Getting what we don’t want

One definition of dukkha (unsatisfactoriness or suffering or stress) is not getting what we want and getting what we don’t want.

When we are enduring an unpleasant encounter, we may recognize that an unwholesome mind state is present but not know how to handle the associated feeling. Most of the time we either grit our teeth and wait for the unpleasantness to pass, or we take some action that aggravates the situation. The feeling that the problem is “out there” is so strong, we may not be able to see that we have a choice about how we are reacting.

Personally, this sort of situation sometimes creates a mini-crisis for me. I know I’m upset, I know (intellectually) that my reaction is optional, and yet…I can’t find the way out. How can we apply wisdom in this situation?

One factor that I reflect on is that when we don’t know someone, we may be quick to condemn their behaviors that we find difficult or confronting. Most of us have friends and acquaintances who have some annoying characteristics and some beautiful and wholesome characteristics. So it is with all of us. But familiarity with the whole person, which only comes with time, can make accepting the annoying characteristics much easier.

We can also reflect that we ourselves are not without annoying traits.

My working edge here is to prepare myself mentally when entering a situation with people I don’t know. At some level, I need to expect to dislike some people. Take a deep breath (I tell myself) and let people be who they are, including their agitation, self-consciousness, brashness, self-centeredness, coarseness, or whatever. The bit I see of them is not their whole being, but a situational sliver of their character.

Like all trainings, this exercise requires trying, failing, trying, succeeding, trying, failing, etc. If we have faith that it is possible to wear away our aversion (or hatred or non-acceptance), and understand that this would be the most helpful change we can make to our minds, then our energy for the effort will not flag.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
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One Response to Getting what we don’t want

  1. I just gave a Dharma talk on Sunday on this very subject. Wish i’d found this post earlier. Thanks Lynne.

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