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Mental HealthHow to navigate personalities while staying true to yourself

When we lose our vitality through out inevitable encounters with difficult people -- manipulators, time vampires -- what do we do?
Mia JafariMarch 18, 201917 min
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navigate personalities

The same boiling water that softens a potato hardens an egg: it is about what we are made of and not the circumstances. Often in work and social spaces, we can feel like we are floating in a pot of boiling water made up of different moods and temperaments, demands and desires, and thoughts and actions of others — and that they are all colliding against ours. During these times we may ask: what impact do others have on us? When we lose our vitality through out inevitable encounters with difficult people — manipulators, “time vampires” — what do we do? When do we soften and break apart or when do we harden by putting up walls? How do we navigate personalities?

If there is one person who can answer big questions like these, it’s Peter Harper. He is founder of The Drunken Monk, lives in the Pre Alps of Northern Italy and he divides his time working at The Mandali Retreat Center – facilitating the Enlightenment Intensive retreat – and his recording studio, where he produces Conscious Music and Guided Meditations. We post our questions to him below.

With energy being so flexible, how can we direct our energy to where it serves us best?

Where energy serves us best is in the nourishment of our needs. These can be as obvious as air, food, water, as well as emotional and spiritual fulfillment. It is our intrinsic nature to find satisfaction in our life. Energy follows intention; so the first step is to be clear how we wish to direct our energy. This can be into projects, people, traveling and creating a life where we feel safe, abundant and healthy. So a clear intention is essential. When the intention is driven by a passion, a natural enthusiasm is most likely coming from the heart. When energy flows from the heart, there is love, empathy and a sense of divine inspiration. It may even be that you find yourself “working” yet it will have a feeling of purpose, joy and your energy levels will be higher than if you were simply working a job just to pay the bills. Observe, connect with your desires and your passions; direct your energy from the heart and be patient…those are the keys.

You describe surrendering like floating on water, allowing the water to carry your weight, knowing that you are fully supported and safe as you let go. It is the opposite of resignation, which is the feeling of giving up and sinking. How can we use the tools in the Enlightenment Intensive to turn our feelings of resignation to one of surrender?

It is exactly as you said: resignation is a feeling of giving up or not having hope and being emotional about it. Surrender is similar in the quality of non-doing but it has a quality of lightness. Mentally trying to change resignation into surrender will not work. It will become a mind trip. What you can do is to become more rooted in your self-identity. I like to call it strengthening the silent muscles.

Once you connect with your inner self, then surrender will come naturally through the door of acceptance. My partner made a beautiful observation to express the difference. We resign “from” an external situation. We surrender “to” the moment in all its aspects. Resignation is an emotional reaction. Surrender is a state of expansion, opening into an inner space of awareness. There is a coolness about it.

Be careful not to jump into the common spiritual trap to accept and agree to everything that is happening and how other people behave. Healthy acceptance doesn’t mean I become a doormat. Acceptance is a feeling of a relaxed non-resistance while establishing healthy boundaries.

So, exercise your silent muscles. You can do this through meditation and on a daily basis with the practice of presence. This means taking your attention away from the grip of thinking and placing it into your body, your breath or just listening to sounds. The Enlightenment Intensive process is very efficient in connecting with the self. Once you deepen the connection with your essential self, then surrender will come naturally.

Recently, I was working with someone who was very toxic and manipulating and I decided to leave that environment rather than deal with them. We cannot always do this in our social and professional lives, where our relations with certain people leave us deflated and depleted of our life force energy. What can we do in these situations to protect ourselves while also maintaining a strong supporting relationship with others?

I recently read that 25 percent of the population are at some level energy “vampires.” We all come across them from time to time and as you have said, they leave you feeling energetically depleted. Psychologically, they may be  – but not as a rule – in a lot of pain that has been caused by developmental disturbances in early childhood that comes from being brought up in a dysfunctional and unhealthy holding environment. Very often they can be charming, well-dressed and obliging. However, they will show signs of being self-centered, gossip about others, respond vaguely, lie and guilt-trip you. Most of all you will feel drained by their presence. Trust your intuition, your instinct.

When you come across such people the first step is to recognize them and protect yourself by setting clear boundaries. Ideally, you distance yourself physically and emotionally, you can wish them good luck on their journey and leave. Do not waste your energy to try to explain yourself or try to change them — you´re very unlikely to succeed.

Often they will find suitable targets and try to exploit them by triggering their guilt, shame and low self-esteem. So it is important also to look within yourself to see if there are any mechanisms that allow vampires to “parasite” from you.

Secondly, understanding how these “suckers” function can help you to be free from their manipulations. One friend of mine, after years in the relationship with a manipulator, finally broke through and managed to leave him. Before she did, she literally spent months studying and reading about the manipulations and the mechanisms of toxic relationships. This research helped her to finally understand the whole story. Most importantly, she recognized which emotional pattern of hers made her enter into such a situation.

The Intensive process is a great start to recognizing and transforming those traits in yourself, thereby leaving nothing to get hooked by. However, the best solution is to avoid these people. If this is not possible then set very clear boundaries and don’t waste your time trying to explain yourself or argue. They may try it on a few times, but if they do not succeed, they will search for someone else to hook into. It is natural and healthy to keep clear boundaries as this conveys a quality of genuine respect towards everyone.

What do you think happens to our sense of belonging and our overall sense of emotional well-being when we shut down and stop listening to each other?

When we start to shut down, we disconnect from our essential self. When this happens we alienate ourselves from our core and our sense of belonging moves toward a feeling of isolation. This is often caused when our needs, in some area of our life, are not being met and nourished. There can then follow an emotional reaction such as anger, depression or fear. If the emotional investment continues, this will then lead to a deepening of the emotional suffering, which may eventually manifest as disease in the body. As our contact to our essential self becomes more distant, the disease will increase. The more we identify with the emotional pattern that is creating the isolation the greater the sense of isolation and emptiness. It then becomes a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break loose from.

It is common for people in this state to turn to external sources of gratification in order to feel at ease. These tactics may provide a temporary relief and do not work on the long term. Our well-being becomes damaged and this can manifest in a number of ways. Depression, illness, anxiety: these emotions can be overwhelming and dominate your experience.

The good news is that it is possible to reverse the trend and to restore balance by returning your center of identity to your essential self and away from negative internal dialogue. Placing your attention from the life situation to your inner self is core, but it does not mean you have to do it alone. If you feel the need for help, make sure to ask the right people or specialists. Sharing with others is a powerful way to lighten the load and share the burden.

How can authentic listening be a key enabler to living a successful and fulfilled life?

Authentic listeners listen to others with an empathic quality when they are in contact with themselves and present. They listen to their inner guidance — inner voice — which leads to a meaningful and “alive” interaction with others and naturally to an easier, richer and fuller life. Authentic listening is a quality of the heart. It is an essential key to a deep feeling of satisfaction. It empowers us to follow our true nature, intuition and to have a deep feeling of being connected to a source of fulfillment. Ironically, it is not in any way dependent on our life situation. Authentically listening to myself and feeling connected to my heart naturally enhances my ability to empathically listen to others.

Featured photo: Rashid Sadykov/Unsplash

Mia Jafari

Mia Jafari is a yogipreneur living in Dubai.