Author Topic: Habitual reactions  (Read 332 times)

Offline lisehull

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Habitual reactions
« on: April 07, 2017, 11:55:36 am »
Hi Folks, I come from a past that was filled with childhood abuse and ongoing verbal abuse from my mother, which have led to depression, anxiety, CPTSD and anger issues. I have been practicing Buddhism and meditation for over 8 years. However, in the past couple of years, I have been really struggling with habitual reactivity to my triggers and lash out with anger and have problems with increasing anxiety, more so in recent months. I try to work on this, have been in therapy off and on for over 20 years, try to follow teachers like Pema Chodron and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and others. I seem to be failing miserably and am in a lot of emotional and spiritual pain. My husband is as supportive as he can be, but he has his own issues to deal with. My nearest sangha is almost four hours from here.

I am looking for help from members of this forum, guidance, sharing similar experiences, how to cope and whatever you can offer.
Thank you.

 :namaste:
Lise

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Habitual reactions
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2017, 01:51:22 pm »
Hi Lise,

Quote
...habitual reactivity to my triggers...
I wasn't abused, and I've been meditating strenuously for decades, but when my wife snaps at me I have a hard time not reacting in kind. Making an effort to be extra loving and compassionate during normal times does ameliorate that tendency.

I've noticed that sometimes I can be extra grouchy right after what seemed like a great meditation session. Maybe it's coming out of a peaceful place into the stresses of ordinary existence that triggers that.

I have a minor degree of anxiety that sometimes pops up in the middle of the night. I think my meditation practice helps with that because I don't usually buy into it and I find it pretty easy to put some emptiness around it and watch it dissolve.

"Habitual" and "trigger" are a key words. I'm just finishing reading "The Power of Habit," by Charles Duhigg. It's a fun read but he's a business writer and I think there's much more to it on an individual level. I've been rewriting an article that I published many years ago on "Self-Discipline." The good news is that habits can be replaced or changed, over time, with perseverance and mindfulness.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline IdleChater

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Re: Habitual reactions
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2017, 03:08:23 pm »
Hi Folks, I come from a past that was filled with childhood abuse and ongoing verbal abuse from my mother, which have led to depression, anxiety, CPTSD and anger issues. I have been practicing Buddhism and meditation for over 8 years. However, in the past couple of years, I have been really struggling with habitual reactivity to my triggers and lash out with anger and have problems with increasing anxiety, more so in recent months. I try to work on this, have been in therapy off and on for over 20 years, try to follow teachers like Pema Chodron and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche and others. I seem to be failing miserably and am in a lot of emotional and spiritual pain. My husband is as supportive as he can be, but he has his own issues to deal with. My nearest sangha is almost four hours from here.

I am looking for help from members of this forum, guidance, sharing similar experiences, how to cope and whatever you can offer.
Thank you.

 :namaste:
Lise

This shows your practice is working.  You can't solve a problem unles you know you have one and what it is.  It is a part of mindfullness.

Stay with it.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Habitual reactions
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2017, 06:00:25 pm »
Quote
I seem to be failing miserably and am in a lot of emotional and spiritual pain.

"Failing miserably?" Don't believe it! That's another habitual reaction, just a series of thoughts, a mental fabrication you're free to accept or reject. Keep holding it up for objective viewing. It only has as much power as you give it. 

Easy for me to say. But you have to believe that you can throw off what has apparently been laid on you in the past, because you can.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline lisehull

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Re: Habitual reactions
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2017, 08:22:13 am »
Thanks everyone for the feedback!

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Habitual reactions
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2017, 10:31:56 am »
Lise,

You might find it helpful to make an effort to develop faith in “our” inherent, pure, undefiled-able, higher identity (God?). The path of losing the lower, conditional, relative-self through Samadhi, and especially meditation on death, could be too productive of anxiety, given what you have gone through and been conditioned by. One way to develop that faith is through “other-power” rather than self-power. It is a much more comforting path to take. Some people, reacting to the faults in popular theistic religions, dismiss this way of practice and fail to see its power. They don’t understand that there is ultimately no difference between the two paths, that they both lead to the same place -- a place where there is no other and no self.

How you do that is up to you. I’d still use meditation, but instead of trying to fight your conditioning with your own power I’d turn to a higher power -- whatever that might be for you. If you can’t muster faith in a specific form or personal deity to cultivate for the focus of belief and devotion it can also be a-theistic and reified in a concept such as a One Mind or a Higher Self. You might check out my “Chants” in the “Meditation Basics” at http://www.frogzen.com/meditation-basics/

I always recommend vigorous exercise, which comes as close to a cure-all as there is because it produces all sorts of beneficial chemicals in the body. So does laughter (see my “basics”). Giving others the kind of comfort you need yourself is especially good -- it’s odd how that comes back to us.

I am not an authorized teacher in any lineage whatsoever -- just someone who has practiced meditation for a long time. I actually feel a little nervous when I’m in a position authority, since I still have my own “issues." So, although I can be very free with suggestions, anything I say here should not be accepted unless it accords with your own reasoning and intuition, and proves to be helpful in practice.

I’m curious to know if this advice resonates with you and if you have already tried some of these suggestions and if they worked for you.

« Last Edit: April 09, 2017, 11:00:48 am by zafrogzen »
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline Dianet

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Re: Habitual reactions
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2017, 09:15:55 am »
Hello Lise,

Thought I'd share a couple of thoughts in response to your post. They will probably sound overly obvious and simplistic, so I apologize in advance.

The first is that being in the moment, rather than in the past or future or imagination or rumination, can help a lot of painful mental states. If one focuses on the breathing, the feeling of our feet in contact with the ground, the sounds of the immediate environment, it could possibly lower our stress levels.

People who have had difficult, chaotic upbringings sometimes have to teach themselves what feeling calm and safe is like because their default settings are all messed up.

Secondly, if we accept the Buddhist idea that there is actually no such thing as a self, it follows that we are not dragging a damaged self around with us, but are reacting in the present moment with all the choices available to a conscious being in the present moment. Easier said than done for sure.

Like I said, not rocket science--just some ideas.

Now if I could just manage to get that mindful eating thing to work, instead of scarfing a whole bag of chips!   

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Habitual reactions
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2017, 10:31:09 am »
Hi, Lisehul.  Thank you for sharing your past experience and congratulations for seeking the experience, strength and hope of others.

You have gotten some great feedback in this thread.  All of it can be of assistance.  My suggestion(s) to you have to do with personal experience, what has worked for me.  The approach may not work for you.

My childhood sounds similar to yours.  I can relate to your abuse.  It was at a level that I avoided visiting my parents except for "obligatory" visits due to their health, funerals, weddings and etc..  When coming into their vicinity, or even thinking about coming into close quarters with them I likened the feelings, which would arise as to being like entering a "meat grinder", especially with feeling that would arise in my stomach.  Particularly when near to my father I would feel like I was holding back a flood of unresolved anger, and a desire for retribution.

Then one day in a meeting with others having experienced similar issues with their parents it came upon me that my attitude towards my parents was slowly but surely changing me into an abuser in some ways just like them. You know, "If wishes could kill!", kind of thing."  No issues with my children, or wife, or coworkers, but always with my parents.  It came to me that eventually, due to the deep sense of victimization that "victims" develop, we can eventually become victimizers, especially if we are looking to resolve our issues by getting back at them for our mistreatment.  In the Italian culture we call this:  "La Vendetta!"....not a word usually mentioned in The Buddhist community.

Then I read a description in a commentary about spreading loving-kindness and compassion during focussed meditation.  The suggestion was to defeat feelings of hatred, angst, victimization, and desires for retribution with  loving -kindness and compassion.  You start with yourself, interestingly enough, then loved ones, then neighbors and friends, and then those with who we have difficulty such as our abusive parents and others.  Christ said something similar:  "Love your enemies."...and in The Lord's Prayer:  "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those, who trespass against us."

As far as recommendations to you are concerned, all I can say is that this approach worked for me.  Eventually I was able to serve without resentment the very people I always thought of as villains.  When my father died, I was able to cry as a son morning the loss of a father.  I miss him still. And I cherish the last few months we had together as he approached his death, and was glad that we could spend them together.

Again, congratulations for seeking improvement along your path by asking for assistance from others.  Keep in mind, progress, not perfection will eventually get you where you want to go. :hug:

« Last Edit: April 10, 2017, 12:30:53 pm by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

 


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