A lot of our suffering comes from our desire to be understood by others.
I was treated shabbily by an autorickshaw driver the other day. He mocked at me and said that I appear to be well-off; so I must give him the full hundred rupees (post-demonetization, a Rs.100/- note has trophy value!) I held in my hand. I was willing to pay him Rs.80/- for a ride that possibly may have cost only Rs.50/-. But the man was impertinent. I was low on money (not just on physical cash, but low on funds itself!) and so I wanted to economize. Rs.20/- may not have mattered to me on another day. But just now, as I stood in front of this man, it did matter a huge deal to me. But before I could say anything further, the man, perhaps so used to such situations, made an uncalled-for remark, “You rich people must understand the plight of us, the poor, and not exploit us!” I was livid. I thrust the Rs.100/- in his hand and walked away fuming.
For about 15 minutes after that episode, I kept thinking about what the man had said. Here I was, I thought, struggling for over 10 years, to fix a business and Life situation (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal). And there he was making a totally erroneous and unwarranted assumption about me. The remark was now beginning to chew me up, it kept hitting me where it hurts the most, my debilitating financial situation. Then, thanks to me training my mind through mouna (daily silence periods) over the years, my awareness stepped it. And it helped me reason with myself: What does this man know about me or my story? Therefore, isn’t it futile to expect him, a Chennai autorickshaw guy, to be understanding?”
The autorickshaw driver is just a metaphor here. And my experience in this episode too is reflective of the human craving for being understood all the time. This is what happens to all of us in most contexts and this is why misunderstanding creeps into relationships.
It is normal for communication to be misunderstood and misinterpreted by others at times. Just as a spelling mistake is possible in a simple word, so is a misunderstanding possible in relationships. And all of it is caused by how someone wants to interpret what is being said or imagine that something else, than what is being said, is being implied! In a situation when there is repeated breakdown of communication, or even aggravated, angry, violent expressions, it is best to remain quiet. And, more importantly, it is best to give up the need to be understood.
Yes, as it happened with me, you may lose your cool, your inner peace momentarily. But if you have trained your mind, your awareness will step in help you overcome the turmoil. Deep, silent, private reflection always helps.
Sometimes, in some irreparable situations, you may also require to remain quiet and detached from the people involved for long periods of time. Maybe even for years at a stretch. This is true in all contexts; with parents, children, spouses, siblings, extended families, friends, neighbors or workplace teams. Time and the truth alone can heal such situations. On the other hand, when you try to force, often in vain, an understanding and try to get people to see you the way you want to be seen, you will undoubtedly suffer. But you have a choice not to suffer in the throes of the pain that such misunderstandings can cause. Just stop feeling pity for yourself, stop demanding that you are understood, and your suffering will cease. The pain may still be there, and so will the factors causing the pain, but you will not suffer.
Accept that this strained situation is the current reality that you have to live with. Give the situation love by practising forgiveness – forgive yourself and the others involved too. Who started a fracas or misunderstanding first is immaterial, just accept being a co-creator of the situation and forgive everyone. Slowly, surely, you will find yourself becoming peaceful. When one person is at peace, the entire circle of influence of that person, even if people are estranged, benefits from the peace. Be a peace champion. Begin with yourself.
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