I have been thinking a fair amount this week how my reaction to people has drastically changed through my awakening process. This came up because this past week I had a fair amount of “internet troll” type emails that came my way. Way more than usual.

This is obviously because it was the holidays, and people who don’t have the tools to handle their emotions and acknowledge the pain and wounds that might come up for themselves during the holidays do things like send obnoxious emails.

I was perhaps going to write a blog about the dynamics of internet trolls, but they are reasonably simple (and I was guided to instead utilize them as a framing device about how I react to people differently than I once might have or did). Trolls don’t have the adult tools to acknowledge and work with their pain, so they energetically try to push it out and on anyone who will accept it. There will often be “takers” (people who get upset at them, which they want) which allows for the “troll” to not only push out their pain but also temporarily feed off of the energy and emotion created by the emotional field of the person that got upset at them.

There is also a huge problem in our modern world that many of us have not gone through the initiations that allow us to spiritually (which would then mean emotionally and energetically) become adults. When this happens, the person exists in a prolonged sort of adolescence. Internet trolls can be so infuriating because they are the perpetual teenager, narcissistic and pretending to know everything, and being obnoxious while doing so.

One of my varietals of internet trolls is always male, and is someone who emails me with “corrections” and “helpful suggestions”. This is always someone who has no idea what they are talking about, or has a kindergarten-esque understanding of spiritual matters that they believe to be expertise. Often they are incredibly (almost laughably) wrong in their assertions (which wouldn’t be a big deal if they were to move on and learn more, as we all were kindergarteners at some point, but the problem here, of course, is the willingness to realize that they are not actually experts after their two weeks of internet searches about something). There also is frequently an undercurrent of misogyny (or “mansplaining”) present (as in, this person has not done any sort of self-inquiry or questioning of if they would send such emails to a male spiritual teacher/author. The answer is “no”, by the way).

I do, by the way, get contacted by people who think critically and wonderfully, and can engage in discussion. This is not the type of person I am referring to. For clarity here, I will also say that one of the things that happens when your consciousness begins to expand is that you realize how much you don’t know. You also realize that even if some people are in spiritual kindergarten, and you are in spiritual college, that there are people getting their third PhD; you will invariably meet these people if you get too uppity and they will help to cram you back down to size in some way.

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So I will use this “troll” as an example of how my reactions have changed over the years, as this type of troll is someone that successfully infuriates a lot of people. By the way, this shows a progression of about 15 years time span, so don’t expect mastery tomorrow (or to never have anyone trigger or upset you ever again. It doesn’t happen… even when you get to the “people are people, and do what people do” sort of stage)

My personal thoughts and stages are really only for example– they are not necessarily a roadmap to follow. But hopefully they will provide some good food for thought, as the people who upset us the most can allow for us to recognize what we need to heal within.

Step One: I used to get infuriated at people like this. I would engage them and delight in telling them how wrong they were, how little they knew. I would think about little they knew, how egotistical they were, how narcissistic, and that the world is going to ruin because of intellectually lazy people who read a Wikipedia page and then want to lecture someone who has seriously studied what they are talking about for five to ten years (at this point, and based on topic).

Step One Realizations:  Obviously this is how a lot of people react. This is how I used to react. Obviously I am talking about interactions over the internet in my example, but this did of course happen in person as well. That person who cut me off in traffic, the television reports on people murdering puppies (or whatever atrocities were being shown), a book or article being rejected. I was clouded by emotion (not just anger, such interactions would create sadness/grief, as well as fatigue, which I will refer to later) and emotionally reacting to people, which I would then replay throughout the day, continuing the emotions that I experienced in reaction to the person who seemingly caused that reaction.

In step one, you can do mirroring work. This is the first step for anyone (it is just not the only step, as some believe).

What this means is that anything that truly irritates you about another is something divorced or disassociated from you. It is something that is wounded, or that you do not wish to acknowledge within yourself.

So this can go one of a few different ways: you can acknowledge that the internet troll is irritating you because you have the same sort of energy as him in some way, shape or form. You can also check in with the emotion: do you have the same anger as the internet troll?

You can also notice if that person is mirroring a disassociated part of you. We all have trauma that causes us to “freeze” in our timeline… and to disassociate. Simply put, the “troll” may be showing you the fifteen year old aspect of yourself that was filled with anger and didn’t know how to process it appropriately. The teenage part of you that had low self-esteem and/or low self-worth and tried to make up for that by pretending to be an “expert”. Or, in some cases, that two year old aspect of you that really, really wanted that cookie and never got it.

Recognizing this aspect of you and how/why it has disassociated can allow for you to heal that part of you.

Step Two

The next step is to work with projections. This is part of mirror work, but most of us have a stockpile of backlogged emotions. They are bottled up within us, and we are not yet at a place of being able to understand or work with our anger, or our grief, or our fear. So when we come into contact with someone who makes us sad, it is not just the sadness of the incident– we are projecting onto the person and onto the situation all of our unhealed sad. That “troll” may now be someone else entirely.

The way to work with this is through “play” work… but at the projection level you can begin to ask yourself Am I much angrier (sadder, fear more, feel more anxiety) than I should in this situation? 

Because chances are that you are. That backlogged emotion is coming out and creating a situation where are much more upset at the person than they warrant. You may experience twice, or five times, or five hundred times the emotion (directed at the person mixed with beliefs and our “play”) that the situation warranted. Asking yourself this question can allow for you to cut yourself back down to size, so to speak… and to begin to recognize your projections.

During this stage I found that my anger, which I thought was directed at the person and their behavior, was primarily not about mirroring. This was because I worked with mirroring, and found myself still angry. I also have never really acted like many of these people do– I have been lucky in that I have always realized how much further I had to go in my journey, and how much more I had to know.

In this scenario, I realized that my anger came from the fact that I had to know so much, that I was pulled so deep. That I no longer was at the sort of surface, kindergarten-type knowledge and that I didn’t have a choice in the matter. That I had given up an incredible amount of time and effort to become an expert in my field, to really and truly know and feel and heal, and my anger was not actually about someone who had the equivalent of two weeks of knowledge trying to claim expertise, or even at the culture of laziness and sameness or the new-age movement that perpetuates this idea that everyone has equally valid ideas (although I still can go on my soapbox about that one at times). It was at the fact that I had given up so much of my life to learn what I needed to learn, and that I was angry at myself for having to do so.

I was projecting that onto these “trolls”. Once I was able to work my way through the anger and the grief over this, I found myself much less reactive.

While I am talking about a specific framework here (reaction to internet trolls), really being willing to sit with what emotions and experiences we may be projecting onto someone can be done in any scenario in which we find ourselves emotionally reacting to someone.

Step Three

We create our entire universe out of our projections. A lot of people believe that this is a narcissistic saying (or utilize it to fuel their own narcissism) but we have a universe that we all participate in… one that we collectively create. But we all have our own private reality. This reality is based off of the pains and wounds that you have experienced (or have been passed down to you). Our backlogged emotions, what has happened to us in our lifetimes, in our family line/ancestry, past lives, and what is going on in history/in the collective when we are born makes us who we are.

We project our “private” reality on top of the collective reality. So we really are “creating” our own universe, it is just on top of another “universe” that has been created collectively.

Our wounds create our beliefs, they create our restrictions. Although I will write a separate blog about this, this is why a spiritual path cannot be disembodied. Why it has to be grounded in collective reality and not individual delusion. It is because the spiritual path is one of freedom, and to free ourselves we need to acknowledge and work with our pain. The more we can release what holds us, what beliefs constrict us and hold us in fear, the more freedom we experience.

As we free ourselves from our wounds, and the beliefs those wounds created, we can be freer, and wholer. And more clear. And deeply feel and sense and be in this reality (along with whatever realities we wish to work with).

I say this because there are steps beyond mirroring. The next step beyond mirroring and projection work is to understand how and why you are casting this person in your play. 

So back to the internet troll. My reaction when I was working with my own mirrored parts, those disassociated aspects of me out in the universe, was to be angry. And a bit self-righteous. As I recognized and took back these parts I found over the months that I now felt sad, and not upset at people like this.

I was still reacting to them, but I was no longer responding to them, or giving them the energy that they were really looking for. I felt sad because people felt the need to be like this, I felt sad for humanity. I felt sad because I had worked through a lot of my projections over the course of a few years and I stumbled onto the truth that I was casting people like this in my “play”.

Read about what a “play” is, and Part Two here…

One comment on “Changing Our Reactions to Others

  1. Pingback: Changing Our Reaction to Others Part Two | MaryShutan.com