How To Deal With People Who Annoy You
When I tell people what I do they often ask me how I can do it.
“Don’t you find it depressing?” they’ll ask.
“Oh god…I could NEVER do what you do” I’ve heard multiple times.
“Do you ever just want to tell people to get a grip and pull themselves up by their bootstraps” is also common.
And you know I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard some stories that have taken every ounce of my courage to stay with and hear. There have been times when I’ve wondered if I was cut out for it. And, yes, there have been times when my patience has been tested and very nearly found wanting.
And it’s those moments…the moments where I’m at the end of my tether, where having unconditional positive regard for a client seems difficult at best and impossible at worst and where all I want to do is grit it out until the end of the session that I feel most grateful for.
Yup. You heard me.
Alison* was a client who challenged me like this. After weeks of discussing her grief, witnessing her tears and staying curious about everything that was emerging and changing for her, I noticed I was becoming bored.
I didn’t look forward to our sessions. I checked out. The lights were on but no one was at home. She annoyed me.
As something of an afterthought, I mentioned it to a colleague. “Why is it so difficult for you to stay with Alison in the midst of her sorrow? What’s your boredom telling you? What is it a defence for?” he asked me.
In an instant, I was furious. “NOTHING! IT’S NOT A DEFENSE FOR ANYTHING…WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU GETTING AT???”
Talk about a “come to Jesus” moment.
Bam. There it was. My fury was very obviously a defence and I realised I was looking into a mirror. In Alison I saw everything I was jealous of, everything I wanted. I longed for the space she was being granted for her sorrow. I yearned for someone to listen to me. I craved the experience of having my loss witnessed.
Alison and I shared something. Both our mothers had died. Only mine had died when I was 11, it wasn’t really spoken about in our family, I was bundled off to boarding school where it was spoken about even less and then shortly after she died, I experienced an additional loss of moving thousands of miles around the world, leaving my home town and all my friends behind.
Alison, in her grief and her sorrow and her brokenness, was me. And just by noticing that I wanted what she had allowed me to go and ask for it, acknowledging my sorrow, my grief and the parts of me where I’m broken allowed me to really see her again.
Now, when a particular trait or emotion someone else is showing starts to annoy me, I stay curious and ask my favourite question: “What is the universe conspiring to teach me? Am I struggling with the same trait within myself?”
Maybe you’ve heard the expression that relationships are mirrors? This is exactly what people mean when they say that. So my question for you is – what mirror is someone in your life holding up for you right now? Who in your life is conspiring to teach you?