I’m sure we’ve all seen the recent incident at the Oscars, probably several times by now, Will Smith after seeing his wife is offended by a joke, proceeds to stand, walk up and without any warning slap Chris Rock in the face before sitting down and continuing to yell from his seat.
Regardless of anyone’s thoughts on the joke, whether the joke crossed the line or didn’t, one thing I think we can all agree on is that there is no excuse for physical violence, especially when what triggered the act was words.
The reason I was inspired to write this post though is because when I saw that event unfold, it reminded me of why it’s so important that we develop the ability to become non reactive to our emotions, especially when angry.
Does developing non reactivity mean trying to become like a stone and kill all emotions within ourselves? Of course not. What it doses mean though is developing the ability to feel emotions as they arise then choosing to take action if needed or choosing to let the emotions and feelings pass before doing anything. What it basically gives us is a choice as opposed to no choice other than to act on emotion and do something we usually regret, especially when done out of anger.
What was sad to see in the Will Smith situation was he was acting out of pure emotion and anger. We all have done and said things in the midst of anger, anger is such a powerful and destructive emotion and if we aren’t mindful of it appearing in our bodies fast enough, it can overtake us so quickly and cause us to say or do the most regrettable things.
Meditation and developing non reactivity is like taking out an insurance policy. I once was asked by someone going through a rough time many years ago to teach them how to meditate. I showed them, they tried for a short time and said it just wasn’t working for them, there was too much hurt and anger to focus on the practice they told me.
That’s the thing we must understand though, do we take out an insurance policy when our car is already in an accident? I’m sure we’d love to but it doesn’t work that way, we can only take out insurance when things are going well. In the same way, meditation is a practice we must learn when things are going well so when things aren’t we are equipped and well practiced in what to do when things go wrong.
So how do we develop non reactivity through meditation? All we must do is just sit with whatever we are feeling and just observe it. By just observing what we think and feel it eventually starts building a sense of separation from it. We aren’t any emotion, we are the experiencer of emotion, we aren’t any thought but the experiencer of the thoughts.
What I’ve personally found over the years is that the practice eventually becomes automatic. Feelings are felt, observed then action is taken or not taken. When feeling happy of course nothing needs to be done, when feeling sad, sometimes things have to be done but when feeling anger I’ve found personally that the less done the better…actually, leaving the situation is usually the best action as nothing good is said or done in the midst of anger.
If we don’t develop the art or observing our thoughts, feelings and emotions while life is going well so it becomes a habit, we won’t be capable of being able to choose what to do in the moment when overcome by emotion which, especially in anger can cause much more harm than it needs too.
In an ideal scenario, Will Smith would’ve felt anger, realised though reacting with violence in that moment wasn’t the best course of action and instead walked up on stage, and told Chris Rock and the audience “ I love you Man, I love what you do but my Wife suffers from a hair loss condition which she can’t control as do many other women in this world and this has upset her deeply over the years so we won’t be making jokes about that tonight man”
Now I don’t have a clue how Will Smith talks but I hope you see my point. Ideally he could’ve walked up and instead of smacking a man in the face, could’ve used the opportunity to call attention to his wife’s medical condition which probably would’ve got an apology from Chris Rock and applause from the audience while still defending his Wife’s honour which I’m assuming we was trying to do by slapping Chris in the face…
The scenario I mentioned above wouldn’t be possible though if anger is controlling us, it could only be possible if we can control it. Developing a calm, non reactive demeanour brings so much power and control into our lives. And I’m sure we’d all agree that we’d not want to be a slave to our emotions, especially while angry.