Have you encountered words from others that are so painful that they scar you emotionally? They can make us upset and demoralized, ruining our self-esteem and even losing hope. That is the power of other’s opinions over us; if we let them!
Influence of other’s opinions and words
The influence of praise (positive words) and blame (negative words) over our emotional health is known as the Eight Winds” in Buddhism. The other winds being: prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, suffering, and pleasure. This is because they are external encounters that sway our otherwise, peaceful minds. Thus, we lost our centredness; or as the modern man says, “We lose our cool”
Blame refers to all forms of negative words that trigger emotional stress and suffering in our minds. The goal of Buddhist mind training is to equip ourselves with the mental skill of equanimity. That means we do not allow ourselves to be swayed by another person’s opinions. In short, we don’t lose our cool. This is a beneficial skill because it prevents us from being easily triggered and in that manner, we protect our emotional health.
Having said that, Buddhists are not an incorrigible bunch of people. Being tone-deaf towards negative words doesn’t mean that we are stubborn or reject improvements and corrections. We just do not play along with emotional blackmails, insults, sarcasm, or threats.
The power of their words only holds, if we hold on to them
Why do Buddhists use the word “wind” to describe the negative speech of others? This is because they are exactly like that. Words are sounds made by people and like the passing wind, they just blow over. Many a time, negative words exert an influence over us because we allow our minds to repeat them over and over again. We hold on to them and that is why they cause pain in our minds even though months and years have passed since. And in our modern world, we are attached to mass media like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and etc. We need to remember that they are simply another form of communication. Their influence over us only exists if we allow them to.
That is why we practice letting go. Instead of attaching our minds to a past event, we learn to live in the present moment. We stop our minds from recollecting a situation. That is the first part of Buddhist training. It is liberating because we are in control. We are no longer forced to hold on to a piece of “hot iron” that is burning our minds. We learn to let go and simply walk away. Likewise for the mass media. Just exit from that toxic group of people.
Letting go is hard because of our ego.
I need to correct their mistaken beliefs or misunderstanding. I need to prove myself right. I want them to apologize to me. And there will be a thousand and one reasons or emotional responses that we will conjure into our mind to hold on to that hot iron. Sometimes, the only thing that is holding us back, is ourselves.
We imagine people laughing at our “defeat”, mocking our silent admission to a false charge. On the other hand, we know that they don’t really care about our side of the story. They refuse to listen to us. In that manner, we feel trapped in the situation. We feel aggrieved. We felt misrepresented. and etc.
Did Buddha encounter such a situation in life? You bet! In the famous Palelai Story, 2 groups of monks were at loggerheads. When Buddha tried to pacify them, each group accused the Buddha of favoritism. What did Buddha do? He walked away and spend time in the forest, befriending wild elephants and monkeys! What a statement!
If we think carefully, our situations are simpler. Most of the people who hurt us on the internet are not even related to us. So why not just abandon them? Shut them off.
The most hurtful things usually come from people whom we care about
What if the person hurting us is someone whom we care?
I think we should determine whether that person has malice. That means an evil desire to hurt us. If such evilness exists, then we should probably wise up and reassess our attachment towards them. There is nothing wrong with self-protection and perfectly okay to walk away from people with evil designs.
As usual, the one holding us back is ourselves. Somehow, we cannot make ourselves leave a toxic relationship. In that case, we should understand that our karma is holding us back. We can recite the Heart Sutra or Buddhist Repentance prayer and then dedicate merits towards our harmer. (with the intention of freeing ourselves from our toxic karma) Sometimes the relationship will change for the better and sometimes, the relationship will simply break. HURRAY?
Most of the time, people don’t know what they are doing.
Ignorance is prevalent and most of the time, our loved ones didn’t know that their well-intended words are hurtful. We can try letting them know but unfortunately, it seems like they couldn’t help it?
When that happens, go back to step 1. It is just a wind.
People’s opinions are not personal. Really. Their beliefs and preferences are programmed into their mind. Those ideas and opinions that hurt us were input into their mind by situations and people that they encounter. (That is their karma) For example, people were taught to discriminate. A Singaporean parent born in the 1970s would flip if their children say they want to sing professionally. Because their parents taught them so, and TV programs they grew up with, portrayed singer-wannabe as delinquents and drug addicts wandering at the fringe of our society. Thus, their love for you means that they need to discourage and prevent you from becoming a singer.
Dealing with our inner self
In Buddhism, happiness is our own responsibility. Many people misunderstood this to mean fighting for our happiness externally. Thus, one mistakenly tries very hard to please others or become a success story or be accepted.
The correct understanding is actually all about mind training. We train our minds to look at things with a correct view.
For example, we learn to treat criticism as “winds”. Or discouraging and insulting remarks as “winds”.
We learn to let go of emotional baggages in our minds.
We learn to live in the present moment instead of reliving a painful experience.
That way, our minds will be happy.
May all be well and happy.