In life, we come across many people who embody everything we do not want to be.
Given that most people are generally predisposed to be kind and considerate, the time at which we cross paths with the people who drive us insane is often tainted by a circumstance that brings out the worst in them.
We often cannot see it in the moment, but their rudeness, their selfishness, their jealousy, their pettiness or their lack of consideration for others all comes from somewhere.
These people are littered throughout our path in life. Coming across them, and having to deal with them, is inevitable.
However, it is our response to them that really offers us insight into why, exactly, they trigger us the way that they do.
When we dislike someone, we simply disassociate from them. We don’t make much conversation beyond what’s necessary, we don’t go out of our way to spend time with them beyond what we are required to do, and we don’t really give them much thought, aside from when they are standing right in front of us.
But when we are being triggered by someone — when their behaviors are directly mirroring our own — we experience a whole host of different emotions. Instead of indifference, we feel rage. Instead of disassociation, we feel obsession. We believe that, in some way, these people and their actions are specifically and directly responsible for reducing our quality of life.
What we cannot see is that the people who drive us the most insane are in some way mimicking our behaviors to us. The difference is that we cannot see those behaviors in ourselves, and we can very clearly see them in someone else.
Let’s say you strongly dislike your coworker for being lazy, or self-defeating. Can you be honest with yourself about the ways in which you might want to be lazy or self-defeating, or engage in that mindset more often than you’d like?
Maybe you really can’t stand your friend who seems totally obsessed with her appearance. Can you be honest with yourself about the part of you that is likewise obsessed with your appearance, but feels less confident that they would be able to manipulate it and make it look perfect?
Perhaps there is someone in your life who seems overly-confident, like a know-it-all. Can you be honest with yourself and acknowledge that there is perhaps some part of you that would like to be the expert for once, the person that others turn to, the one who has the answers? Can you be honest with yourself and see that you would also like to have that much information and demand that much respect?
The thing is that the people who bother us the most in a way that is incessant and almost irrationally obsessive do not drive us insane for no reason. They are actually showing us to ourselves in a way that is extremely valuable to us, because it can help us make positive change.
It is not the case that every person who engages in a negative behavior is mirroring your own negativity back to you. Think of how many people you have seen, at least on the news, committing horrendous acts of all sorts. Sure, you disapprove, you empathize and you may feel strongly about what happened…
… But are you at the point where you cannot stop thinking about them? Do you sit and run through everything that they said, again and again? Do you mock them and bring them up all of the time? Does everything you see that even mildly reminds you of them trigger you to have a response?
Of course not, because two different things are happening here.
We can all identify right from wrong without being somewhat guilty of engaging in (or at least wanting to engage in) what’s wrong.
However, when we are extremely upset by someone who exhibits a subtle but specific set of behaviors, there is almost always a correlation between that and our unconscious impulses, beliefs, wishes or fears.
Instead of trying to push away the people who drive you insane, instead of trying to judge them, condemn them, and make them invalid in some way, you can learn from them.
You can instead meditate on all of those traits and then seriously reflect on how you engage in them yourself. You can use this as an impetus for real change. You can use this as a crash-course in self-awareness, and you can use this to your benefit.
The people who drive you completely insane almost always make you believe that they are in some way the ones holding your life back in specific ways.
But what if you were ready to come to terms with the fact that the person holding you back is you?