We enjoy some people, find others boring, a few annoying, and a few despicable.
People dislike people for many reasons — envy, anger, competition, hatred, frustration, disappointment, fear, and more. Some of these feelings are rational, and some are irrational. Also, often we can’t tell why we like or dislike someone; it’s just a feeling.
Earlier, every disapproval hurt me deeply. I would stew on it, search for reasons, feel vulnerable. Now I have a simple explanation: They are allergic to me.
The allergy label takes away the good-bad duality. If you are allergic to peanuts, that doesn’t mean you or peanuts are bad. Similarly, you can have a mutual allergy with someone, even though you both are good in your own way. Thinking such, you can accept an unhappy relationship without adding additional negative language. The allergy principle also lends itself to some solutions.
A good first step is avoidance. Just as you avoid cats if you are cat allergic, avoid the people who jolt your amygdala (the brain’s area that hosts negative emotions).
If exposure is inevitable and the allergy is mild, then you can use the Benadryl of compassion. Assume that they are struggling more than many others. Try to see them as an innocent 2-year-old or a vulnerable 88-year-old. Hopefully, this will lower your reaction.
If exposed to the severely allergic, use the EpiPen of forgiveness. Forgiveness won’t be easy, and sometimes doesn’t even make sense. But if you wish to give it a try, one idea that works for me is to think about someone very dear to me who is struggling. I assume that the goodness I create from my forgiveness will tangibly help this person. That makes forgiveness feel a little lighter.
I hope you do not need to forgive anyone. But that’s unrealistic. Giving annoyance and irritation another name (such as allergy) might make it easier to free your brain’s real estate from the annoying and the hurtful.
Dr. Amit Sood answers questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships and related topics in his column. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.