Human nature is complicated, no doubt, like a Facebook relationship. When emotions come into the picture – logic just flies right out the door leading to so many unnecessary conflicts personally, professionally, and globally. We are all guilty of this.
As a quadriplegic with full-time help from caregivers, friends, and family I have learned to temper my emotions, whether this is healthy or not is up for debate, in order to keep people in my life who want to help me, be around me, and enjoy my company.
Why would you want to be in a job or help the family member if you do not enjoy their company or feel unappreciated? I certainly would not. However, on a personal level, this takes a tremendous amount of mental fortitude and restraint to keep an entire network of people in my life happy.
It really comes down to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for many of us with significant physical mobility impairments requiring round-the-clock care. If we don’t have our basic needs met, we don’t have the emotional capacity to take on anything else. It’s almost as if many of us who do not have our basic needs met are transported back to the prehistoric time of cavemen where we are metaphorically fighting for our next meal for survival so to speak.
HOW DO I HANDLE THIS ON A DAILY BASIS?
I have almost perfected a strategy in my own life that when someone irritates me or says something I disagree with I ask myself this question:
“If I make a comment on a topic that seems incredibly passionate to another, am I going to be happier or feel more fulfilled to annoy that person if they have such a strong opinion? What will the end result be?”
There are times, however, I have to honestly take a page out of my personal playbook of my meditation to enter a magical private world in my head were no one can get in, but me.
I then proceed to ask or say to myself:
“This issue seems to be tremendously important to that person and they are extremely passionate on it.” When you add passion into a statement or an argument, there’s absolutely no rationalizing with someone who is extremely emotional on an issue.”
I’ve trained myself to take a majority of emotion out of many situations because I find so many folks I interact with are very fiery on so many topics.
Every day I work with people with disabilities around the globe who are struggling to survive. I don’t believe in necessarily comparing people’s lives and what they go through because each experience is very personal to a person.
For example, a person I know in Africa has to literally get carried on their families backs because they cannot afford a wheelchair is not necessarily worse off than someone who was plenty of money in the United States living with spinal cord injury, but is mentally abused by their family.
Two totally different situations and one is not worse than the other. Yes, one could argue, based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that the person in Africa is physically in a worse situation, but the person in the United States is suffering quietly on a daily basis, which can be just as detrimental.
Another example I often use when people frequently tell me that their pain is nothing compared to what I go through is this:
I may suffer from debilitating nerve pain in my entire body 24/7, which feels like my body is on fire every moment of the day, but I alone know what this feels like.
Pain is subjective. A person who is extremely healthy may have never felt much pain a day in their life and then they suddenly get a paper cut. An extreme example I know, but run with me on this. In their mind, this may be the worst pain they’ve ever felt. Their pain is real. All pain is real. So, based on that logic, how could we compare different pains when in both of our minds they may rate on a scale of 8 out of 10. Do you see where I’m going with this? You cannot compare other people’s feelings, pain, or life situations. You can sympathize, but not necessarily empathize.
It’s easy make a snap judgment or snarky comment to a person on any topic, but it takes great strength and personal growth to be mindful of everyone’s emotions and what you choose to engage with.
I’m not sure if this is surviving 12 years after spinal cord injury or not, but as long as my body is physically taken care of and people around me are pleasant, I have somehow learned to let most things go. Certain topics just don’t seem that important when I work with folks in the disability community each and every day who are fighting for lifesaving things like catheters from Medicare. Yes, insurance companies monitor and regulate how may catheters you can get in a month.
Could you imagine someone telling you how many times you are allowed to go pee in a day? It makes so many other topics seem wildly irrelevant when you think about it.
DOES THIS MAKE ME HAPPIER?
Great question. Not always, but it makes me happy enough. I used to live in extreme anxiety all the time and I was quite literally tired of hanging out with myself, so why would anyone else want to be around me?
I simply refuse to live my life as a grumpy and emotional person, but this takes an incredible amount of work on a daily basis. I can’t control other people, no one can. I can only control my reactions towards them and I think that is, at times, much harder than planning a trip to climb Mount Everest.
Of course, it’s not a perfect system, but it’s my system. It can be a lonely system at times though. However, it allows me to spend my days doing what I love to do. Pushing forward to advance disability inclusion in many arenas of my life and helping people. That makes me happy and feel fulfilled!