So here’s an interesting quote I was reminded of today: “It takes one to know one.” That old playground taunt we’ve all heard, but in a completely different context. It came up as a topic of discussion in a class I’m taking.

We were talking about how best to deal with “challenging” people in our lives, the people we spend time tolerating, but not truly loving or accepting. I mentioned that, for me, when I find myself irked by someone, one thing I try to do is recognize what fear, worry, anxiety or judgment about my own self might be triggered by seeing a particular trait in someone else. In short, I imagine that on the other side of ego, we have much more in common than I’d care to admit. Sometimes this process is excruciatingly difficult.

And of course sometimes I fail, but I find the practice, even when it’s unsuccessful, to be a wonderful opportunity for growth. In its simplest form it’s a great stress-reducer. But, more often than not it leads to profound levels of insight. At its best, it deepens your emotional and spiritual core.

There are lots of different strategies for taking on this process.

From my perspective, the end goal of this type of work is beginning to recognize that our suffering is ours and ours alone. Sometimes people make poor choices in how they treat us, but our choice lies in how we respond to that treatment, what we choose to believe about the relationship or interaction, what we choose to recognize about the “difficult” person and what level of personal growth we agree to accept in order to be more at peace in our lives. And, it’s important to remember, the behaviors of others are not about us, but our feelings and responses absolutely are. It’s worth it to take yourself out on a limb to get better at dealing with stressful people.

If you’re interested in gaining some clarity around this in your own life, below are some strategies, exercises and reflections that you might find helpful. Go ahead and give one (or all) of them a go! I guarantee you’ll thank yourself for it.

The Mirror of Relationship – from the Chopra Center
Byron Katie’s The Work
Tara Brach’s The RAIN Model

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