Have you got people in your life who bring you down?…
I think most of us have, and probably most of the time.
The classic personal development recommendation is to avoid such people like the plague, and associate only with positive people. However, is that realistic? Is it really possible to run your life like that? And even if it was, is it best to do it that way?
I’m not sure about that.
There is a hell of a lot of judgment involved in doing that; in thinking oneself at a certain level and others at a lesser level. Judgment breeds duality and resistance. Moreover, perversely, what you resist you will tend to attract more of. So rather than escape, you may create more of what you are trying to avoid.
One side of this dilemma is that you may be the kind of empathic person who tunes into other people’s moods all too easily. So, you find yourself getting down and apathetic all too easily. Hence, it is easy to understand where that original advice came from. After all, negative people do not exactly lift the atmosphere of the place they are in.
Even as I type these words, I can say that I was exposed to a very negative person this morning. Hence, I am finding it actually quite hard to get through writing this article, as some of the latent apathy and powerlessness seems to have seeped through. That’s what happens if you have too much empathy within and let yourself be exposed, unprotected, to this kind of energy. You have to create a psychic shield around yourself first.
However, on the other hand, it is first of all very hard to quarantine yourself from such people, and even unhelpful to do so. As mentioned, it first of all affects your own mindset thereby potentially creating a judgmental superior attitude. However, beyond even that, you are not living in the real world, as it really is. You are trying to create a fantasy world peopled with only the kinds of people you think fit to inhabit it.
Some of your greatest lessons come from dealing with difficult people. So, if you want to become a more patient person, will you achieve this by never being exposed to situations that require you to develop it? I think you know the answer. Of course, this does not mean that you leave yourself open for every energy vampire out there to feed or dump upon. You have to enter the situation with awareness. In this way, some of the most trying and unbearable people can actually end up being great teachers of awareness and presence!
In any case, a negative person can only affect you to the extent that your ego is alive and responsive to be defended. This can be explained as follows. There is a story that the Buddha was walking along and a man was going alongside, insulting him all the way. The Buddha did not seem to be the slightest bit bothered. So, one of his followers asked him if all these insults did not upset him? The Buddha replied, “Not at all. There is nobody inside here to be insulted.”
In other words, you can use your ability to deal with negative people as an indicator of your growth as an empowered spiritual person. To the extent that you are still engaged in dualistic ego-based thinking, you will be swayed by someone else’s negativity. To the extent that it is not, and you are in perfect control of your inner environment, you won’t. As Ram Dass once said, “If you think you’re enlightened, try spending a weekend with your parents. You’ll soon find out how enlightened you really are!”
The best thing to cultivate is to learn to let the negativity flow through you without affecting you. Words are just words. They don’t have to affect you unless you participate with them. If you can detach enough to view what is going on as an interesting phenomenon instead of being directly impacted by it, you have moved a long way towards Mastery. Of course, you can never do this if you go out of your way to avoid every negative person you meet or know. Doing so does not make you a “positive” person. It just makes you polarized, dualistic and rather strange.
Sure, for a while, if you lack this ability, then you might have to take siestas away from such individuals. However, know that these are only temporary, allowing you time to regroup yourself before returning to the learning arena. Also, when you do return, you do so prepared and ready to engage but not react i.e. be present but not lose yourself in the interaction.
There are many ways to let Your Inner Greatness out. Thinking and acting in this way is just one of them. There are many more that you need to learn and develop.