“This human being is a guest house. Every morning there is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honourably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi
Life, on the whole, has been good and kind to me. Relationships add that extra special ingredient which adds meaning to life. They are the crucible wherein we are chiselled and polished to glow and shine in the manner we are meant to be. Generally, the polishing involves chipping, scrubbing and scraping…and this comes to us largely through the pitfalls we face in relationships. We have often talked and read about resentment that we experience within ourselves towards others. But how does one deal with the experience of facing resentment that reaches us from others?
Since childhood I have been wary of unpleasantness and disharmony in relationships. As a result, I never had any kind of a disagreement with anyone in school, college, with friends, etc. For me, any kind of a disagreement somehow spelt the end of that relation, and I did not find it in myself to handle the emotions that accompanied that predicament. So: not a harsh word, no reaction at being used, mistreated or glossed over as though I was inconsequential or non-existent; not a sound came from me to oppose any such treatment that was dealt to me….I absorbed all that, sometimes feeling that I deserved that (because I have a propensity for feeling guilty and responsible for anything wrong that happens to people around me), and, perhaps, out of cowardice, because I felt that any voice of dissent would threaten my relations with the people concerned. People and relations have been almost sickeningly important for me, to the point of allowing others to demean me, treat me any which way. And I have learnt this lesson of life the bitter way: when people feel you can take any kind of indignity they mete out to you, they take it as their right to do so, they begin to believe that you deserve such treatment and may even punish you if you so much as even show some kind of discomfort at receiving their meanness, even otherwise very well-intentioned people!
As I grew up, my patience to tolerate this kind of behaviour became thin. On some such occasions, it felt as though years of suppressed anger, defiance, rebellion sprang forth. People around me did not associate that kind of response with me, nor understood the magnitude of my response to a relatively small cue. Could it be that my propensity of accepting unpleasant treatment as deserved and the opposite as undeserved ended up making me receive more and more of people’s resentment?
Whatever I have understood of IP helps me to recognize that actually the problem is mine, i.e., my openness to accepting blame, taking responsibility for others’ hurt and pain, and therefore a deserving candidate for their anger, hostility and resentment, is my own responsibility. In addition, my getting affected by their consequent behaviour towards me is also a task I have to deal with at my level, and the solution is not that they should stop behaving in that manner. Tough job to do, because I haven’t learnt how to deal with it, as, since childhood, I’ve always tried to take the easy and safe way out by keeping people happy and appeased. But high time I grow up! I understand the importance and need for it, because if I learn it, I will hurt less, and as long as I don’t learn to deal with this within myself, I will go on hurting and wasting my energy on things I do not want to spend my energy on. Also, the fact that this problem is served to me on a platter on several fronts at the same time, is perhaps an indication that it is time to take the bull by the horns and confront the issue. Thankfully, my circumstances are not giving me a chance to escape.
During situations and interactions where I feel the other’s resentment, hostility and anger towards me, they give rise to certain reactions from my side, which vary from being defensive, feeling small with a sense of lack and being inadequate, not good enough, a need to withdraw and escape, and feel guilty about my presence. Sometimes they give rise to a counter resentment and anger from my side as well. And these reactions go on simmering inside me even when I walk away from the situation where they got triggered. All this leads to persistent spirals of negative thoughts, repetitions of the event in my mind, trying to understand what happened: “Why did it happen?” “Why did the other person behave in this manner?” “Could I have behaved differently?”, and so on and on.
A part of me watches me doing all this and draws my attention to the futility of this whole enterprise, gently nudging me to let it go; I can see how it blocks and saps a large chunk of my energy which I could have used more fruitfully… but the older and stronger part (made stronger by years of habit and deeply carved grooves) wins from the more conscious part in me.
A lot of my time is getting wasted in these enterprises. And it doesn’t stop here. The distaste created by this whole exercise strains and affects other close relations. A few hours, sometimes a day, sometimes more are simply usurped by this menace.
Strange as it may sound, I feel grateful that it waxes so eloquent in my face, I can no more sidetrack it, ignore or brush it under the carpet to work out at a later date when I am better prepared or stronger, nor can I continue being a victim of it.
I try to understand the process: starting from why I easily accept blame, feel responsible for people’s (in close circuit) pain, am hyper-sensitive to some people and take very heavily their responses. What do I fear? What do I expect or not expect from them? What in their behaviour shows their resentment and hostility towards me? Why do I spend so much time and energy on those people whom I would like to avoid or stay away from, so much so, that in the process, I start taking distance from those who actually love and care for me? What is this strange psychology? I get some answers, see my stupidity in the whole drama, but the real answer still evades me…
I try to adopt various means to shift from being a passive recipient of people’s resentment to a position where it all falls off my back as water on a duck’s back. Even if I notice it, it shouldn’t affect me. But easier said than done!
I ask for help, for Their presence to help me wade through the periods when I have to be in such situations. Sometimes it works, and other times, my smallness gets the better of my efforts.
Someone advises me to stay very quiet and watch during such moments and gently allow something else to work…. it feels do-able. But I am unable to do it every time the situation arises. Sometimes taking a distance helps, looking upon the other’s behaviour as one would at a kid’s, and thus letting the other person do what he or she likes, without being harshly affected by the same. But these are all touch and go moments … and every time it is effortful.
Another response which comes to me is ‘love’…. to counter the problem I’m facing with love, but I have absolutely no clue how and whether I am capable of doing it. I don’t think this comes from me, because I don’t feel ‘love’ in such situations, on the contrary! So, for this to come to me as a solution? It is too premature to say anything about it … I want to see how and whether it stays, seeps in. How does it go?
I don’t know whether as a result of my efforts in this direction, or more likely, simply on its own, but very fleetingly, on some occasions I had the experience that my usual customary responses of becoming tight, guarded, defensive, resentful etc. were replaced by being not affected, by a certain inner joy which came from Their presence, a spontaneous warmth, acceptance, and love for the other person, and the space and freedom it afforded me because my energy was not blocked in the usual responses… And this now has become my motivation to wipe out this groove in my repertoire of behaviour.
There is a strong and deep need to simply let it fall off as something which is an atavism, which has lived itself out for more than long enough. It is time that this is laid to rest. I feel tired catering to it any more….
But I know it has still not left me….
I have nothing conclusive to say; as yet, it is a work in progress…