Life is all about perception. What one person sees as reality may be completely different from what another person in the same situation may see. It all depends on how our individual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors shape our world. If we could only take a step back and look, I mean really look, at how we react to situations and interact with other people, we would learn so much about ourselves. It is in this self-awareness that we ultimately find happiness, living life in the “big picture.”

There are three overall stances we can take in any life experience, and each one has the potential to show us a whole lot about our perceptions:

1) Bumping Heads

When people ruffle our feathers, it’s because we allow ourselves to become enmeshed in a negative way in what’s happening. For instance, maybe your child comes home from school in a bad mood. He or she apparently got their feelings hurt by another child, and has decided to take it out on you. Your child has a complete meltdown right in front of you. What do you do? Start having your own meltdown right back at them… of course! The energy level escalates as you let your child take you down the rabbit hole. And we all know that the only thing this accomplishes is major aggravation and frustration. No one is listening. Nothing is being learned. The rational parent in you has “left the building.”

So what is this situation supposed to show you in the big scheme of things? Well, probably that you have a belief that is being challenged. It is true that your child’s release of negative energy toward you technically had nothing to do with you. However, the fact that you became so worked up and knocked off balance because of it does have something to do with you. Step back and look at it from an observer’s point of view. Are you seeing in your child a side of yourself that you do not like? Is your child actually mirroring for you behaviors that you yourself exhibit from time to time? Has he or she triggered feelings inside of you that need healing, like impatience, anger, or hurt? This experience then becomes a positive one if you are able to learn from it. It gets you one step closer to your authentic self. Think about it. It will help you understand and react more calmly to this type of unpleasant situation in the future.

2) Shutting Down

Shutting down is the other end of the spectrum. It means we have totally disengaged. This stance is just as ineffective. You avoid a situation altogether, and by doing so, you can never learn anything about yourself. No evolving is allowed to occur. Having interactions with others, no matter how difficult, is the way we find out who we really are. There is intrinsic value in going outside our comfort zones. We grow as a result of it. I believe that is why each of us is here — to become who we truly are, and we’ll never find that out unless we engage in the world around us, even though it can be painful. In the end, the rewards are quite worth it!

3) Holding Space

What do I mean by “holding space”? I mean staying centered, remaining balanced, being present but not participating in the drama unfolding in front of you. Picture yourself encased within a protective bubble. This bubble has a turquoise and pink iridescence to it. It represents your throat chakra (self-expression) and your heart chakra (feelings). You are essentially playing the role of witness to that which you see and hear. You are not taking this personally. You realize it is not about you. There are larger forces at work here. You are simply watching and observing. You say to yourself, “This child is very upset. He must be in the middle of a life lesson.” Allow him to feel and release what he needs to. Remember that people are at different psychological and emotional levels. Try to see from that perspective. Others have to be allowed to release in order to rise to the next level. If you try to fix or control the situation, you keep them from evolving. So show him only love. Stay in “the continuum” — not too engaged, not too disengaged. It’s a balancing act. Project positive energy and show compassion, and the episode will almost instantly be defused because of it. You will have passed a test of becoming more of your true self, and your child will have learned more from your powerful, gentle example than anything else could possibly teach him.

Life experiences are meant to align our personality with our soul and all that it is made of: harmony, peace, love, and so on. When we look for a deeper reason for the events that present themselves in our lives, we consciously participate in our soul’s evolution.

If what someone does or says irritates you, upsets you, or otherwise “hits a nerve” in some way, it does have to do with how you see yourself and the world around you. However, if you do not assume a defensive or critical stance — the need to control or dominate the situation — and focus on the soul of the other person, you will move past the incident without allowing it to negatively impact you. You will have passed the test. When you are able to see the big picture and realize what is actually going on, you will quietly and calmly become the master of your own life. Your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors will carefully calibrate themselves with clarity, peace, understanding, and truth in order to define a happy life. You will have no need to prove your mastery. You will live it. You will radiate your own empowerment. It will come through in everything you say and do and be deeply felt by others.

“One filled with joy preaches without preaching.” — Mother Teresa

For more by Donna Labermeier, click here.

For more on wisdom, click here.