By Wes Annac, Openhearted Rebellion
I consider emotional maturity to be a cornerstone of openhearted rebellion, but it is not easy to cultivate. The world is full of situations (and people) that challenge our stability, and while nobody wants to fall apart or throw a fit; sometimes, it feels like our only choice.
In my experience, the best path to emotional maturity is to hold ourselves accountable for the times we do give in – the times when we are the problem.
Taking responsibility for toxic behavior involves a lot of pain and embarrassment. Nobody wants to do it because it’s uncomfortable. We would rather blame other people or circumstances, forgetting that we can choose whether to respond to a situation calmly or with venom. We blame the external world for our internal wars because it’s more convenient than owning our behavior.
I don’t write this from a place of judgment, but sympathy; I’m learning all this as I write about it. I’m learning to hold my feet to the fire when I know I could’ve done better in a situation. I’m learning to question the motives of intrusive thoughts so I can stop indulging them before they take me under. I can’t always keep from being sour, but I can hold myself accountable and do better next time.
We all want and deserve contentment. Inner peace is, or should be, a goal for most of us. The idea behind openhearted rebellion is that we find peace within so we can be an effective force for good in our everyday life – or at least keep from ruining someone else’s day.
How we achieve this state of peace might differ from person to person, but it will involve heavy yet necessary introspection. Some find balance with meditation, often (but not always) pairing it with a religious or spiritual philosophy. Some exercise, and some get to work creating. Some throw everything at the wall to see what sticks.
It can be fun and rewarding to figure out what lights that fire within, but all of our soul-searching is incomplete if we fail to practice introspection in our daily lives. We must learn emotional discipline – particularly, with how we behave day-to-day.
It might sound simple to just refrain from being an ass, but this is where the real heavy lifting comes in. It’s tough, because it makes us take responsibility for our behavior even when it’s not so great. If you have an outburst, you’ve gotta own it. If your attitude is sour, you’ve gotta own it. If you hold onto anger and hold it over people’s heads as if it is a burden they must carry with you, own that shit.
Consider this: we no longer live in a time when societal norms force us to hold in and bottle up our emotions. We can express our feelings openly, but with that comes a responsibility not to be blatantly sour in our everyday interactions. Nobody wants to be around someone with a chip on their shoulder who makes their frustration a problem for everyone.
Ideally, when upset we would express how we feel in a firm but non-confrontational way. If we fail to do that – which we will sometimes – it’s best to reflect on why we were triggered to respond with venom. It will hurt to take responsibility, because we’re programmed to feel like our gripes with the world are always justified. Ultimately, though, it will keep us from hurting others as we’ll be aware of our shortcomings and working toward change.
Obviously, we can’t be kind if we have a chip on our shoulder. With that said, we are often made to feel like it is the world that has a problem with us, not the other way around. It is in this struggle to be decent and openhearted in a deeply unkind world that we are forced to seriously work on ourselves. It is not an act of self-hatred or punishment, but an effort to get to the root of our emotional triggers so we can heal and try to make this place a little better for others.
Go easy on yourself for the mistakes you made before you knew there was a better way. Every day, we are learning from mistakes we wish we hadn’t made. You may wish you could undo all the bad days and meltdowns, but if you pay attention to them, you can begin to explore and heal any emotional wounds that would slowly turn you toxic.
To rebel against hate, we must first clear away the emotional junk that turns us cynical when left unchecked. Then, we can take a tangible step toward being a force for good in the world.