Have you ever met someone who really “gets your goat”? Someone you’re perhaps obliged to hang out with but who has, for example, an annoying personality trait that you just can’t stand? If you’re human, I’m sure you have. 😉
Every time you encounter that person, whether what they have to say is actually valid or not, your perception of them is somehow coloured by the one thing that looms large in the foreground – that one thing you can’t stand about them.
An example from my own life is “John”. John is a compulsive talker who attends a meeting we hold here once a week. He cannot abide silent pauses in conversations – even for a couple of seconds. He has to fill them with anything, often digressing in a meandering way from the general topic being discussed at the time.
Occasionally, his sharing has become so protracted that I’ve had to say, “Could you stop talking now please, so that someone else can share?” I’m loathe to do this of course, as it could come across as abrupt and uncaring. I’ve already had a gentle word with him about this, and he’s promised to do something about it, but he can’t – because he’s compelled to talk and it seems that he can’t help but continue to do so.
What makes matters worse is that I’m not the only one who’s bothered by this – most other members of the group are annoyed by it – some more than others.
This of course compounds the problem, because now, there’s a whole group of people holding the same perception of John.
What to do? One day, I decided to practice that which I know intellectually to be the case, but which often isn’t employed until things become unbearable. 😉
I finally realised that his behaviour probably wasn’t going to magically change overnight, so I simply let go of my judgement of it. In fact, I allowed myself to fully feel the feelings that arose when he was talking non-stop, and welcomed them – rather than resisting them. This seems counter-intuitive to most people, who imagine that “welcoming” something would allow it have a greater hold when in fact, the exact opposite is the case.
It is our resistance to things that make them persist. When we allow feelings (for example) free passage, rather than blocking them out, they will no longer bother us.
Has John’s behaviour changed at all as a result of this? Actually, it seems that it has in some measure. But of course, that could just be my corrected perception of him which, in the end, is all that matters. 🙂