Half the truth is no truth at all

yoga mudraHere’s a brief gardening analogy I will use to introduce what I’m about to share with my readers.

If we recognize that positively focused people are like fertilizer and rain that helps us blossom and grow in our own lives. And, we also recognize it’s not wise to pull every weed out of our gardens because they provide vital trace elements for growth, then we can likewise choose to summon up enough empathy to become the sun and fertilizer in the lives of negatively focused people. Granted we may limit our time with them, but everyone we meet is our mirror, and if we want love to be reflected back to us then we need to be the light of love in their world.

This post is inspired by Here Comes the Sun published by my friend Nancy, who I love dearly. It’s dedicated to all those who have met their ugly other and learned to love her/him because until we do that we are not in a position to love so-called “difficult” people. Please read Nancy’s post before you return to read the rest of mine.

Polar opposites and attraction

Humans learn equally well from both positive and negative experiences.  Yet everywhere we look online we find publications telling us it’s okay to reject negative people and hang out with only the positive ones.  It’s presented as self protection in the context that being with negatively focused people can incline us to become the same, and by implication that if we truly love ourselves we ought to spend our time with folks  who mirror back positivity.

If we choose to adopt that mentality then we reject the fact that it’s the ego that is blind to suffering and quick to judge and reject.  Labeling negatively focused (suffering) people as “difficult’ and characterizing interaction with them as “toxic experiences” is the pronouncement of an ego driven person who has yet to experience becoming conscious.

So, how does one deal with negative people?

One obvious solution is to walk away from them. … A more practical approach to dealing with them is to start by understanding the reasons for their negativity. In brief, almost all negativity has its roots in one of three deep-seated fears: the fear of being disrespected by others, the fear of not being loved by others, and the fear that “bad things” are going to happen. These fears feed off each other to fuel the belief that “the world is a dangerous place and people are generally mean.” — Dealing with Negative People

Dealing with Others’ Negativity Involves Dealing with Your Own

It’s easy to do charity work. It’s uplifting to be able to help the needy and be rewarded with their thanks and smiles. It’s hard to work with the despondent who are bereft of happiness and it’s not rewarding to see the sorrow on their faces. But I choose to do both because it benefits both me and others.

Limiting time spent exploring my own negativity is sensible and sane, as is limiting time spent with negative people. But rejecting negative thoughts and abandoning people who are suffering means giving away my power to make a positive impact in their lives and in mine.  For rejection and abandonment aren’t demonstration of my intelligence or of the fact that I have become conscious.  At least they are  a demonstration of ignorance and arrogance. At worst they are a denial that love conquers all.

We are all difficult people and love is all we need

Trying to distinguish my self from others by differentiating degrees of discomfort in relationships is an ego driven cop-out. It led to an attitude of superiority manifested in presumptions or assumptions that locked me into spiritual infancy.

Love is the antidote for all that ails humankind. Conscious people know their role is to rise above any and all challenges by seizing opportunities to manifest love in a harsh and unloving world in difficult times.

Growing stronger day by day

I have survived many negative experiences and traumas (some so unspeakable that I will never share them here).  I have been abused by negatively focused (suffering) people and that abuse brought great physical, psychological and emotional harm to me. However, paradoxically being victimized taught me how to find the ways to be free of what ails them and all those who seek to control others. Overcoming the three varieties of fear one tiny step at a time, time and time again, taught me how to get rid of the victim mentality and become a fiercely independent ie. powerful person.

As I make headway on my life journey as a drug-free severely traumatized depressive person, I give thanks for those who walk with me when I struggle to overcome my negativity.  I know these struggles will be with me to the end but I am not discouraged. I know how to find the value in being with both positivity and negativity in myself and in my friends.

Fear is just an illusion and if you believe in this illusion, you are creating your reality. What can you believe in that is not fear? Love. Love is your essence. If you move from fear deep into your heart, you will discover that there is a beautiful little light that you have forgotten. The more you look at this light, the more it will expand in you. Then you will not need to look at the fear because you will be too busy looking at the beauty inside of yourself.  — Tony Samara

Life lessons:

Until we become conscious, our ego functions to keep us from knowing and expressing the love and light that resides within us.

The functions of the ego further the state of becoming, while the real self is the state of being.

It’s being with our own suffering and with others who are suffering that leads us to seek the cure and share it with others.

It is loving difficult people suffering through dark times that strengthens us thereby increasing our resilience and assists them to find and develop their power to overcome and strength to face the future too.

We are invincible when we embrace others consciously, unequivocally aware there is no “I”.


  1. This was so helpful as I just had a confusing encounter with a former supervisor who rudely ignored me. It threw me off and I am still processing it. Thanks. I’m sure I will read through this again. I am learning to work with the parts of myself that I see reflected in others..and connect to my true self..It gets confusing knowing how to respond to the other person.
    Thank you –
    Much love,

    • Hi Laurie,
      Difficult people can trigger defensive and even offensive emotions in us. When that happens there’s always a lesson to be learned. Sometimes it’s as simple as I need to limit the time I spend with this person. Sometimes it leads to seeking a severance ie. a new place to work. I have done both in my time. What I have learned is not to be quick to judge and reject just because someone challenges me emotionally. It’s learning how to be truly present being with our own suffering and the suffering of others that leads to spiritual growth.
      Love and peace

      • Yes, I agree about learning how to be with our own suffering and suffering of others. I appreciate your note. I checked in with the coach I work with and I was able to feel into some parts of myself. It was intense, but manageable. I am honored to be able to do this work. My coach says I tapped in to some deep transpersonal pain.
        Thanks again –
        Much love –

        • It’s good to know you are undertaking this work. It’s important to comprehend that we are our own healers and what stands between us and healing is ego and fear.

  2. This can be tough one to deal with –especially if the loved one has frequent negative/toxic behaviour.

    On one hand it is easier to physically not see the person at all. Sometimes this is necessary if the person is known to be physically abusive. There’s no choice at all if other people have to be survivors.

    On the other hand, I do believe especially for immediate family members if they are not physically abusive, one has to think about how to view the other person from all facets. Not excuse the person for negative/toxic behaviour but to consider if there are any positive, redeemable traits/facets of the person that gets buried in the present cloud of suffering and negativity. If it is possible, then a more well-rounded /different relationship could evolve/have a chance to change ..a bit.

    The idea is not be willfully/innocently blind to a suffering/negative person, if the person does have a good natural facet they naturally provided/offered and continue to offer in their good moments/times.

    Otherwise seeing the person as only toxic and distancing from them, compounds their own suffering/negativity/isolation. And their negative behaviour gets worse/belligerent.

    I agree –listening deeply to another person takes effort and hard work. Think of thankless tasks, stress undertaken by a parent year after year for their child from babyhood onward AND if the adult child completely rejects a non-physically violent parent later. ‘Nuff said.

    • Some of the most difficult (suffering) people I have ever experienced were those who were so close to me that dumping them was not possible, Jean. I limited my time with them. I established boundaries and and was ready to defend them. It took a little time to make it clear that I meant what I said and said what I meant but I did get through. Yes, it’s hard to listen to suffering people but I learned tonnes about the three fears and my own suffering by being in the company of those who suffered.

    • I am an eldest child in a large dysfunctional family. don’t deny for a minute that generating positive thoughts is a useful healing technique. When one has old tapes of limiting beliefs running through their head it can be very effective. I recommend positive thinking and employ it myself. However, rejecting everyone who is not beaming positivity back at us is choosing to remain an intellectual and spiritual infant.

      There is no doubt that buying into the LOA cult is tantamount to placing oneself in harms way. Blaming the victim has been going on since the beginning of time. If one doesn’t succeed at “synching their vibrations with the Universe” to secure health and happiness and wealth then the LOA acolytes conclude those who failed are at fault. People suffering with personality disorders and/or with mental illnesses are not at fault for having imbalanced brain chemistry that renders them hard for some positively focused types to be around.

    • Thank you, Kathy.

      It’s so good to see that my suggestions about dealing negativity aren’t being taken as a rejection of being with positive people. I’m not playing tit for tat. I’m sharing from my own experience. We are all striving to be healthier and perforce that means more balanced.

      Without doubt a network of supportive relationships contributes to psychological well-being. When you have a social support network, you have a sense of belonging, you feel an increased sense of self-worth and of security. Close loving relationships are extremely important to us. While we are appreciating what we have; maintaining an optimistic outlook; feeling a sense of purpose; and living in the moment, we can reach out to others who are suffering.

    • I love you Nancy and I’m sorry if this hurt you. It wasn’t meant to. It was actually very difficult to write and publish this post.

      So-called personal development coaches and “professionals” everywhere online are singing the same tune. I refer to it as the LOA (Law of Attraction) rag. I take the same position on the LOA movement that is articulated here The Law of Attraction Is A Con http://www.adaringadventure.com/controversial/the-law-of-attraction-is-a-con/ and I published here on it too Good Vibrations or Brain Plasticity? http://thistimethisspace.com/2010/10/14/good-vibrations-or-brain-plasticity/

      In your comment I said I was a dissenter but that’s not the whole truth either.

      The central nervous system is set up to protect us from danger and as children we have all been conditioned against making mistakes, including failing to secure approval from others. Since childhood we have labeled all mistakes and rejections as “dangerous” even though they aren’t.

      The fear of rejection and abandonment are visceral, for rejection and abandonment can lead to death. The compulsion to conform or to appear to conform at all costs is strong in our species. Without it we would not have survived as species. Hence, the fear of rejection is more painful than rejection.

      Generating positive thoughts and creating a network of supportive relationships is a healthy thing to do. Filling your life with positive people is easily done and we flatter ourselves by thinking that making a choice between the two is healthy when it isn’t.

      It is not our true self that seeks to reject those who are suffering, it is our ego (child-like monkey mind) that seeks to do that. The true self is not in any danger when in the company of suffering people. Our true self is timeless ie. in the moment, fearless and resilient. It’s the ego (child-like monkey mind) says “danger” where none exists.

      There is a mechanism in your brain that can be used to make inflexible limiting beliefs or destructive thinking patterns and habits pliable and it’s known as brain plasticity. When your brain plasticity is increased you become able to adapt to new ideas. Once you have mentally detached yourself from the effects of rejection, you will be able to visualize yourself being blown off without falling apart.

      Positively focused people can be blown off without falling apart emotionally.

      Negatively focused people have yet to discover their true self. They have yet to identify and deal with their limiting beliefs; they are in bondage to them. They are fragile. They need respect, love and encouragement to find their true self and learn their own self worth so they can become self supporting.

  3. Amen, Timethief! I think the rejection of suffering people is a manifestation of the 3rd fear, that “something bad” is going to happen. In this case, contagion.

    We think others are going to infect us somehow with their negativity, but it’s a sham, because the truth is we’re already infected. What we reject in others, we’re already struggling with inside ourselves.

    You, Timethief, can afford to be kind to those who are suffering because you don’t reject your own suffering. You don’t need to vilify or reject others because you accept yourself.

    I appreciate the many ways you find in your blog to express that the “weeds” of human experience are a necessary and worthwhile part of life.

  4. Thank you for this.
    I did as directed and visited the other post first.
    And having read your post here I think I have a similar feeling to yours.

    I am very tired of hearing things such as:
    “Think a happy thought and you will be happy.”
    I do have happy thoughts, positive thoughts, but I also have depression and bipolar type II.
    I often wonder: “Do people really think I choose to be this way?”
    My life has been derailed by my condition and, it being bipolar type II, it is not going to go away. I think in terms of management.

    There are others who have much more severe mental health issues and It is not their fault!
    Cognitive behavioural therapy has helped me to identify my negative thinking patterns and has no doubt helped my managing of my moods and taught me to not always believe my automatic thoughts.
    However, when all those postive thinking guru types suggest repeating things such as “I will win!”, as if an affirmation will automatically make it so, I am struck by how ridiculous they are. Imagine: A whole group of contestants in a race saying to themselves “I will win.” Clearly they will not all win.

    I have indeed, in the past, thought of myself as being “toxic’ – thankfully I don’t believe that anymore and though I agree that being around perpetually negative thinking folk is difficult, as you have said there are lessons to be learned from this.

    I know you are aware of “Broken Light Photography Collective”.
    That is such a great blog for various reasons, one of which is that we can go there and not feel bad about feeling bad!
    I think if people who have never experienced clinical depression were to step into our minds for two weeks of depressive thoughts (the amount of time one has to be depressed to be deemed clinically depressed) they would cease to see us as weak.
    We are not essentially weak. If we were we would all be dead.

    People’s life experiences are all different.
    We learn by our experiences.
    An excessive amount of misfortune will certainly lead one to think that more misfortune will certainly be on its way.
    The expectations of someone living in a ghetto are most likely going to be very different from someone who doesn’t.

    Life circumstance, on the inside and/or on the outside can create a negative outlook that is hard to change.
    Also: I tend not to trust people who are always bright and bouncy as I think that a large number of them are merely pretending or that they are repressing.
    Life is full of stuff. Some good, some bad. That’s just the way it is. I try to accept that.
    Again, I thank you for your words, compassion goes a long way.
    Please forgive me if I sound a bit angry. I feel a bit angry.

    • You don’t sound angry to me. I’m so honored you chose to share your truth here. Broken Light Photography Collective is among my favorite blogs. I’m so glad it exists. http://brokenlightcollective.wordpress.com/

      I think if people who have never experienced clinical depression were to step into our minds for two weeks of depressive thoughts (the amount of time one has to be depressed to be deemed clinically depressed) they would cease to see us as weak.
      We are not essentially weak. If we were we would all be dead.

      That resonates. I’m coming back from a phase of depression, following a year of grief. I’m working through pain due to family entanglements. It takes great courage to meet challenges in life as many are associated with betrayal, disappointment and loss and we continue to face those challenges until we die. But each of us has within us the power to overcome that which causes us fear and pain. By embracing, rather than rejecting, the unwanted and painful aspects of our experience, we overcome fear and develop greater empathy for others.

      Ears hear – hearing is easy. Hearts listen and listening is hard work. You can hear without listening but you cannot listen without turning off your filters (the ego or monkey mind), opening your heart and allowing the speaker to tell use their story in order to discover their truth within you as they speak. An active listener must search for the other person’s meaning by looking for deeper issues, intended meanings and personal needs as they hear the words the other person is speaking. It’s very hard work.

      Instead of rejecting negativity and abandoning ourselves or others when we experience it or they do we can choose to get to the place where our answer to these two questions below questions is yes.

      “Can I touch the center of my sorrow? Can I sit with pain – mine and yours – without trying to fix it?”

  5. The real self is the state of being.. I like that… I have always said that we need to live our lives wide awake, maybe this is a little bit the same.. c

  6. From Bodhisattva’s Vow, by Torei Enji (18th Century):

    If someone turns against us,
    speaking ill of us and treating us bitterly,
    it’s best to bow down:
    this is the Buddha appearing to us,
    finding ways to free us from our own attachments –
    the very ones that have made us suffer
    again and again and again.

    Thank you to you and Nancy for your posts. Be well~

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