Quick, think of the person you dislike the most in the world. Do you have a name in mind? Has this person hurt you? Hurt your family? Said awful things to/about you? Did this person lie to you? Stab you in the back? Steal from you? All of the above?
How do you feel when you think about this person? What thoughts or emotions get stuck on “repeat” when you hear that name? Are you livid? Seething? Broken? Are you wondering, How could you? Or, Why would you? Do you feel powerful? Powerless? Do you feel hateful?
I whole-heartedly believe that compassion is the antidote to all of those unpleasant emotions. I also know that, when you’re upset with someone, you don’t want to be compassionate towards them. And even if you do, it’s freaking hard.
To make this easier, I started using a new trick- it involves turning the person’s name into an acronym. Wanna try one?
Let’s pretend the name of your nemesis is “Laurie” (my apologies to all Lauries. This is nothing personal, it’s just an example). This woman might be your ex, your ex’s partner or your partner’s ex. She could be a cantankerous coworker or a feisty family member. And it might be entirely true that Laurie is Loud, Angry, Ugly, Rigid, Immature and Egotistical. However, that’s not a very compassionate perspective (although it is incredibly easy, isn’t it?). Let’s be a little more sensitive to Laurie’s predicament and try again. The next time you think about Laurie, try seeing her as someone who is…
- Lost (perhaps Laurie is at a bad place and she’s having a hard time finding her compass)
- Anxious (anxiety is a crippling affliction to live with)
- Un-secure (maybe she can’t pay her rent or she doesn’t feel loved by her family)
- Ruined (Financially? Socially? Spiritually?)
- Ignorant (she doesn’t know the extent of the anger/anguish she’s caused you)
- Exhausted (like the rest of us, she’s fighting a great battle)
I like this exercise because it shifts the identification from That Person to a person. No longer is Laurie the woman who [insert crime here], she’s now a human being whose vulnerability we can identify with. Under such circumstances, the juices of empathy flow more freely. Thus, we are freed from the animosity that otherwise holds us captive amidst sixty shades of darkness.
“Compassion compels us to reach out to all living beings, including our so-called enemies, those people who upset or hurt us. Irrespective of what they do to you, if you remember that all beings like you are only trying to be happy, you will find it much easier to develop compassion towards them” -The Fourteenth Dalai Lama
What do you think? Have you been able to redefine the object of your enmity? Do you feel any different towards him/her? Do you prefer another tactic? Tell me about it…