Monthly Archives: April 2014

# 46 Savor the Taste of Cherries

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  The Taste of Cherries is a lovely Iranian film by Abbas Khiarastomi. The central character of the film is a tired, middle aged engineer who decides to end his life. He drives about the bleak countryside looking for an individual who will shovel dirt over him when he is lying in the grave which he has dug for himself. The first two passengers flee him, shocked at what he’s asked them to do. The third character is an old man, a Turk, who tells him, “Every problem has a solution. Let’s take a different road, a more beautiful road. I will help you in a different way.”

The Turk has him drive through a greener, more pastoral part of the countryside and he begins his own tale of despair and renewal. He says that after he was first married, he had many troubles. He, too, decided to end it all. He got up very early one morning while it was still dark and put a rope in his car. He set off for the mulberry plantations. He stopped there in the dark and threw a rope over a sturdy limb of a large tree, but it didn’t catch hold. So he climbed the tree and tied the rope on tight. Then he felt something soft under his hand. It was mulberries–deliciously sweet mulberries. He ate one. It was succulent. Then a second and a third. Suddenly, he noticed the sun was rising over the mountaintop. “What sun, what scenery, what greenery!” he says in the film. All of a sudden he heard children heading off to school. They asked him to shake the tree. The mulberries fell and they ate them. He felt happy. Then he gathered some mulberries to take them home. He woke up his wife and she ate the mulberries too. “I had left to kill myself and came back with mulberries!”

The old Turkish man says, “I had changed. Every family has problems. A little mulberry saved my life. You have to change your outlook and you change the world. Life is a train that keeps moving forward, then reaches the end of the line, the terminus, and death waits at the terminus. Don’t you ever drink fresh water from a spring? The seasons bring forth fruit. Do you want to refuse all that? You want to give up the taste of cherries?”

The engineer ponders his words and the movie ends without telling us the man’s final decision.

Even in the midst of our woes, the world is full of wonder, and mystery, and beauty. It is there for us to experience, once we step outside our day-to-day problems. The Turk listed the taste of cherries, fresh water from a spring, and the seasons bringing forth fruit. List your favorite things of the physical world.

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# 45 Respond To Anger By Yielding To It

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This is the fifth and last entry on responding to anger.

You do not have to respond to anger with anger. You can respond with humility and by yielding to it. This is very powerful. It throws your attacker off base. This is especially useful when faced with someone who is over-critical and fault-finding. Your attacker has prepared a barrage of verbal assaults on you. Your yielding to the force of it leaves him speechless. In assertiveness training, we call this fogging–making yourself as yielding as a drift of fog. You do this by agreeing with that part of the situation that bears some truth.

  Example:

Angry person: “I can’t believe you’re 30 minutes late! Did you forget you said you’d be here? Are you addle-brained?”

You: “I am late. Yes, I did forget this time.  Lately I’ve been losing track of time.  Please forgive me”

Example:

Angry person: “You never pay any attention to me. You’re always busy or working. You’re off in a world of your own.”

You: “I guess I have been preoccupied lately and spending too much time at work. I do tend to withdraw sometimes, and I need some help paying attention to people and things around me. Let me know when I’m doing it, and I’ll try to do better.”

Consider how you have responded to criticism with defensiveness and counter-attack. What was the end result? Was there understanding? resolution? A felt sense of connection with the other person?

Write down the verbal attack on you

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Write down your defense of your self, your counter-attack against the other person.

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Write down a response of yielding to it, using the technique of fogging.

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# 44 Respond to Anger With Insight and Forgiveness

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 .    You do not have to respond to anger with anger. You can respond with insight and forgiveness. Anger in human beings is often the surface expression of emotion that arises out of fear, pain, ignorance, turmoil and confusion, or some other form of distress. See beyond the anger to what lies behind it. When you see the vulnerability there, you can let go of your anger toward the person. Here’s an example. I recently saw a woman who was distraught over her husband’s behavior. He was often paranoid and accusatory when she left the house, insisting she was going out to see another man. Looking back over the last few years, we were able to see how her husband, who was over 70 and retired, had lost the access to many of the activities in life which made him feel successful. He was terrified of losing her to someone who was “more of a man” in his eyes. Rather than argue with him, she began to see the fear behind the anger and reassure him that she valued him and would not leave him.

Consider a person you know who is often angry at you, or at others? Ask yourself these questions. Is he afraid of something? Does he feel betrayed, mistreated somehow? Is he simply uninformed, unable to comprehend things? Is he confused, bewildered, unsure what to do?

 

Write your statement of forgiveness toward that person and let go your anger at him or her

 

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# 43 Respond to Anger With a Search for Understanding

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       You do not have to respond to anger with anger. You can respond with a search for understanding. Richard Carlson, in his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, suggests that when faced with angry people, we ask ourselves, “What does this person have to teach me?” Our tendency is to stop listening to an angry person’s statements, because our initial response is one of emotional distress. However, instead of shutting them out, suppose we only shut down our emotional response, while trying to distance ourselves from the person, and taking a bit of an objective, analytical stance toward their statements. This allows us to stay in the situation without feeling so distressed. Often what the angry person has to teach us is patience. The other person may have a very different perspective on the subject which we had not considered.  The experience may even be a window into the inner life of someone who is very different from us.

Consider an angry encounter you have had recently. Did you feel emotionally flooded? Did you lash back? Suppose you ask yourself, “What could I learn from this person? From this person’s anger? What does this person have to teach me?

 

Refences

Carlson, R. 1997. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. New York: Hyperion, p. 31.

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