Counselor's Corner: Disengaging from tension

Fred Cavaiani

We live in a world of tension. The meaning of personal integrity is not high on the political charts right now. The conflict between can be frightening. Leaders whom we have elected and the leaders of other nations appear to be like two kids in a school yard trying to show each other who is the strongest. Words are used in such a juvenile manner that it can make us wonder where are the mature adults leading the different countries around the world, ours and many others.

We can have tension in our families. We can have tension within ourselves. Tension is defined as the “state of being stretched tight.” Another definition is “the feeling that is produced in a situation when people are anxious and do not trust each other, and when there is a possibility of sudden violence or conflict.” And then there is the definition that says “tension is a feeling of worry and anxiety which makes it difficult for you to relax.” Tension results when we realize that there are personalities, emotional reactions and actions of others and events in our lives that are beyond are personal control. Tension results or being stretched tight physically and emotionally happens when we still want to believe that we can control something that is beyond our control. What we can control though is our reaction to other people and events.

If someone tries to pick a fight with me I can control how I will react to this person. If someone gets angry with me or shows dislike to me, I can control my reaction to this. I can either react angrily, critically, cruelly, and engage in a conflict. Or I can react peacefully, attentively, with understanding and insight into how this person is treating me right now. I can do the same thing when there is an event that happens that I cannot control like an illness, catastrophe, death of a loved one, etc.

Each of us can get tense at times. Each of us can get stretched tight by other people and events in our lives that simply happen. But we do not have to stay tense. The way out of tension is to totally become aware and embrace what is happening. We reduce tension by not engaging in the tension. This happens when I accept what is happening to me in the event or action that is upon me. This means that I will not fight or become engaged in this tension. It means that my awareness of what is going on will give me the strength to deal realistically with what is happening. Making threats, criticizing, and flexing my physical or emotional muscles will not help ease my own inner tension and certainly will not give me the strength to deal with what is happening.

I am always inspired when I watch my wife listen to complaints and requests from customers in the work she does. Her patience and friendliness is warm and caring and disarming. If the world could talk to people the way she does peace would happen easily. I have also observed her face three bouts with cancer with openness and awareness. Her peacefulness has allowed her to continue this difficult journey and remain free from cancer right now. She treats herself as well as she treats other people.

To disengage from tension in my life I need to do the necessary steps to give me the strength to disengage from tense and impulsive behavior. These steps are simple. Daily meditation in whatever form you choose, daily reflection of what goes on inside of us, and daily sharing with others about our own personal selves. All of this needs to be wrapped in a humble realization that I need other people in my life and that I am not God Jr. It also needs to be wrapped in the realization that I need silence in my life to experience my inner self more openly and honestly and to allow a relationship with a loving God embrace me deeper. Religion should never be a condemning experience. The only purpose of any religion is to help human beings enter into a deeper more loving relationship with a loving God.

Any good political movement or philosophy should also be about bringing goodness equally to all its citizens. When politics forgets this and personally keeps attacking people and parties, nothing positive will happen. It is the same in our personal lives. When we start attacking one another personally nothing good results. The only result is hurt feelings and resentments which then increase our tension. However if we are practicing the simples steps of meditation, self reflection and sharing with others we can become a tremendous force in easing tension within ourselves and easing tension within others.

We are not born to be tense. A baby when cuddled and lovingly held will smile, coo, and feel safe and loved. The trauma of birth is quickly forgotten by the comfort of warm and gentle embraces and kind and loving words. Maybe this is how all trauma is alleviated in the world. I must first alleviate my own trauma and tension by daily meditation, personal reflection and sharing with others my own inner self.

I just finished a program Sunday night at Capuchin Retreat for a large group of people. It is a Dinner Date with your Spouse evening that I present every couple of months. I get everyone to share as we sit in a large circle. The results are amazing when people share with each other. On Sunday night one woman who was uncomfortable with this spoke up bluntly and said: “I thought this was going to be a lecture. I heard you were a tremendous speaker. I don’t like this sharing.” By the end of the evening she felt that the evening was very reflective and helpful. She discovered that most people get very connected with themselves and with others when they share with each other.

Life is all about humbly sharing with one another and learning to be spiritually quiet with ourselves.  It is how we connect with each other and help each other on this marvelous journey through life, and tension then does not have to engulf us. Peace on earth to women and men of good will.