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The Difficult People In Your Life

--by Sally Kempton (Mar 19, 2018)


We don’t always know why difficult people show up in our lives. There are some good theories about it, of course.  Jungians, along with most contemporary spiritual teachers, tell us that ALL the people in our lives are mirroring what’s inside us, and that once we clear our minds and clarify our hearts; we’ll stop attracting angry girl friends, prickly co-workers and tyrannical bosses. Then there’s the view—not necessarily inconsistent with the first– that life is a school, and that difficult people are our teachers. (In fact, when someone tells you that you’re a teacher for him, it’s often a good idea to ask yourself exactly what it is about you that he finds abrasive!) One thing is clear, though: at some point in our lives, most of us will have someone around us who is show-stoppingly hard to take.  Sometimes, it seems as if everyone we know is giving us trouble.

So, one of the great on-going questions for anyone who wants to live an authentic spiritual life without going into a cave is this: how do you deal with difficult people without being harsh, wimpy, or putting them out of your heart? How can you explain to your friend who keeps trying to enlist you in service of her own dramas, that you don’t want to be part of her latest scenario of mistrust and betrayal -- and still remain friends? How do you handle the boss whose tantrums terrorize the whole office, or the co-worker who bursts into tears several times a week and accuses you of being abrupt when all you’re trying to do is get down to business?

More to the point, what can you do when the same sorts of difficult people and situations keep showing up again and again in your life?  Should you chalk it up to karma? Should you find ways to resolve it through discussion or even pre-emptive action? Or should you take the truly challenging view that the people in your life who seem harsh or clingy or annoying are actually reflections of your own disowned, or shadow tendencies? In other words, is it really true that we project onto other people the qualities in ourselves that we dislike or disallow, and then condemn in someone else the traits we reject in ourselves? Does dealing with difficult people have to begin with finding out what you might need to work on in yourself?

The short yogic answer here is "Yes." Obviously, that doesn’t mean you should overlook other people’s anti-social behavior. (Owning your own part in a difficult relationship is not the same thing as wimping out of a confrontation!) Moreover, some relationships are so difficult that the best way to change them is to leave.  But here’s the bottom line: Try as we will, we can’t control other people’s personality and behavior. Our real power lies in our ability to work on ourselves.

This, of course, is Yoga 101. We all ‘know’ it, yet when we’re in the crunch of relational malfunction, it’s often the first thing we forget. So, here it is again: your own inner state is your only platform for dealing successfully with other people. Not even the best interpersonal technique will work if you do it from a fearful, judgmental, or angry state of mind. Your own open and empowered state is the fulcrum, the power point, from which we can begin to move the world. [...]

After all, what makes someone difficult?   Essentially, it’s their energy. We don’t have to be students of quantum field theory or Buddhist metaphysics to sense how much the energies around us affect our moods and feelings.  What makes someone tough for you to take? Basically, it has to do with how your energies interact with theirs. Every one of us is at our core an energetic bundle. What we call our personality is actually made up of many layers of energy -- soft, tender, vulnerable energies as well as powerful, controlling or prickly energies. We have our wild and gnarly energies, our kindly energies, our free energies and our constricted, contracted ones.

These energies, expressing themselves through our bodies, thoughts, and emotions, and minds, manifest as our specific personality signature at any given moment. What we see on the surface, in someone’s body language and facial expressions, is the sum of the energies that are operating in them. As we speak, its the energy behind our words that most deeply impacts others.

The beginning of change, then, is learning how to recognize and modulate our own energy patterns. The more awareness we have -- that is, the more we are able to stand aside and witness our personal energies of thought and feeling and (rather than identifying with them) "the easier it is to work with our own energies. This takes practice. Most people don’t start out with a highly developed awareness of their own energy or the way it impacts others -- and even fewer of us know how to change the way our energies work together. 
 

Sally Kempton is a student of Swami Muktananda, an author and a spiritual teacher. Excerpt above is from this article.

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6 Previous Reflections:

 
On Apr 3, 2018 John wrote:

 great post!  In fact, I express my gratitude to the other person for making me aware of my own shortcomings. In difficult relationships, our power lies in our ability to work on ourselves. In my relationships with people, I want to be authentic and empathic. When I do mindfulness workshops, there have been times when I have found difficult to maintain the balance between authenticity and empathy.



On Mar 20, 2018 Matt wrote:

 I took time many years ago to learn about my own shadows, I never really set out to do this specifically, in fact I was working with an Anger Management therapist who helped me understand why I reacted the way I did to different situations. I believe that for many people in the world the concept of thier own shadow is simply not understood and I believe that until you understand this becoming aware of your own energy is a very difficult challenge. Of course every journey is different, some people are naturally attuned but for me it took/takes a lot of work to be present enough to be aware of my own energy but when I am and when I notice it change during an interaction I can move from a place of reflection. The only real thing that helps me is meditation and mindfullness practices of which there are many but the once a day practice while helps is not enough, I have on my phone a bell that rings at 59 minutes past each hour to remind me to check in with myself and do a little brea  See full.

 I took time many years ago to learn about my own shadows, I never really set out to do this specifically, in fact I was working with an Anger Management therapist who helped me understand why I reacted the way I did to different situations. I believe that for many people in the world the concept of thier own shadow is simply not understood and I believe that until you understand this becoming aware of your own energy is a very difficult challenge. Of course every journey is different, some people are naturally attuned but for me it took/takes a lot of work to be present enough to be aware of my own energy but when I am and when I notice it change during an interaction I can move from a place of reflection. The only real thing that helps me is meditation and mindfullness practices of which there are many but the once a day practice while helps is not enough, I have on my phone a bell that rings at 59 minutes past each hour to remind me to check in with myself and do a little breath work. 

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On Mar 20, 2018 Lakshmi Rad wrote:

In every day life we do come across people who are rude or vile. This is part of life.once we become aware of the emotions that arise in us we can handle the situations well. It is not easy but is possible. Energies of anger, irritation, etc cannot be countered with same energies. It becomes combative. Calmness and strategic handling will help.
what is yoga 101?



On Mar 19, 2018 Sunil,Bangalore wrote:

Charity begins @home.The world was-is-will be good always.Thus it is surviving. No need to criticize, find fault and be unhappy.Just look within to connect with your peaceful, most powerful and pure soul. Doors to the untapped abundant perennial & potential source of energy-the life force will be slowly opened."Shivohum Shivohum Shiva Swaroopaha hum".This applies to every soul uniformly connecting everybody with anybody. I am in you and you are in me. This Deep meditation helps to realize how positive energetic you are.Then there is simply harmony,reconciliations and togetherness  with the common love-affection, sympathy-empathy,gratitude-generosity in all relationships and interactions.       



On Mar 16, 2018 david doane wrote:

 There's something about that guy I just can't stand in myself.  I look across the room and see me.  Seeing what I don't like in the other as being in some way also part of me is an opening to my being more aware of self and improving self.  And as the author says, I can't change the other and I can do some changing of me, so I might as well focus on me, which will have ain impact on the other.  Becoming aware of self is becoming aware of one's own energy.  As I would jump in, rather than be a scared hiding spectator, I became aware of my energy.  Sometimes others liked what I said or did, which felt good.  Sometimes others didn't like what I said or did.  The important thing is that I became aware that I have energy, which is power, I have a right and responsibility to own my energy and power, my energy and power make a difference, and I want to use my energy and power to make a positive difference.  My being aware of all that does he  See full.

 There's something about that guy I just can't stand in myself.  I look across the room and see me.  Seeing what I don't like in the other as being in some way also part of me is an opening to my being more aware of self and improving self.  And as the author says, I can't change the other and I can do some changing of me, so I might as well focus on me, which will have ain impact on the other.  Becoming aware of self is becoming aware of one's own energy.  As I would jump in, rather than be a scared hiding spectator, I became aware of my energy.  Sometimes others liked what I said or did, which felt good.  Sometimes others didn't like what I said or did.  The important thing is that I became aware that I have energy, which is power, I have a right and responsibility to own my energy and power, my energy and power make a difference, and I want to use my energy and power to make a positive difference.  My being aware of all that does help me remain aware of my energy and how I use it.

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On Mar 15, 2018 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 Awareness or witnessing consciousness of what is happening in me on different levels of myself such as physical, breath, mental and emotional levels non-judgmentally when I am with someone who is throwing an arrow at me, blaming me, criticizing me or ignoring me has been very helpful to me. Such a transaction becomes a mirror for me to look at my inner face and clean up my own lens. If I react to the other person I need to pay attention to me and work own myself. In fact, I express my gratitude to the other person for making me aware of my own shortcomings. In difficult relationships, our power lies in our ability to work on ourselves. In my relationships with people, I want to be authentic and empathic. When I do mindfulness workshops, there have been times when I have found difficult to maintain the balance between authenticity and empathy.For example, after I lead a guided mindfulness meditation, I invite the participants to share their experience and respond to the  See full.

 Awareness or witnessing consciousness of what is happening in me on different levels of myself such as physical, breath, mental and emotional levels non-judgmentally when I am with someone who is throwing an arrow at me, blaming me, criticizing me or ignoring me has been very helpful to me. Such a transaction becomes a mirror for me to look at my inner face and clean up my own lens. If I react to the other person I need to pay attention to me and work own myself. In fact, I express my gratitude to the other person for making me aware of my own shortcomings. In difficult relationships, our power lies in our ability to work on ourselves.

In my relationships with people, I want to be authentic and empathic. When I do mindfulness workshops, there have been times when I have found difficult to maintain the balance between authenticity and empathy.For example, after I lead a guided mindfulness meditation, I invite the participants to share their experience and respond to their questions. Some participants go off the track. Instead of asking a question, they talk about something that may not be related to their experience. As a teacher I want them to be brief and to the point. I want them to ask a question and not to give a discourse.On such occasions, I let them know what they need to do and we may talk about what is on their mind later on after the workshop. I do this without judging them and maintain a positive flow of energy. It is my job to create and sustain positive energy in me and in the group. Our personal energy impacts us and others. We need to learn how to modulate our own energy patterns.As the author says," Our own inner state is our only platform for dealing with other people. Our own open and empowered state is the fulcrum, the power point, from which we can move the world."

Namaste.
Jagdish P Dave


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