How to Stay Dignified and Cool-Headed Even When You’ve Been Wronged

One of my biggest weaknesses is practicing patience and keeping my composure when I feel I have been wronged. I tend to have a lot of what I consider (rightly or wrongly) to be righteous anger. I feel the same extreme emotions when I see someone else being wronged. I have a strong sense of right and wrong and am careful to treat others the way I want to be treated. When that same care is not shown to me, I tend to react with high emotions. It’s not possible to control other people or their behavior towards you. But it is possible to control your reaction. So how do you refrain from reacting emotionally while also defending yourself?

Let’s say somebody owes you money and has not paid you back. Pursue every reasonable avenue available to you to get the money. This could include asking them for it both verbally and in writing and perhaps even bringing a lawsuit against them. However, do not allow your pursuit to stress you or cause you to get so wrapped up in the future you lose the present. If you are not successful at getting your money back, let it go. Put it out of your mind. As the Buddha said, “The root of suffering is attachment”. Do not attach yourself to the money or to any sense that you need to be vindicated for the wrong done you. The burden does not belong to you to be vindicated. The burden belongs to them to make it right with you.

Practicing non-attachment does not mean you are a doormat or that you show weakness. It takes strength to stand up for what is right while keeping detached enough to retain your mental stability even when a satisfactory outcome does not result, to disallow it from rattling you or reducing you in any way. It’s detaching from the ego, which is a separate entity from yourself. It’s practicing self-care. By remaining detached, you are more powerful than you ever could be. Doing so frees you from the fear and angst you feel when your contentment depends on other people’s actions. Realize that you’re going to be okay, regardless of the outcome. Stay grounded. Realize that pursuing the matter any more will only hurt you. Elkhart Tolle says, “When you want to arrive at your goal more than you want to be doing what you are doing, you become stressed” and “Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on”. Refrain from dwelling on their motives, the unfairness of the situation, or on what you’ve lost.

Do you also struggle with reacting in a healthful manner when you are wronged? Does anybody else strive to practice detachment in their everyday life?

Gaining Closure on Closure

The desire to “gain closure” is a common one, experienced by people who have extended feelings of hurt and loss that ensue following a negative event, such as the breakup of a relationship, death of someone close, or not getting a promotion at work. Pursuing closure is usually thought of as a healthful, positive way of dealing with hurt. However, what happens if closure never happens? If it’s never offered to you? It’s understandable to feel the need to know why things happened the way they did. However, one thing I have had to learn is that many times in life, you never get answers.

Dwelling on gaining closure can act as a defense mechanism that lets us indulge in self-pity rather than making necessary changes, letting go, and moving on. For example, it can be easier to obsess over why your partner broke up with you than to stop thinking about them at all. At least in the first scenario they are not out of your life totally, because they’re still on your mind. Meanwhile, you’re living in the past, convincing yourself it’s the present, and robbing yourself of a future.

Other less-serious incidents than your partner breaking up with you, such as day-to-day interactions out in the world with strangers, can also be hurtful. Examples are not getting a call for a second interview or a stranger in the grocery store sneering at you. These can be smaller in impact but can still add up to a pretty large pain body over time if the right perspective is not taken. What should that perspective be? That we have the power to improve our lives by not dwelling on situations and circumstances, but instead moving past the hurt and confusion, regardless of whether we got the explanation, apology, or atonement “due” us.

Did something happen in the past that isn’t relevant today, but still plagues your mind? Is the presence of this hurt impeding you from living your fullest life? Let go of what you have no control over and empower yourself by making the decisions today that will allow you to grow, overcome, and thrive.