A while back I was talking with my husband Erik about the pain of disappointment–whether toward ourselves or the actions of others. I mentioned that there are many ways to deal with that pain:
* eating to excess (not healthy),
* exercising (typically beneficial),
* taking drugs (usually harmful unless necessary for mental stability),
* talking it over with a trusted friend (often helpful),
* planning and/or taking action (perhaps helpful, perhaps risky if done in the heat of the moment),
* etc. etc. ad infinitum.
I mentioned to him that it had occurred to me earlier that the simplest (and perhaps best) way to soften the pain of disappointment is to forgive people, including ourselves. We are where we are–emotionally, mentally, physically, politically, religiously, financially, pet-peevishly, TV-preferencely–in any given moment. The way we act in specific situations is simply a product of our state of being in that moment–determined by either our current emotional terrain, our well-traveled [i.e. habitual] synaptic highways, our internalized beliefs–whether conscious or subconscious, our fears, our passions, etc.. Rather than condemning ourselves or others, rather than feeling hurt by people’s choices and actions, we can forgive them–remembering, “The reality is, this is where they are” or “In their shoes (having acquired all of their past experiences, present circumstances, personality traits, and established thought processes), there’s no doubt I would act identically to them.” That’s called empathy, and it’s the greatest skill (and potential personal trait) one can acquire to try and improve relationships . . .
It is easier said than done, for sure. But the opposite, i.e. judging others and/or trying to force them to be “like we are” in this present moment—in the (sub)conscious hope of feeling validated—is an exercise in futility as well as disrespect. Being more self-aware, we can stop ourselves from judging, stop ourselves from feeling pain in human behavior, and instead ask, “How can I be of help?”