No. 550, September 11, 2006
"Someone sent to you for practise"
You come across a difficult, domineering or manipulating colleague. Skilfully they push you aside. You feel offended but cannot understand what happened. It is easy to be critical or judging to the person in question. They are probably behaving inappropriately. Shall we get back or…?
Another way is to see this person as "someone sent to you for practise" as the Swedish film director Kay Pollak has expressed it. This means that we own the problem and take responsibility for it. In this way seeing a difficult person as "someone sent to you for practise" can be very liberating. We take the problem home to the only person whose thoughts and actions we are in full control of ourselves.
Here, a few ideas on seeing difficult people as "someone sent to you for practise":
- Does the person push you aside? This person is sent to make you aware that you are not standing up for yourself. Have you been unclear? Have you been sufficiently assertive? The person has given you an opportunity to learn to stand up for yourself and express your thoughts with assertiveness when needed, but without having to judge or get back.
- Does the person make you angry? This person is sent to make you aware of a sensitive spot in yourself which may need some attention. Probably this anger is also awakened by others.
- Does the person annoy you? This person is sent to make you aware of a behaviour that you are judging in yourself. This is why the behaviour is making you feel irritated. But why judge? And who is to judge? Of course, you may sometimes have to discuss inappropriate behaviours with your co-workers. But why judge?
- Does the person make you feel guilty? This person is sent to make you aware of an area in your life where your actions are not in accord with your inner conviction. This is an especially challenging "someone being sent to you". It helps if you are convinced of man’s innate goodness. There are two kinds of guilt. There is neurotic guilt, where you judge yourself for not living up to exaggerated expectations of yourself. There is also what philosopher Martin Buber called existential guilt, which is being out of touch with one’s deeply felt inner values. We have much to learn from such a "someone".
Do I not have any empathy for those who want to get back or start a shouting match? Absolutely. Seeing every person as "someone sent to you for practise" demands a solid self-esteem and confidence in oneself. But we can reflect also on this. What do I judge myself for? Why don’t I see myself as the fantastic unique person I am, just like everyone else?
People such as Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela handle the most difficult "someone sent for practise". But the rest of us can still practise now and then.
Creative regards! Jonas Himmelstrand
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