Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dealing with a very bad day

A friend wrote that she had a bad day: business mishandled, bank error, notification to come and be part of a grand jury.  What are good ways to deal with a bad day?


Making a list of the irritants is a good move, just what she did.  Letting friends know helps and that means describing the problems.  Deciding on descriptive terms uses naming and naming tends to provide a little distance and perspective.


Sometimes, the advice is to sit with the problem.  If you are experienced at meditation, you may be able to observe the problem and your own reaction to it.  The difficulty for many people is that anything to do with the troubles that have beset them tends to pull them into the story of woe or anger or fear.  Being back in the stewing doesn't usually help.  That is why writing about what happened, which requires coming up with words to describe the pains, tends to offer perspective and distance.  


You can ask "What would Jesus do?" or substitute some other figure of interest if that would be more effective.  You can ask if your friend or neighbor had the same set of headaches, what might you advise them.  The therapist Cheri Huber found that having her clients talk into a tape recorder, giving themselves advice, was very effective for them.  After making the tape, the same person found it helpful to listen to it, at the time, later or both.


In some situations, a natural tendency is to seal off the problems from oneself, to dissociate from them, pretend they didn't happen and don't matter at all.  Typical professional advice is not to run away but face the problems.  However, it may take a day or more before your inner resources allow for facing, describing, admitting the extent of the bother.


The children's book by Judith Viorst called "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day" describes a day when everything goes wrong.  I downloaded it to see what advice Alexander got but all it says is that his mother says some days are like that.  Alexander has been fantasizing about taking some action and his best idea, his favorite notion, is to move to Australia.  It can be expensive and disruptive to move to Australia and his mom says that some days are like this bad one has been, even down there.  


It can also help to note that the Buddha said more than 2000 years ago, that life is suffering.  He didn't say that it is only suffering but any sentient, sensitive being is going to suffer.  The Buddhists say that even if everything is peachy (and it won't be), a person will be worried that the peachiness will cease.  Sometimes, you just suffer.  However, suffering will earn you points later according to the law of karma.  To a large extent, you can often reduce suffering if you can let go of the ideas that the world really should turn out a given way.  If you can do that, having some other results than you expected may be pleasant.  Or, at least a surprise.

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