We have all been around people we perceive as negative, and we feel that their presence is not nourishing for us. We can feel trapped among those we think are mean-spirited, complain almost constantly, gossip, or have a generally pessimistic perspective.
At times, we might feel too much to handle, and we find ourselves focusing on how to shield or protect ourselves from their negative impact. We may avoid the other person, make them wrong, or shame them for how they feel. However, when we choose these actions, we have not strengthened our emotional muscles of self-nourishment and compassion. When we look at those who express their negativity as something we must shield and protect ourselves from, we have not fully integrated these challenges as part of our world experience.
Carl Jung introduced the notion of ‘projection’ to explain that often the assumptions we make about another person indicate more about us than they do about others.
“Projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face.” – C.G. Jung
Some Jungian psychologists might say that when we are annoyed by the behaviour, it’s really ourselves we are annoyed with. Conversely, when we are pleased with someone else’s behaviour, it’s really ourselves we are pleased with. Our lives are mirrors; when we view others as negative, it’s a quality we reject within ourselves.
People who have a pessimistic perspective need compassion rather than to be shamed, guilted, or rejected. According to Jung, if we are also rejecting them, we are also rejecting that part of ourselves. To integrate and to deal with both negative and positive feelings, we can:
Rather than shielding or protecting ourselves from others, we can take this as an opportunity to learn about ourselves through observation, investigation and understanding. We can use this situation as a vehicle to learn about ourselves, the emotions the situation brings up.
We can observe how the other person is feeling, investigate why they feel the way they do. Consistently negative people are deeply plagued with pain. Whether it’s because they are generally not happy with themselves or their lives, have conditioned themselves towards negative thinking, unable to break out of a victim mentality or some other reason entirely.
Instead of protecting ourselves from them, it’s easier to be present for someone when we take it as a learning opportunity to understand ourselves and others.
We all have different ways of dealing with our stresses; some have developed and learned unhealthy coping strategies. We all have to learn different lessons in life. We have to understand that a person prone to negative thinking and complaining has to come to their own realizations on their own time; it’s not up to us to teach, condition them or rush their process. If and when they want to break out of the negative cycle, they will seek opportunities and guidance to do so when they are willing and ready.
Cultivate compassion within ourselves; when we have compassion for ourselves, it becomes easier to extend that compassion outwards, understand others’ suffering, and be present in their pain and sorrow. If we are not grounded within ourselves, we can get drawn into fixing, rushing, or rejecting. When we have filled ourselves with compassion, we become a pillar and a source of loving and patient strength for those around us.
We all have to know how to balance others’ needs and our own needs. We can’t assume that others will know our limits. Sometimes we need to explicitly and consistently state our boundaries. Just as we have our physical limitations, we also have emotional limits too. Only we know when we have endured too much that will leave us exhausted or overwhelmed, and it is our responsibility to take care of our well-being.
If we do not have the energy to endure a series of constant complaints from our friend, loved one or family member, it is okay to change the topic or leave the conversation and excuse ourselves.
Experiencing favourable and challenging conditions is a fact of life, but we don’t need to let it negatively impact our happiness. When we learn how to ride the waves of life with grace and ease, life becomes a fun and exciting day at the beach.
We are in complete control of what we feel. We can change our perspective and use each situation as an opportunity to grow and learn.
Obtaining knowledge can transform lives. We can have great professions with the knowledge we obtain, but if we want to live life with ease, focus on cultivating wisdom.
That exposure of our inner world to others opens the door to fostering connection and building a relationship. When we learn how to hold space for ourselves and others, we strengthen the foundation and build trust.