Using service to transform negative emotions

General Topics: 

Everyone experiences negative emotions, but a person who takes complete responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and actions chooses a constructive response.  A service mindset allows us to respond to stimuli in a constructive way. Following is an excerpt from "Becoming The Totally Responsible Person" by TRP Enterprises, Inc.:

  1. A stimulus occurs, e.g., someone carelessly cuts in front of us on the highway.
  2. We become aware that we are beginning to react negatively.
  3. That awareness provides us with a moment of choice. At this moment we can choose the negative emotional reaction, or
  4. We can choose to respond positively. That is called responsibility (the ability to respond).

There is a third alternative to 1) expressing our negative emotions (blowing off steam) or 2) suppressing them.  It is to convert them to something useful....Converting or channeling our negative emotions can be illustrated by the following example:

A coal-fired electric generating plant has a boiler that is heated by the fire.  The water boils and the pressure inside begins to build.  If not relieved, it will explode.  A worker may open the release valve and steam will escape into the surrounding environment.  This is analogous to expressing our emotions, i.e., having a good cry, beating on pillows, shouting at our "victimizer" or coming home and taking it out on our spouse.  The pressure is thus reduced and we "feel better."  But in the power generating plant, the steam buildup is channeled to the turbines, which create electricity--a higher and more useful form of energy than the contained steam.  As a result of direction and control, the energy in the boiler is changed and converted into the energy of electricity.

Similarly, the energy buildup in our emotional nature can be converted into something higher and more useful.  We do this by substituting some positive behavior and attitude for the negative, e.g., striving for personal excellence.  This is sometimes difficult to do, but we can "fake it 'til we make it."  Serving others is the most powerful way to convert the energy to the positive.  It reverses the flow of energy and attention from ourselves ("poor me" and selfish) to others (selfless).

Suppose someone cuts in front of us in a poorly-executed lane change.  There is a brief moment of choice when we can either: 1) react from a victim mentality ("Look what he did to me! What a jerk. He could have hurt me."); or 2) we can respond from a positive, service-oriented mentality ("Wow, this guy is desperate to get into this lane.  Maybe he's late for work or his mind is racing on overdrive. I can relate--I'll slow down and make his lane change safer and easier.") 

You may be able to identify an opportunity in each negative stimulus where you can acknowledge that a person is acting a certain way because he is seeing the world through the lens of his past experience and understandings (many of which were acquired from others), and is triggered by his past hurts and perceived injustices.  Using a service mindset, you can learn to diffuse the situation with kindness, understanding, and compassion.  Though you do not condone or excuse the other person's behavior, you can understand that it may be fueled by past wounds and current pressures of which you are unaware.  When your response is firmly (even assertively) positive and constructive, you have performed an act of service, and the tendency to react constructively is reinforced within you.

"We don't think our way into a new way of living, we live our way into a new way of thinking."  --Henri Nouwen