Ask Andrew W.K.: 'How Do I Deal With Difficult People?'
Photo by Susan L
[Editor's note: Every week, New York City's own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
Dear Andrew W.K.,
I've been a fan of your writing and the ideas you talk about with becoming a better person. They relate to my own self improvement work, and I've been applying the philosophy of positive partying to my life with many good results. But one area I've really had a hard time with is getting along with people I don't like. I have good relationships with my friends and family, and I'm always working to improve them even more, but I often find myself struggling with certain people who I just can't find a way to enjoy, no matter how I try.
I realize that deep down inside it's probably some kind of personal shortcoming, and some of these people I dislike have specifically pointed out that I need to overcome my contempt for them if I'm really going to be the more positive and advanced person I'm aiming for. But it seems so hard and unpleasant having to hang out with these people I really can't stand. I don't hate them; I just get really, really bad vibes from them and don't know why. How do I deal with this and how can I learn to get along with them in my quest for total positivity?
Trying To Love Everyone
Dear Trying To Love Everyone,
We should strive to love everyone, but by no means are we required to like everyone. In fact, it seems that the more we work on developing a basic love for all people, the more clear it becomes that we don't enjoy spending time with some of them. This is actually what happens when we get in touch with our heart and loosen the grip our mind has on our life.
For starters, our heart realizes that "love" and "like" are two different things. Just as you can love food but not like every dish, we can love people but not want to hang out with all of them. We don't need to force ourselves to spend time with people we don't like just to prove how open-minded we are. That's a type of self-abuse. We have to learn to trust our instincts and use caution when we open our hearts to the world and to other people. Just like opening your veins to a poisonous snake, opening your heart to a poisonous person can be equally harmful. But someone who is poisonous to one person can be medicinal to another, and we must let our heart tell us who is helpful or hurtful to our particular soul.
In our great ongoing effort to pursue a better life, we often find that as we try to improve and be positive, we can become overwhelmingly critical of ourselves. All of a sudden, we expect to feel nothing but "positive" feelings for everyone and everything around us. We begin to hold ourselves to a new and unnatural belief that everything and everyone must be "all good," and if they're not, it's because we're not good enough to realize their goodness. We start to second-guess every feeling as it arises and our mind becomes a drill sergeant, running us through exhausting training exercises in a futile effort to "think right." But deep down inside, our heart is telling us that developing a truly open and positive spirit isn't as simple or extreme as just deciding that everything is "all good." That would be similar to believing that in order to become a great chef you have to force yourself to eat all kinds of food you don't like, and that by constantly forcing yourself to eat them, you will somehow be expanding your abilities as a chef. Your mind tells you that not eating what you dislike is somehow a sign of weakness or underdevelopment, even though your heart and tongue are telling you otherwise.
Of course it's always good to challenge our tastes and broaden our horizons, but not at the perpetual expense of our happiness. The point of journeying through the world isn't to abuse ourselves by spending time on unpleasant activities and endeavors just to prove how tolerant we are. Rather, the point of this adventure is to find out what we're truly meant to do and whom we're truly meant to do it with. And the only way to experience that truth is to follow it as it emerges from the heart.
At this stage in the unfolding of the human world, there are some people who, for whatever reason, do want to harm others and cause suffering. Why they want to do this is complicated and often involves deep-seated confusion and the continuation of strongly rooted patterns of misery. We can feel compassion for these people's pain, but we don't need to incorporate their pain into our lives or become part of their pattern in order to have love and understanding for them.
Some of these people are easy to identify, especially when they attack us blatantly, like lashing out in a violent manner with a fist or a knife — but other malevolent people are much harder to spot. They use more subtle methods of attack. In fact, they will often use our own openness and desire for positive development as a weapon against us. The more we trust these types of harmful people, the more they pervert our goodness and turn it against us, making us more and more doubtful of ourselves and more distrustful of our hearts' quiet clarity. They convince us that the harm they're causing us is really self-inflicted. They'll say that any pain or discomfort we're experiencing is only proof of some shortcoming in our own soul. They will say that no matter how bad they are to us, it's actually "for our own good" because it's somehow making us more "advanced" to submit to their torture. If only we were as advanced as they, we could then appreciate how much good they're actually doing us, despite all their cruelty.
Our minds, especially in their naive efforts to outdo themselves, will often try to deny what our hearts are telling us — especially when we're trying to grow and change. Our minds will criticize our hearts for being "judgmental and negative" about someone we find unbecoming, when in fact our hearts are showing us nothing but the truth of the situation. The mind has no access to or direct experience of this kind of truth. It can only ponder, intellectualize, and investigate the concept of truth from the outside, never really knowing truth. Only the heart knows and experiences truth as a real quality, and the inner experience of this sensation forms the foundation of a deep and lasting true positivity.
So, in your efforts to become a more positive person, don't discard your intuition and natural ability to identify situations that are not positive. Don't eat rotten fruit "just to be nice." We can be positive and recognize negative elements, situations, and people. We can pursue greatness and light while not forcing ourselves to wallow in misery and darkness just to prove we're strong enough to do so. Follow your heart and let it bring you deeper into yourself and your world. Bring out what is inside your heart and go where it leads you. Developing and releasing the vast knowledge of love found in the heart is the true Second Coming and the true savior of all mankind.
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