, but she was relaxing. She was no longer poised on the top of the slide preparing to jump down that slippery slope into an upset.

Ariel took over from there, “Sarah, the Third Principle of Transformation is: Anything that you allow to be, without judging it or trying to fix it, will complete itself and cease to dominate you and your life.”

“Let me explain further,” I said. “If you find yourself complaining or upset, that is the only way you can be in that moment. Let’s pretend that my fingers are a digital camera and as I snap my fingers I take a picture of your image. Is it possible that in that instant you could have been seated?”

“No of course not!” she said with a breathless grin. Sarah was engaged in this conversation and her upset was gone. “Well, can you possibly be not upset when you are?”

“No,” she said a bit more slowly this time. “If I am upset, that is how I am. I may have a fantasy of things getting better, but it is obvious that things are the way they are, especially when I am upset. But, I don’t like it and I want to change it.” She said stamping her foot.

We all had to laugh as Sarah was actually happily outlining her dilemma.

“OK, Sarah, not liking it takes you right back to the first principle: What you resist persists. Of course, if the second principle is true, as we have seen that it is, then if you don’t like being upset, then you can only not like being upset, also. You can only be you, however you are, in any given moment. Luckily, there is a Third Principle of Transformation: Anything you allow to be exactly as it is will complete itself and stop dominating you.”

“OK,” she said, “I am beginning to see.”

“Your earlier solution about screaming when you see that you are going down a one-way street in the wrong direction was more than just a good joke, it is really how you approach these upsets. When you find yourself upset, you complain and scream in your thoughts. You don’t realize that you can simply skip that step. It is possible that you can just stop, literally apply the brakes and back out of that compartment.”

At this point our friend, Andy, who was sitting to our left stood up and asked, “May I add something?”

“Of course, Andy.” Ariel said.

“Sarah, I have a little boy, Alex. He is four-years-old and he had a temper tantrum the other day because he didn’t want to brush his teeth. He was mad at me and said that he didn’t understand why I got to make all of the rules. He wanted to make some rules. I calmly told him that brushing his teeth wasn’t my rule it was the Doctor’s rule. After Alex brushed his teeth, I sat on the floor with him and we talked. I talked about this upset he had been experiencing.

‘Alex,’ I said, ‘do you know that feeling you get when you are upset, how it comes over you?’ He nodded yes, so I said, ‘Well then if you want to make a rule, if you want to be in charge, you can tell it no! Tell it to go away.’ Alex looked thoughtful and then his whole face lit up and he shouted, ‘I can tell it to go to jail!’”

We all laughed as Andy finished his tale. “This was a four-yearold’s funny version of saying “no,” of applying the brakes and backing out of going down a one-way street in the wrong direction. I have watched him wrestle with the feelings since then. Sometimes he even shouts out loud and we laugh as he learns that he is in charge, not the upset.”

There was a smattering of applause and Sarah was smiling as she and Andy both sat back down. From her chair she piped up, “I guess I can learn a thing or two from a four-year-old! Thank you, Andy. Thank you, Ariel and Shya. I am excited to see what happens from here.”

“Are you upset now?” I asked.

Sarah sat up a little straighter in her chair as she replied, “Not at all. My car is traveling in the right direction and I am at the wheel.”

This article is an excerpt from Ariel & Shya Kane’s book: Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment and has been published with the permission of the authors and the publisher.

About the author

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, and business consultants Ariel & Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. To find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in New York City, Europe and Costa Rica, their award-winning books, or to sign up to join their email newsletter, The Excellence Club: Having It All, visit their website at: www.TransformationMadeEasy.com .


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