How do we deal with unfairness?

Unfairness and suffering are part of everyone's life. As much as we would like life to be fair, it doesn't always happen that way. No matter how much we wish or expect others to behave according to our moral code, according to our principles, this doesn't always happen.

If we "follow the rules," do what we consider to be right, and are "good" people, honest or upright, it is rather unrealistic to expect that others will behave the same way.

We cannot control what other people do, and sometimes life puts us in difficult situations – the loss of a loved one, childhood abuse, injustices we may suffer at work, discrimination – all these can evoke strong feelings of anger, sadness, or despair. In such cases, it is important to understand whether we can do something about it, whether we can correct an injustice, and if not, to carefully choose our attitude.

 We cannot change the fact that a loved one is no longer with us, we cannot change the fact that we were abused in childhood, but we can change how we perceive these events. When we feel that we have been unjustly treated and realize that we cannot set things right, we can easily lose ourselves in anger, resentment, and may end up losing our self-confidence, becoming helpless victims who endlessly relive in their minds the injustices they have suffered.

The more we think about it and dwell on what happened, the more we become upset with ourselves, with others, or with life. The more we ask ourselves "why?", the more we lose our personal power.

It does not help us at all to think "why?" – "why did I have to go through this?", "why did it happen this way?" or "what did I do wrong to deserve this?". Thinking this way, we turn ourselves into victims and reinforce our helplessness.

What can help us is asking "how?" – "how can I overcome this?", "how can I free myself from these negative feelings?", "how can I be well?".

When we cannot change certain things (because they have already happened, and the circumstances were beyond our control), if we want to overcome them, it is necessary to accept them and focus instead on those aspects that are within our control (our attitude, the way we think and behave, the choices we make from now on, how we use the lessons learned from those experiences).

To accept a certain unpleasant or even dramatic event does not mean that we agree with it, it does not mean that we wanted it to happen; it means that we no longer resist the fact that it has already happened – we slowly begin to overcome the blockage we were in, a blockage of our thoughts and emotions, a blockage caused by the fact that mentally and emotionally we were still there – in those moments when we experienced injustice.

Resistance or non-acceptance always causes blockages in our lives because, basically, what we do is not let life "flow." We do not allow ourselves to move forward. Instead of living in the present and moving towards the future, we relive the past.

Once we accept a situation, it is important to become aware and accept our emotions too. What has changed now in our emotional spectrum? Perhaps before, we felt more anger and helplessness; perhaps we didn't even realize how these emotions influenced our decisions and life all this time; perhaps we became so accustomed to them that we allowed them to "guide" us from behind. Once we accept a situation, we can feel liberated, but at the same time, we can observe how much our experiences have consumed us internally. We may realize how tired we actually are, how much this resistance has exhausted us.

At this point, it is important not to give up, to continue to "fight" for our well-being. Let's make a conscious effort every day to monitor our thoughts and emotions, to pay attention to how we speak in our inner dialogue – if we tend to indulge in self-pity, let's replace these thoughts with constructive, healthy ones.

Let's take control of our thoughts and emotions, let's start building a different attitude. It is crucial to make this choice – do we want to continue being victims  and live our lives in accordance with this attitude, or do we want to take responsibility for our inner strength, for our being and our lives?

Let's aim to notice the beautiful things in our lives, surely they exist. But if our minds are focused on "why did this happen to me?", "it's unfair," or "nothing matters anymore," and our attention is directed toward what has been or is less pleasant in our lives, how can we observe that there is something else, that there are beautiful things?

Perhaps the most important question we can ask ourselves is "Does what I am doing now help me or harm me?" (the way I think, the way I behave, this choice/decision... does it help me or harm me?). Often, people expect or hope, perhaps without being fully aware of it, for miraculous solutions from the outside. They say they don't know what to do anymore, that they are tired or can't take it anymore, overlooking the fact that the solutions may be right in front of them.

Regardless of the problems we face, it is essential to understand that what makes a difference is our attitude – do we focus on problems and how they make us feel, or on solutions? Do we focus on an inner dialogue that reinforces our helplessness, or do we seek to observe where we have blockages and how we can overcome them?

Are we willing to change something about ourselves, even if it will be difficult at first? Are we willing to give up certain limiting beliefs? Are we willing to let go of suffering? Of course, everyone will say "yes" because who would say they like suffering? However, beyond these verbal declarations, a deeper will ultimately speaks – it's about certain roles we have adopted, about unconscious patterns of thinking and behavior, about certain beliefs. And that's precisely what we need to discover and change when we say "yes," we want to change something, but in reality, we "can't" do it. Let's become aware and free ourselves from internal saboteurs.

We cannot manifest positive changes in our lives if we have a negative mindset and are unwilling to take action in that direction. People who do not allow themselves to be defeated by life's injustices understand how crucial their mindset and attitude are in the face of these injustices:

- they work on themselves, paying attention to their thoughts and emotions, taking control of their own minds to prevent fleeting thoughts from becoming obsessive and repetitive (after all, obsessively thinking about being wronged does not make the injustice disappear, nor does it help us manage its consequences better);

- they choose a rational and functional approach, not rushing to act under the influence of momentary states (the emotions we may feel in response to perceiving an injustice can be extremely powerful or intense);

- they differentiate between what they can control/change and what is beyond their control (they don't tilt at windmills and don't try to change things that are not within their power); they wisely invest their resources and energy. Of course, the first question we ask ourselves when facing injustice is, "What can I do?" or "How can I fix this?" Depending on the action options we find, we should further ask ourselves, "Will this really help me, or is it just an action driven by anger?" or "Will this really help me, or am I seeking revenge?" In essence, what we need to do is a cost-benefit analysis and make decisions in a rational manner, decisions that help us, that are constructive, not decisions that worsen the situation.

If we face an unjust situation that we cannot change despite our efforts (we fought for justice but did not get any results), or if it is simply beyond our power to fix an injustice, as mentioned above, what we can do is learn to accept the situation and continue our lives despite this unpleasant or unfortunate event. Accepting the situation does not mean that we agree with what happened or that we approve of others taking advantage of us or violating our boundaries; it means giving ourselves the chance to move forward, not getting stuck in our own negative inner experiences.

We learn what we need to learn from our life experiences and do not allow unwanted events to bring us down, make us lose confidence in ourselves, or change our values and principles. For example, if we worked hard and dedicated ourselves to our profession, if we did our job as we know it should be done, but another colleague was promoted unfairly, we should not let this event make us doubt our qualities or think, "What's the point of being good if my merits are not recognized?"

Life will show us who the true valuable people are, and surely what we manage to build with our own efforts cannot be taken away by anyone – our knowledge, experience, professional ethics, discipline, and the skills we develop will always remain in our favor. It is important for us to remain loyal to ourselves first, not to lose our authenticity, to continue on our path with confidence, aware that, yes, sometimes we will be wronged or face obstacles or difficulties that will test us.

But that's how life is, sometimes it is tumultuous, challenging, other times it is gentle and friendly, so we need the wisdom and strength to go through it all, to rise when we fall, to seek solutions when we face problems, not to lose ourselves and not to give up on ourselves when it gets tough. The injustices we go through can demoralize and exhaust us, or they can help us become stronger and wiser persons. Let's not allow them to define our identity and life's course, but let's use our inner strength to break through even the most turbulent times.

Dr. Ursula Sandner


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