“Upset” is a negative state of a being or feeling which paralyzes us from action. It is a sort of an un-expressed anger which veils our wisdom momentarily. When we are upset, which often happens, we can’t be productive till we come out of it. We cannot sing a song or dance when we are upset! We tend to lose our valuable time of life during these un-productive incidents. In modern life we are often confronted with many situations which throw us out of our bearings. The causes for upset may be the other human beings are not behaving as per our needs or situations which do not meet our expectations. As we take more responsibility, we have more canvas to cover; in which case more reasons to get upset as one thing or the other will go wrong. As we climb up the corporate ladder, we have to insulate ourselves from this energy draining monster called “Upset”. If the leader gets upset, it will propagate along the line as we see in many organizations.
Let us examine the various circumstances that can make us upset. For this we need to understand what we mean a Situation. Swami Chimayananda classifies these circumstances in three levels depending upon its severity namely; Situation, Problem and Crisis. For an example, let us consider a situation when we walked inside a restaurant feeling hungry and about to order food. At that moment we find that we have left our wallet at home – we call it a “Situation” as we can coolly walk out of the restaurant – no damage done. On the other hand, we have noticed the same after ordering the food; it is a “Problem” as we owe an explanation to the hotel authorities. If we have noticed the missing valet after eating the food; it is called a “Crisis” – an ambiguous and nasty situation. Such of those who are paralyzed under these circumstances are diagnosed to have a mental block which psychology calls “Allergic to ambiguity”. Ambiguity makes us upset where we have a crisis in hand and we don’t know how to handle. I will talk about these blocks more in my future articles.
Most of us living in urban areas often come across unavoidable situations such as traffic jam, train services not available in monsoon and so on which results in a desperate feeling which we term it as “Upset”. There is no dearth of opportunities to get upset in modern life; people upset you or situations do. We know that we cannot feel happy when we are upset and till we recover, the quality of our life suffers and we make the people around us also miserable. Many times we are helplessly caught up with this “Upset” and take a long time to come out of it resulting in throwing our precious moments of life. What is this upset and how we can deal with it is the topic of discussion in this article. The only way to manage Upset is to understand how it works! Let’s do that now.
The profound definition of “Upset” I learned is expressed in a mathematical form:
Upset = What happened X What you think has happened (your interpretations)
Let’s examine this equation in detail. Upset is possible only when both the factors “what happened” and “your interpretations” are present. If one is zero, the Upset will be zero as you see a multiplier sign in between (anything multiplied by zero is zero). Sounds complicated? Let us take an example to explain what does this really mean?
Let us say you are caught up in a traffic jam. You will be fuming and fretting as it is a good recipe to get upset. Let’s apply the above equation – what happened – “there is a traffic jam”. What you think had happened? The drivers are irresponsible; traffic constables are not regulating, roads have not been broadened to take the traffic density and so on. Your mind keeps on interpreting the situation and goes into a loop ultimately upsetting you. If you have separated the two as “what happened?” – There is a traffic jam! What you think has happened? Again traffic jam! If you stop your interpretations (making it a zero), then there is no possibility of getting upset!
Let me try another example. One day while I was preparing to leave for my office in the morning, my wife slipped and poured the coffee on to my trouser. I was about to get upset. Having learned the upset management techniques, I caught hold of myself in time and applied this above equation mentally. I asked myself, What happened? – My mind answered “my wife slipped and poured the coffee”; what I was about to interpret the situation? – “she is irresponsible, conspiring to spoil my day and so on”. The moment I stopped my interpretations, the upset feeling has disappeared and I was compassionate to my wife!
My wife cannot be conspiring to spoil my day as she loves me. When we understand the true intentions of the people and situation, we have a different reaction. The situation remaining the same, we can choose different responses if we use our rationale and stop the momentary impulses. The essence of life is in making choices which I discussed in one of my articles before titled “Making Choices – Chocolate or Vanilla". Managing upset is also one of those occasions of making choices.
I remember the famous statement made by Viktor E Frankl in his famous book “Mans search for meaning”,
“You can snatch everything from human being except their last human freedom to choose ones attitude in a given set of circumstances to rise above the circumstances”.
Mahatma Gandhi also said in similar lines as:
“Everything can be taken away from you except your freedom to make choices in any given circumstances”
This means that the circumstances remaining the same, different people will respond differently depending upon their maturity. For example, caught up in traffic jam, one may fume & fret where as another may be listening to a discourse in his audio utilizing the time well or make calls to some of their friends whom they missed for long! The former is upset and the later is not! This explains the freedom exercised by an individual when the circumstances remaining the same. This is what Viktor Frankl refers to as human freedom to choose their responses. This faculty is available only to human beings and not for animals. If you pull the tail of your pet dog, it will bite you as it has no freedom to exercise like you and I have!
- Upset is an energy draining event which we succumb to in modern life.
- You cannot be productive when you are upset and it also spoils our relations.
- Upset is possible only when two factors are present; an incident and your interpretations.
- If one of them is absent, it cannot happen.
- We have no control over the incidents in life, but we have control on how we interpret them; the choices we can make to de-personalize the event from our opinion.
- Higher the levels we go, greater is the chances of getting upset and as a leader you are not offered to transmit your feeling down the organization.
- Stop interpreting the situations using your rare discretionary power of “choosing your freedom to make choices”
- Improve your quality and productivity of life by eliminating this “Upset” completely.
Jai Guru Dev