We become stressful when we encounter people or situations we hate. Our mind becomes agitated and that agitation becomes worse when we seem stuck in that situation and cannot walk away from it. Sometimes, we feel like retaliating but we know it is wiser not to. That makes us resentful. In short, the mental sufferings can be intense and unpleasant. For example, a difficult colleague or supervisor.
In Buddhism, we are taught to apply loving kindness towards difficult people . We usually do it immediately after an unpleasant situation. For example, I used to have a nasty supervisor who enjoyed passing snide remarks and bullying his underlings. I would direct thoughts of loving kindness to him after every meeting or after work. This is done by simply wishing in our mind, “May you be well and happy.” By doing this, I am training my mind not to react negatively every time I see his face or hear his voice. This may sound stupid. “Why would we wish our enemy happiness?”, but there is a simple logic to the practice.
Primarily because we are protecting our mental health. An angry and bitter mind harm us in more than 1 way. When our mind react negatively, it extends beyond that unpleasant encounter. Thus, it will hinder our performance and also has an adverse effect on our relationship with others. Just because our boss is mean to us doesn’t mean we need to show a bitch face to everyone in office. And if we are simmering with resentment, our minds loose focus and become prone to making mistakes. Makes sense? Therefore, the loving kindness practice is like a balm that soothe our burning mind. We are actually protecting ourselves. Especially our mental well-being. Once our mind is cooled down, we can function better.
The previous paragraph concerns our mind. Next is our speech and actions. Sometimes, the best counter measure for nastiness is kindness. Our words or actions born out of kindness may become the antidote that cure that person of meanness. When we don’t have fear and aggression in our mind, it throws the other party off. Something like Judo or Akido. It is strange but much of our interaction actually begins way before we say or do anything. When we have loving kindness in our mind, the vibe from us tend to be disarming.
In the Buddhist scripture, the practitioner of loving kindness adopts the mentality of a loving mother. That means we treat that irritating person as a child throwing tantrum. When we hold that kind of position, it empowers us to control our reaction. That in turn will affect the way we interact with that difficult person. This is actually a form of parenting patience. Like a mother who is tolerating a screaming kid? It is surprising how a change of perspective can immediately improve our day and make us patient / tolerant.
Patience is important for difficult work situations because it prevents us from acting impulsively. That doesn’t mean we need to put up with unreasonable behaviors. What is important though, is that, we are not baited into doing something disadvantageous. For example, if we need to leave or quit the job to get away from all those nonsenses, we want to make sure we are in control and plan it properly?
Another method is to look at the situation with compassion. When we understand Karma, we realize that an unreasonable supervisor is actually creating bad Karma. Due to ignorance, he/she is reacting to their work challenges in a bad and negative manner. When we know that an ignorant person is creating bad karma, we pity that person and feel compassion towards them. Again, by shifting our mindset, we make our life bearable.
Sometimes, a terrible day at work may eat us up and we ended up being troubled at home too. We feel stuck and frustrated. We wish to have patience, loving kindness and compassion towards our tormentor but somehow, we just cannot get over it. The thought of going to work the next day feels dreadful. But we still need that pay check to clear our monthly bills. We have tried looking for a new job but have no luck yet. Sounds familiar? This naturally leads to stress overflowing into our family life. We look grumpy and say grumpy things to our family.
Here’s a trick that I use.
Using my imagination, I would imagine that difficult person as my meditation cushion! In another word, I imagine that person being overpowered and I am sitting on him/her while I engage in my Buddhist practice. That provides me that sweet mental relief that he/she is no longer capable of causing me any suffering and it helps me soothe an extremely agitated mind. Especially if I have an extremely bad situations that day. It may sound childish, but it kind of gives me some comical relief. However, it is important that we do not imagine harming that person in anyway. To round up my imagination, I imagine that person being cured of his “nastiness” after my meditation or chanting.
Finally, let us remind ourselves that bad situations in life is impermanent too. There will come a time when our unfavorable conditions will stop. Meanwhile, hang in there, don’t do impulsive things and continue to plan our next move wisely before taking actions.
May all be well and happy.