Chapter6-8 : When we are anxious and upset about someone we dislike, it’s important to calm down and
Everyone has one or two people with whom they just can’t seem to get along, yet with whom they must live or work.
Once you start to think, “I don’t like him” or “There’s something unpleasant about her,” then being together becomes difficult, and the other person’s ways and habits begin to seem annoying.
You can always try to avoid, whenever possible, the person you dislike, but there are many situations where that becomes impossible, as when that person is a coworker in your department, or your immediate supervisor.
Shakyamuni Buddha lists as one of the sufferings that no one can avoid “the pain of encountering persons or things one dislikes.”
In the Buddha’s age and in our own, this seems to be an inevitable part of living.
But if this is an inevitable kind of suffering, it seems a shame not to use it as an opportunity for growth.
In reality, there are many instances where one feels strong dislike for an aspect of someone else’s personality that exactly mirrors an aspect of one’s own.
Through my email newsletter I was once presented with a problem regarding human relations in the workplace:
“My boss is a very disagreeable person, and whenever he makes some remark, it riles me.”
“What do you find offensive in what he says?” I asked.
The answer was that this boss always spoke as if he were absolutely sure about things, was merciless in pointing out other people’s mistakes, and insisted that his own ideas were correct.
My correspondent felt him to be extremely arrogant and pushy:
“How can anyone be so presumptuous? I can’t stand that attitude of his.”
I then tried asking, “Don’t you think it might be harmful to the company’s business if your boss ‘held back’ in what he said to everybody?”
My correspondent acknowledged that his boss was a hard worker and was admired for being so by those around him.
So I decided to push a little further and asked him if his boss’s way of speaking didn’t remind him of something else he’d found disagreeable.
It turned out that his middle-school teacher had been similar in manner to his present boss, and had verbally abused my correspondent so often that even now he couldn’t forget it.
In other words, it wasn’t that he simply disliked the boss himself, but rather that his boss’s manner of speaking brought back unpleasant memories, and that made him feel uncomfortable in the present.
When my correspondent realized that what he disliked was not the boss himself but those painful memories from the past, he was able to take a fresh look at his situation and feel better about it, as he himself said.
In the traditional story “Urashima Taro,” Princess Otohime asked the assembled fish in the undersea Dragon Palace:
“What color is this jewel?”
The flatfish answered, “Light brown!”; the mackerel said “Blue!” and the black sea bream “Black!”
Holding back her laughter, the Princess said: “Actually, everyone, this gem is transparent and colorless.
You each saw yourself reflected in it and thought that was the jewel’s color!”
That’s the way we humans, too, see things.
It is absolutely impossible to see things objectively, without reference to our own thoughts and feelings.
The world you see is a reflection of what is within you.
When you are suffering because you can’t avoid contact with someone you dislike, calm down a bit and ask yourself why you dislike him or her.
It may be that painful memories of your past are being projected onto the other person: “He talks the same way my overly strict father did.”
“He reminds me of that teacher of mine who was always playing favorites among the students.”
Then you will realize that what you dislike is not the person himself but the memories of your past painful experiences.
That should help you deal better with your negative feelings.
The person you dislike may be helping you come to know yourself more deeply.
Even so, it sometimes happens that we become upset about someone we dislike, find it hard to remain calm, and suffer as a result.
At such times, the best thing to do is not to spend too much time thinking about that person—not to pay them too much attention.
You may think, “That’s too hard a thing to do—it’s unrealistic advice.”
But just consider: There you are, unable to sleep because of thoughts of how hateful that person is, and all the while, that person is snoring away, enjoying a good night’s rest for himself.
Being troubled by thoughts of someone you are fond of is one thing, but wasting time and energy fretting about someone you dislike is really pointless.
Don’t you agree that it would be far better to spend all that time and energy for your own benefit?