Physician, Heal Thyself

One of the most difficult challenges in life is to avoid letting someone else’s negative mood bring you down.

If their mood is intensely negative—one of despair or anger—it can seem impossible to remain upbeat. Yet, we intuitively understand that mirroring the other person’s turmoil will not help them, and it will most certainly hurt us!

Remember, the Law of Attraction says you get more of what you focus on. When you zero in on another’s negativity, you join them in their misplaced focus. That means two people are working mightily to attract negative circumstances into their lives.

Here are some thoughts and techniques you can depend on to protect you from being swamped by someone else’s anguish:

If the other person is in despair, remember that this crisis may mean they are “hitting bottom” and are finally about to make overdue changes for the better in their life. Resist the temptation to rescue them—don’t intervene to keep the other person from feeling as low as they would without your bucking them up. People often don’t ask for our help; we just step in to play the hero.

Now, I don’t suggest withholding support from someone who needs it. We have all heard stories of people whose pleas for help were ignored, until they finally foundered and sank for good in their personal storm. What I do suggest is that you look carefully at the kind of support you offer.

What if the other person is angry? Someone’s anger can be harder to tolerate than their despair; anger not only eats at you, it invades you. Despondent people are usually very quiet; angry people bellow out their dissatisfaction and try to enroll you in their unhappy chorus.

When faced with this, try to remember that anger is actually a step up from despair. Think about it: When you’re totally down, you feel like nothing will improve your situation. But when you’re frustrated and mad, it’s because you feel as if something would remedy things, if only you could figure out what it is. You’re agitated, but you’re a notch above despair.

When you join another person in their pain, be it despair or anger, it becomes virtually impossible for you to offer them what they can most use: hope. If you sympathetically cluck, “Just wait; things will be better,” you simply confirm their conviction that things couldn’t possibly get worse.

If you want to validate a person’s feelings, tell them: “I’d be down too, if that had happened to me. Please let me know if I can help.” That’s far more positive than saying, “You’re right! This is the pits!” and to then begin moping yourself, in a sign of misguided solidarity.

At this point, you may ask if isn’t rude to be in a good mood when someone else is upset. The answer is, “No.”

You would certainly be insensitive to act around the other person as if you were delirious with joy. But no one knows what goes on in your head, and you can, in your mind, be in an extremely good mood and still not offend someone who is truly down.
The fact is, just as you cannot get sick enough to make someone else feel well, you cannot become distraught enough to make them happy. Staying in a positive mood yourself will go a long way toward lightening someone else’s mood—and taking care of yourself first can be a powerful demonstration that, after all, there’s hope for them, too.

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