Many of the most valuable lessons I have learned have come from people I most definitely do not want to be like. You know the type.
For example, I have a family member who is the embodiment of cynicism, doom and gloom. He rarely has anything positive to say and his dark jokes revolve around someone else’s misfortune.
Whenever asked, "How’s it going?" he details his latest job woes in a manner that reflects his view that the world is out to get him. He can also talk for hours about his dark conspiracy theories.
Being around him can be draining, to say the least. Most family members suffer in silent resignation, head for another room, or step out into the garden for some fresh air to get away.
I often do the same. At other times, I feel compassion and attempt to share the benefits of seeing life from a more elevated perspective while also hinting at the importance of taking ownership of one's shadow.
There are also times when, if I am not careful, I find myself getting drawn into the gravitational pull of his dark energy. When this happens, he unloads his grievances and walks away with a light spring in his step while I am left feeling like I need a shower.
In other words: this man is a fantastic ally. He has taught me incredible lessons about where and why I allow myself to be pulled off center and out of my heart. Through him, I have woken up to when this happens.
As a form of protection, I have created an internal checklist to respond to people both at work and at home who are negative or stuck in a dark mood. The checklist goes like this:
1. What does this person need?
Is there a chance that a positive input is being sought? If the answer is yes, then share something to lift the mood. If the answer is no, keep the interaction brief and walk away.
2. Are they acting as a mirror?
The answer is yes if we are being sucked in. When there is a pull, there is a resonance. Someone or something "out there" shows us where we are resisting the flow of life. When this is the case, we can breathe in deeply and accept what is.
3. This too will pass.
While we can offer compassion and point to other alternatives, we are not responsible. Suffering is a choice. When we maintain our state, we are part of the solution rather than adding to the illusion. In this way, we create space for an opening of awareness to happen, which is more than enough.
4. Avoidance is O.K.
We can protect and safeguard the sanctity of our internal state by making sure we are with people who nurture us. On other occasions, when we have no alternative as a consequence of work or family obligations, we can remain upbeat and keep turning every negative comment into a positive. Do it for long enough and it works wonders. If the other person cannot get you on his or her negative side, they will eventually give up.
5. Love really is the answer.
Everything always comes down to love. If we love and respect ourselves, we do not give ourselves away so cheaply. We do not come down from our state. We do not concede who we are for the sake of someone’s need to off-load. We can listen with love. We only get dumped on when we allow ourselves to become part of the drama.
The next time that person comes your way, be grateful. No matter how mean, dark-spirited or negative they may be, they are here to teach us how to love, honor and respect who we are and what we have to offer the world.
I would say that is an invaluable gift wouldn’t you?