how to stay calm around people you can't standToday we ask that you look at people for whom you feel hatred.

It does not have to be someone you know.  It can be a politician whose views oppose yours.  It can be someone who was rude to you in a store.  It can be someone from your past, like a bully from your childhood.

Whomever it is, this person arouses a visceral disgust.  You cannot stand this person.  You feel anger just thinking about this person.

Perhaps some of you are enlightened enough to have transcended such hatred.  But in all likelihood, most of you feel this way about someone, whether or not you know this person well.

Please know that feeling this way does not make you a bad person.  These feelings come from an older part of the human mind and body, a part that desires to protect you from threats and enemies.

And sometimes it is healthy to feel “bad vibes” about a person.  Feeling “bad vibes” can in fact protect you from entering into unhealthy relationships, or trusting dishonest people.

Animals often respond to “bad vibes.”  Many of you have witnessed a dog or cat being wary around or growling at certain people.

In essence, that is what hatred is.  It is your inner cat or dog, growling at someone it perceives to be a threat.  This activates a “fight or flight” reaction.  And indeed, when you are in the presence of someone you hate, you may feel overwhelming hostility, or an overpowering urge to flee.  

The problem is, hatred can be conditioned.  Just as a racist dog owner can train a guard dog to attack people of different races, racist parents can train children to hate people who look different.  As the child grows, he will not understand that his hatred has been conditioned.  He will just think that blacks or Arabs or homosexuals are despicable people.

Even if you were not raised by racist parents, you may have received this kind of conditioning as a child.  You may feel an irrational hatred of certain kinds of people.  Perhaps you dislike people who are ostentatiously wealthy.  Perhaps you dislike women who dress provocatively.  If you dig around, you may find this conditioning was implanted in you as a child.

That is why you must cultivate the habit of getting very present with yourself when you feel disgust or hatred toward someone.  You must train yourself not be impulsively react.  You must neither bite, nor flee.

Instead, you must learn to sit still with the hateful feeling, and not act on it.

Breathe.  Count to ten.  Go for a walk.  Think of a favorite song, or something silly.  Whatever you do, don’t impulsively react to the hateful feeling.  

Acknowledge the feeling is there, but do not react.

Once you calm yourself, you can then more clearly assess this person who arouses disgust or hatred.

Is this person actually threatening your survival right now?

Probably not.  

Therefore you do not need to fight, or flee.  Calm down.

From a calmer place, it is possible to shift perception.  Once you see that the enemy truly does not threaten your survival, perhaps you can see that the person may have a better side.  Try to think of one good thing about this person.  Just one good thing.  If you try, you should be able to think of one good thing.  

That isn’t to say, ignore your intuition when you feel “bad vibes” around someone.  Acknowledge the bad vibes.  At the same time, try to see this person’s humanity.  It doesn’t mean you should become involved in a romantic or business relationship with a “bad vibes” person.  But acknowledging their basic humanity will allow you to deal with them without being hostile or reactive — which is better for everyone, including you.

As you grow, you will in time learn to feel compassion for people who arouse your hatred or disgust.  But at first, it is best just to try to reach a neutral place.  Can you find equanimity around this person?  Can you hold the feeling of aversion without reacting impulsively to it?

This is a major step toward a more peaceful and drama-free existence.