Dealing with Difficult Relationships

To improve our relationships, we need to dispel our unrealistic projections that are causing the difficulties and develop a caring attitude.
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Explanation

Buddhist meditation is oriented toward overcoming problems. This is why Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths to help us to deal with them in a better way. We all have problems that we face in life. Some are more drastic than others. But one of them that most of us face has to do with our relationships with others.

Some of those relationships can be quite difficult and challenging. But Buddha taught us that there is something we can do to be able to handle them better. We need to look within ourselves to find the causes of these problems. This is because, regardless of how strongly others are contributing to our problems, the only thing that we can really control is how we ourselves respond to them. That means how we respond both in our attitudes and our behavior. 

Since our behavior is shaped by our attitudes, we need to focus our efforts on improving our attitudes. If we replace the ones that are troublemakers with more wholesome ones that are based on reality and compassion, we will minimize, if not completely eliminate the suffering we experience from difficult relationships. 

Meditation

  • Calm down by focusing on the breath.
  • Focus on someone with you have a difficult relationship as an example of the first noble truth, true sufferings.
  • Let the feeling of annoyance arise. 
  • Examine why you feel like that as an example of the second noble truth, the true causes of suffering. Maybe it's because they are difficult to be with and give us a hard time, or we don't like something about them, or they’re not always available when want to be with them or they're not always in a good mood.
  • As we go deeper, we see that we identify them only with that aspect and don't consider them actually as a human being who has many other people in their lives and all other things affecting them besides us, and that they have feelings just as we do and want to be liked, just as we do.
  • Not everyone feels that way toward them, so it is possible to end that feeling of annoyance and discomfort of being with them as an example of the third noble, the true stopping of suffering.
  • To dispel that discomfort, we need to realize, as an example of the fourth noble truth a true pathway mind of correct understanding, that if they truly existed as an annoying person, then everyone would find them annoying, from the moment of their birth. But that’s impossible.
  • We cut off that projection of them as being a truly annoying person.
  • We then view them without annoyance. They only seem to us to be annoying, but that is like an illusion.
  • Then we generate a caring attitude toward them – they’re a human being and want to be liked and to be happy, and don't want to be disliked. Just as I wouldn't like for this person to act toward me as if I were a nuisance, like a mosquito – it would affect my feelings – so, too, they don't like that either and it affects their feelings.
  • Regard the person with the caring attitude.

Summary

To deal with difficult people we, of course, need to first calm down when we meet them, or before meeting them if we have the chance. Then when we are with them, we need to regard them as a human being with feelings just as we have and develop a caring attitude. One of the obstacles to developing such an attitude is not regarding the person in the larger context of the reality of their lives. If we dispel our false projections and view them more realistically then, with an open and caring attitude, we’ll be able to deal with them more successfully.

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