Spiritual practices frame others as our greatest teachers.
Difficult people or those who we may not see eye-to-eye with help highlight defects within ourselves, illuminating our shadow.
According to psychiatrist Carl Jung, the shadow represents the repressed defects and instincts hidden in our unconscious mind. When someone’s actions or behavior elicit a strong emotional response within us, we get clues about our own darker side.
Learn from Your Reactions to Others
You know the old line of reasoning: the biggest homophobes are so hateful and intolerant because of their own insecurities, not because of the people they claim to hate. Boys beat up gay boys because they’re told they should “act like a man” and we fail as a society to encourage them to handle their emotions well, for fear of sissifying them (such a stupid, unhealthy practice). So, they take their repressed rage out on others.
When we feel something negative towards someone else, it says more about our insides than about them. Everything merely exists, and it’s up to each of us to give it value or validation. So, when you’re mad at someone, it is telling you something about yourself.
Inconsiderate people can be challenging to be around. But if someone else’s inconsiderate nature produces a strong emotional charge within us—triggering negative emotions like anger—we can perform self-analysis (with humility and inner honesty):
Is there a part of us that’s inconsiderate?
Perhaps an aspect of ourselves that we haven’t been conscious of?
If a part of ourselves wasn’t inconsiderate or ungracious, it’s unlikely that someone’s behavior would illicit a strong emotional response within us.
When our negative emotions get triggered by someone else’s actions or behaviors, we have an opportunity to forgive those qualities within ourselves. For example, when we’re upset because someone in inconsiderate or ungracious, we can forgive the part of ourselves that is inconsiderate and ungracious (even if we can’t consciously identify with it).
Difficult people offer us a tremendous opportunity for spiritual growth through self-awareness.
Through our interactions with them, we can hone our communication skills—for if we can learn to be caring and understanding with difficult people, surely we can be caring and understanding with all people—including ourselves. Compassion for others will then become a way of being within ourselves.
I’ve been telling myself recently:
How I relate to myself, I will relate to others.