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Two ways to handle difficult situation: Do something or face it


It is not so much about who experiences problems that mark the difference between a wise and a foolish person. It is the ways and means he or she choose to face them.

By Sanjoo Thangjam

Some quotations in this article are sayings of the great philosophers, free thinkers, scientists, psychologists, politicians and poets and some other publications, too. Their names are given under each quotation. There are also many other statements in this article where references are not given. They are extracted by me.

Life is a continuous journey beset with problems. As long as we live in this world, problems and troubles will always be a part and parcel of the human experience. On some occasions, we may be blessed with gain, fame, praise or happiness; and we may also face the unfavourable situations of loss, ill-fame, blame and pain. Live swings like a pendulum. One moment, it swings towards favourable conditions which we receive so heartily; at another moment, it swings towards unfavourable conditions which we so desperately seek to avoid.

Instead of understanding worldly conditions, as what they really are, people sometimes have the tendency to magnify their troubles. This is similar to saying ‘making a mountain out of a molehill.’ When people lose someone or something they love, they feel that they will never be able to be happy again.

When disturbed and harassed by people who are insensitive to their needs, they feel they have never before been so harshly treated. And they carry that hurt in their minds, clinging to the pain needlessly and continuing to suffer from those thoughts.

Would it be better to let go of such thoughts and realize that since all conditioned things must one day come to an end, so the unfavourable situations they are experiencing will also pass away?

We should understand that there is a way out of the suffering and problems we face in this life. None is hopelessly condemned to eternal misery unless he /she himself/ herself allow to be it so.

It is important to realize that all conditioned phenomena including suffering and all problems, arise out of causes and that nothing can arise by way of independent causes. Having realized this, we can put an end to each and every form of suffering by discovering the root causes of our problems.

We should not be disheartened when faced with problems but instead act wisely in overcoming them. No worldly-minded person can ever be free from problems. Hence, it is not so much who experiences problems that mark the difference between a wise and an unwise person but the manner in which he/she faces them.

A difficult situation can be handled in two ways: We can either do something to change it or face it. If we can do something, then why worry and get upset over it – just change it. If there is nothing we can do, again, why worry and get upset over it? Things will not get better with anger and worry. -Shantideva.

Socrates, whose wife was reputed to be hot-tempered would always find fault with him and used to nag him almost daily. One day, when she had finished all that she had to say, Socrates complimented her saying that compared to previous occasions, she had on that particular day shown some improvement in her diction and style of speech.

This shows how a wise person should face false accusations and blame in a humorous way.

Pandit Nehru once said: ‘We have to face problems and try to solve them. We have to face them, certainly, on spiritual background; but not run away from them in the name of spiritualism.’

Ella Willcox gives her viewpoint on smiling one’s way out of troubles.

It’s easy enough to be pleasant;

When life flows like a song,

But the man worthwhile,

Is the one who can smile?

When things go dead wrong.

For the test of the heart is trouble

And will always come with the years,

And the smile that is worth

The praises of earth,

Is the smile that shines through the tears?’

Rabindranath Tagore, a well-known Indian poet, explains in a prayer, the approach to face problems without harbouring fear of worry.

‘Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,

But be fearless in facing them.

Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,

But for the heart to conquer it.

Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved,

But hope for the patience to win my freedom.

Something unpleasant happens, say, our favourite thing or possession is lost or is accidentally broken. There are two ways of reacting to the loss and damage. We can either choose to brood over it, by blaming either ourselves or others.

Or we can pass it off by saying ‘the thing is gone. It is bad enough to have lost it, but why should we allow it to make us unhappy to suffer to the loss and damage?’ It would be useful to trace back to the causes that had led to the breakage and loss so as to avoid such an occurrence in the future. We can also think about how the loss can be replaced, or how to avert whatever problems that may arise from the loss.

If the loss is of real consequences to others, we may even start to do something else to take our mind from the incident, since it is in the nature of compounded things that such occurrence happen. Should an unfortunate thing happen and if it is beyond our control, then with the support of our understanding of the nature of life, we must have the courage to face it.

In other words, adopt a positive frame of mind when faced with such problems, rather than let it dwell on negative states. If unhappiness should arise due to a negative frame of mind it is really our doing or seeking.

According to Buddha, ‘Mind is the forerunner of all states. Mind is chief; mind-made are these states.’ The Buddha also taught that our sorrows are caused by our own actions and arise from our own ignorance. He showed us how to remove sorrow, but we ourselves must work to gain happiness.

(The writer is a columnist based in Imphal)

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