My therapist Lorrie is reading and loving this blog. This is flattering, affirming and encouraging. One way this is a mixed blessing is that when she sees in my writing an area where I’m stuck, she feels empowered to offer me the chance to get unstuck.
A week ago, December 21, in a post entitled “Customers who piss you off” (the search box in the right hand column will take you right there), I described a customer: “About 60 – tall and wiry – he presented very defended – strong male body armor, cold, hostile. I immediately took a dislike to him. I didn’t want him in front of me.” At my therapy session two days after this post went up, Lorrie asked, “What was it about him that made you not want him in front of you?”
I knew immediately that I had been found out. What made me reject him? Well the part of me that is like him. Some would call this the shadow. I like my persona – what I lead with, what I identify with. My persona is soft, undefended, warm, embracing. It’s how a lot of people would describe me. But it’s not all there is to me. I have a part of me that is very defended, cold and hostile. I hate it when I go there. I hate me when I go there. I have it in me to get mad when I think I’m being charged the wrong price. I don’t go there very often, but I could go there.
So I got mad at this guy because he reminded me of me – a part of myself that I reject. This is probably true most of the time that a customer (or anyone) pisses us off. And the rest of the time they probably are reminding us of someone from our past who hurt us or who for some other reason we still resent. This makes these people real gifts to us – they expose what in us still needs healing, still needs loving.
If we seem these people as gifts, we may see that they are clearly in pain – or they would not be behaving in unfriendly ways or radiating toxic energy. If we see them as gifts and in pain, we may find it in our hearts to have compassion for them. And the big payoff of having compassion for them is that it will open up the possibility of having compassion for the part of us that is like them.
I won’t be able to catch this dynamic right away every time it happens. I will still get pissed off at the occasional customer. I will need to have compassion for myself for having a hostile response to a customer. Having compassion for myself will make it easier for me to have compassion for the hurting person in that customer. Having compassion for them will make it more likely that I can have compassion for the hurting part of me that they remind me of.
And that’s not a bad deal at all.