Sam had the realization that he was having two very different emotional reactions to the same comment when two different people said it. It made him curious as to why he would react so differently to the same comment. What he discovered was different layers of his belief system were creating the reaction. Here’s what Sam sent me with a few simplifying edits for clarity. I think it’s a pretty good example of how to thin slice the unconscious programming that drives so many of our emotions. I think Sam has made pretty good use of the tools in the Self Mastery course, particularly given that he is in high school. Here’s what Sam wrote.
Recently while journaling after an emotional reaction I had an interesting experience I thought I would share.
Reaction to the 1st Person) My ego had an emotional reaction after somebody made a comment it perceived was insulting and I noticed the judgments towards this person were really strong. The comment from this person really didn’t sit well with my judge and for the time I was inside the reaction, before I looked at it with awareness, I experienced strong feelings of anger towards this person to the point where I had a strong desire to cause him physical pain. Upon dissecting the reaction I noticed I had created an image of myself based on what he had said, assumed that image was me, and then that image was judged according to the Image of Perfection the mind holds. Because I didn’t meet this Perfection standard I felt rejected and unworthy. The judge then judged the other persons actions as causing me pain and unleashed ‘revenge’ in the form of anger towards this person for ‘making me feel that way’. I realized the ego had blamed him for the way I believed I was after he made the comment, however due to the overwhelmingly strong emotion of anger I felt there was a factor I had missed.
Reaction to the 2nd Person) A couple days later I was out and a different person made the exact same comment towards me and I experienced a different emotional reaction. This time there was a lot more fear and self judgment associated with the reaction rather than anger. After sitting with it for a while, I noticed I was carrying an image of the person who made the comment. I realized I had believed in this image of this person for quite sometime and that image said that that person was superior to me. Because in the moment I was holding an image of him I was also holding an image of myself. I believed these two images were real and in doing this I believed the other person was better than me(according to the judge). In this way when he made the comment towards me I accepted it. It was ok for him to judge me because I believed it was coming from someone better than me and so this somehow gave him the authority to be right about me. This time my belief system bared little resentment towards him as it believed he was right to judge me because he is better. My victim now felt I wasn’t good enough and I was at fault based on the image of myself after hearing his comments. The self image was judged, the victim felt fear, rejection, and unworthiness, and the ego now releases anger towards me for not being as I should. This equates to emotional turmoil :-/
The point of writing this is that it took me quite sometime to figure out how the exact same words said by two different people could generate such different emotional reactions. I now realize that I had created images of these two people over the years of interactions with them and things I had heard and believed about them all without awareness. These images and beliefs resided in my mind causing emotional reactions and I just now am aware of what they are causing. My judge examined and judged each piece of knowledge I had gathered about these people and over time built up an image of the way they are (I had then assumed this image to be them and so I act towards them as if they were that image). The judge then compared these images against all the images it had for everyone else, including myself.
1st Person) It determined the image of the 1st person was inferior to the image it was holding of me. It then developed a set of ‘rules’ of what this person may or may not do. This is why it reacted so strongly when this person made an ”insulting” comment towards me. The judge said that because he was inferior he should not do anything to disrespect me. HOWEVER I still believe an image of myself based on what he says even though I believe he is inferior. In this way both of us are judged and my victim aspect believes it’s not good enough. However he receives the anger from the ego as the judge determines ”he shouldn’t make me feel this way” and so regains a false sense of self-righteousness.
2nd Person) On the other hand, the image of the 2nd person was created and compared to the assumed image of myself. The judge ruled that the 2nd person’s image was superior to the image it had for me according to its book of how people should be (Image of Perfection). It determined I was inferior to the other person and so developed another set of ‘rules’ for how the 2nd person should act. They were a lot different than the set for the 1st person. I believed that because this person is better than me he has the right to judge me and mistreat me. I believed I was what he said I was. So the judge judges me for not being as I should, as long as I believe I am what he says. My belief system and the voices in my head believe I am at fault and so the ego directs its anger towards me. I am now caught in a spiral of fear, judgment and anger all directed towards myself. In reality the judgment is towards an image which I create and assume is me. If I see this I can watch the reaction without actually being in it.
In both cases the same words were spoken but I felt very differently depending on what I believed about the two people.
Here’s the most important line to read in the second to last paragraph.
If I see this I can watch the reaction without actually being in it.
My take on that is: If you have awareness, you are free to avoid emotional reactions.
The other point to note here is that this detailed realization really senses the basis for responsibility of our emotions to our self. This isn’t always a comfortable feeling. It isn’t always comfortable because we sometimes comfort our self by blaming others. However, in taking responsibility, we open to door to having power over our emotions. As long as we are blaming others (abdicating power of our emotions to others) we are dependent on other people to change how we feel.
What Sam discovered was that he was indeed responsible for creating his own emotional reactions. When he saw how he created his emotions, he could no longer deny that he was creating his emotions.
The important part here is that through developing his awareness of what was going on in his mind Sam is able to change his emotional reaction. This is important because knowing what is going on or why it is going on isn’t what we want. What we want is to change our emotional reactions. These are some of the results you can expect from the Self Mastery Course.1