Difficult People Are Our Best Teachers
The most difficult people in our lives have the potential to teach us our greatest lessons——if we let them. Sadly, these are the same people we try to avoid because they trigger feelings inside us that we do not want to deal with.
We will encounter many challenging people during the course of our lives: a critical parent; a demanding boss; a thoughtless spouse. Sometimes we think that if they were out of the picture, our lives would be easier. We are convinced that they are the ones responsible for making us feel unhappy, or upset, or insecure. But in reality, they are not to blame. They are just bringing out feelings we already have inside of us, and though it may sound ridiculous, they are actually doing us a favor. Every time they push our buttons, they are giving us an opportunity to address whatever it is that is disturbing our peace.
If we take these people at face value, we may feel self-righteous in our dislike of them. It’s their fault that we don’t want to be around them. After all, if they were nicer to us we wouldn’t feel this way. However if we examined the situation more closely, we would find that our negativity toward them is misplaced. They are not really doing anything to us; they are just being who they are. That is not to say that they are not selfish, controlling, or whatever they might be. But that need not have any impact on our joy. In fact, if we truly felt secure about ourselves, we would not react to them at all.
“When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.” ~ The Dalai Lama
Unfortunately, the way most of us choose to deal with these people is to try and get as far away from them as possible. Many people continually move from job to job or relationship to relationship with the hope of separating themselves from their perceived source of misery. They have not yet recognized that the source of their misery lies within, and no matter how many new jobs or relationships they begin, they will all end they same way. And if they cannot get away, as in the case of a family member, they want them to change; to stop doing whatever it is they don’t like. Of course this almost never happens. No one is going to change just to make you feel good about yourself. You are the one who needs to change.
Ask yourself why this person is in your space….what they can teach you. What is it about them that upsets you so much? Maybe you are not angry for the reasons you think you are. The closer you look, the more you will discover. You may have to acknowledge things about yourself that you don’t really want to, but in so doing you will take back your power. And you will remember all the past teachers who tried to teach you the same lesson, feeling grateful that this is the one that finally got through, and knowing that if they had not, there would have been another, and another, waiting for you down the line.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~ Carl Jung
Difficult people are the purveyors of our life lessons; our Zen masters if you will. We cannot run away or hide from them; they will find us wherever we are. We can choose to blame them for all of our troubles, and see them as thorns in our sides. Or better, we can take responsibility for our own happiness and see them as the blessings they are, revealing to us our hidden demons that we would not have discovered on our own.
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