Letting go of difficult people - as your teachers

Updated: Apr 10

"Every person you meet is either a person or a teacher."

We all have those people in our lives that are difficult, triggering us, challenging us. We all want to live in a world where we are fully loved, accepted, and nourished. In a world where there is peace and harmony. And this world does exist - if more from within, than outside (life is defined by how we react to and perceive life). Yet, even with the most rigorous spiritual practice or personal development work, we can still have hard and stressful times. Our mind may understand it is part of growth and life, but let me invite you to go deeper and see the true value behind difficult people, so we can grow, rather than suffer from this experience.


I had a friend, who was a very close friend. We supported each other during hard times and also loved engaging in personal development. It would be only with time that my intuition would send me mixed feelings about our friendship. I also observed that I turned to be more judgmental about her, so I distanced myself from her, hoping that our contact would reduce. But of course, the friend would even more cling to our friendship, as the part in her was triggered, with me on the edge of leaving. Without knowing, we entered a stage where both of our hurt children / egos got active and defined our behaviors and words. Whenever she clinged to me, my ego would revolt and claim for space. But whenever I did this, her ego would wrong me accusing me that I was not honouring our friendship. It was hurtful and stressful for both of us. Both accusing and blaming the other for our pain.

While she seemed to be stuck in hers, I took a step back and reflected about this painful situation. I believe in people mirroring something back to us, our hidden projections. (There are many great works on this, such as Byron Katie`s or Gabrielle Bernstein`s). People, esp. those who trigger us, teach us something and if we are honest with ourselves, we can learn and transform a lot from it. The same applies to people we love and admire - they mirror us back the qualities that we have in ourselves (even if we don`t believe and acknowledge it for ourselves).


Let`s look at the more difficult side - people who upset us, who we might even hate, and who push our buttons. In my friend`s case, I was upset because I felt she didn`t respect my need for my own space. I could tell she was one of those friends during a catch-up, who couldn`t wait until it was her (or ego`s) turn to finally share what was all happening in her life. You could literally see the efforts she had to put in to listen to me. While she also additonally judged my lifestyle indirectly ("I hate London. Who can live there? It is such a bad city."), when I mentioned to her that this was not quite nice to hear from a friend, she wouldn`t see her lack of compassion as the issue, but more that I shouldn`t be that sensitive. (Maybe both is true, but what I learned is that people who judge our lives are not friends, but people who put us down - we deserve friends who support us, cherish us, and bring out the best in us.) All of this, my intuition tried to tell me way back. And I only could understand it when the situation escalated. But applying the "mirror principle" to this situation - what did this tell about me? What am I allowed to learn here? How can I shift the pain and resentments to something fruitful and healthy for me and my wellbeing?

This friend was a teacher, showing the values that are important for me in a friendship. I learned that I need my own space and don´t belong to those kind of friends, who have to catch-up every day. I learned that I can trust my early signs and already make adjustments to a friendship, before it gets to close and then difficult to navigate (similar to dating, set up your values first). I also learned that, regardless of how mindful and honest I communicate my needs or concerns, I, unfortunately, cannot foresee and control how the other person, who may still be in hurt and hasn`t reflected likewise, perceives my mindful words. I learned that I want to be surrounded by friends who only want the best for me (as I want for them), and not put me down (esp. if I don`t do it with others myself). I learned that true listening is one of my core values, as well as inner work, incl. awareness of the ego.


While it still sometimes hurt to think of our escalation because she retaliated when my heart was wide open, this other perspective does really help. To believe that every person is our teacher. That also every relationship has its purpose, and sometimes when this purpose has been fulfilled, the relationship comes to an end. I love the metaphor of a train, that you are driving yourself. The train will stop at different stations, and people will enter and stay, leave, or come back. We shall be grateful for every encounter because they each hold up a mirror, for us to learn more about our blind spots and grow further to be our whole selves. We have the opportunity to integrate all of our parts as well as help others grow themselves, too. Buddhist teachings often remind me that hurt people hurt people (as this story has also shown), so we can send compassion to ourselves and the others, knowing that, with our current abilities and mindset, we all try to do our best in this current passing through life. Letting go of the ego`s need to be right and make the other wrong, we enter a stage where we don`t add more fuel to the world`s pain, but break the cycle with injections of love, compassion, and forgiveness.

This being said, I am grateful for this friend. For our joint memories, conversations, for her being there for me when I thought no one was. For expanding my horizons, the inspirations she had shared with me. For our laughters, experiences together, mutual support. For our conflicts and misunderstandings. For growing each other, whether we have understood our topics or not. For our joint chapter in this special period of time, that was just perfect for both of us. For me, during my move to London, for her, during her move into the professional life. For the love, friendship, and human relationship we had.


This same principle we can apply to every encounter and relationship we have - be it our parents, our closest and distant friends, ex-partners, our colleagues, even politicians, or enemies. Without people, life would look so different, and even if it can be painful or uncomfortable, we can be grateful for the learning experience life always has to offer.


How do you see people in your life? Let me know by sending an email to hello@vietlinhle.com – I very look forward to hearing from you! :) PS: Subscribe to my #mindfulmagic Newsletter to stay in touch for upcoming posts, free offers, and news :)

This week`s ...

  • Inspiration: Thich Nhat Hanh - How to Love

  • Reflection: Who are the teachers in your life?

  • Intention: I have the courage to look into the mirror that my relationships reflect back to me.

Experience Life

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