MMMM: Mindfulness, Meditation and Mental health May- is a month of quotes, books and (sometimes unexpected) resources to reflect on, to help have a happier, more mindful life.
Regular book reviews will continue on Fridays.
Quote of the day:
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.,
Growing up, I was taught to ‘love my neighbour’, with my neighbour being everyone. If people were mean, we were to ‘turn the other cheek’. I think ‘love your enemy as you love yourself’ was in there too. The overall impression this all gave me, was that while it was ok to not like someone- to not feel like you were good friends- you weren’t allowed to dislike someone. And you had to be nice to everyone.
I found that sometimes I would be annoyed at someone, but if asked I would say ‘oh no, I don’t hate/dislike them, I just find it annoying when they….’ and what would follow would be a long list of everything they do, and everything about them. I wasn’t trying to lie to others- I believed I didn’t dislike the person I disliked everything about. Or at least I wanted to believe it.
Over the past 6 months, there has been another person in my life who really irritated me. There have been other stressful things happening as well, so I have been pretty stressed a lot of the time. But I actually started to become concerned about how irritable I was feeling- to the point where I was wondering if I needed to be checked out by my doctor for irritable mania/bipolar. But when I talked a little with a friend who had known the person longer than me, and ran a few cases past a sensible family member, I saw that the things I was annoyed at were reasonable things to be annoyed at- the person was actually really bad at being responsible, respecting other people’s boundaries, making good decisions, being independent, emotional regulation, empathy etc.
I decided that it was reasonable to stop trying to like them, and acknowledge to myself that I didn’t think they were a very good person, and that I didn’t like them. And I suddenly felt a sense of relief; or freedom. Now whenever they did something bad, rather than reacting ‘that’s so annoying, how can they think that’s ok’ and having my mind whizz off down it’s list of all the things they do wrong, making me more worked up, I just notice the bad/annoying thing and think ‘well, that’s a little annoying, but I already knew I don’t like them, so it is expected’. And that’s all. There is no need for my mind to justify my negative feelings by ruminating on the bad- because I have accepted my negative feelings towards them as a normal response. Once accepted, I found that the intensity of the dislike was much less strong as well- just below neutral. And I don’t really feel negatively most of the time- I don’t know if this makes sense, but once I think the thought that I dislike them, then I don’t have to feel the dislike. And so now I simply acknowledge, and move on with my life.
I think that it is to be commended when people strive to be spiritual and pure and love everyone, but without good self knowledge and a little bit of sense, it can end up being more harmful. Not only can you burn yourself out trying to care for people when you don’t have the emotional resources, or can’t actually offer what it is the other person needs, but you can also hurt the other person by making them think they are more loved than they are and then having to let them down when you inevitable reach the end of your ability. I have seen people try to help others out and connect to them because they wanted to be a loving person to them, rather than because they actually did love them, but when the feeling never came to support the ideal things went nasty and horribly emotional for both sides. We need to acknowledge the truth of who we are, what we feel, where our boundaries are, and what we can give safely, rather than blindly striving for an ideal.
Affirmation of the Day:
I am someone who judges fairly and acknowledges my true feelings- I will love that which is good in my life, and I will accept that there are things and people that I dislike.
I found a few interesting pages when looking up hate and how to deal with it.
Firstly, there is this article in the Harvard crimson, ‘the Importance of Hating People’, where the author argues tongue in cheek that actually hatred is a good thing.
And here are some practical steps you can take starting today!