One of my colleagues at work is a real pain in the ass. I could go on a long diatribe about him but will spare you and me the futility and negativity of rants. One part of me wants to see him as a wholly negative and terrible human being whom I flatly reject. In reality, though, who am I to judge him anyways? If anything, the conflict is useful, and shows me a shadow side to myself that I would rather not see. He also reminds me of how much I work to suppress certain impulses.
The concept of shadow comes from the writings and theories of Carl Jung. The idea is that people who really piss you off are likely to have personality traits found in yourself, but you reject. A classic example is the politician who angrily condemns homosexuals but is secretly gay. Some people really don’t believe in a shadow, because they are putting so much psychic energy into denying those impulses or characteristics that they can’t acknowledge their most troubling faults. Most of the time, and with my work nemesis, I have felt the same way, too. Even when I think that I can acknowledge those faults, I come up with rationalizations about why I am not really as bad as the other person.
Let me take work nemesis’ lack of cooperation as an example. This guy always (and I am not exaggerating) requests his time off at major holidays and in the summer, when many of us are trying to have time off with our families as well. Our time off scheduling is, unfairly, first come first serve, and he gets in there before others can request vacation. I feel this is a lack of consideration for the other people in our practice, and am irritated that he has the gall not to think of others. So he is doing exactly what I would like to do: request time off for all major holidays and in the summer. He is being inconsiderate. Like it or not, I am selfish, too.
The other thing, especially in this situation, is that I am making a lot of assumptions about his behavior. Maybe he does consider that others want time off, but figures that if they want it they will ask for it. He is merely putting in a request that may or may not be granted. So I make up a story about how he is a jerk, but really we just have a different understanding of the rules.
The point of all this is that people who are acting shitty and irritating can be helpful, if you give it a chance. It seems like crazy New Age double-speak mind bending nonsense, but is true: the people who give you the most trouble are the best teachers. The less you want to acknowledge it, the more work that has to be done. If you can sit with the anger or hurt or whatever negative emotion and open to the truth and your own responsibility in the situation, the high charge of negative emotions will dissipate. Think about times when you have done the same thing that the other person has done. Get two of the four agreements on the situation: did you make an assumption? Take something personally? It’s better to think of yourself as a pupil than a victim.