Kabbalah is the mystical, esoteric aspect of Judaism which has become re-packaged and popularized to an extent that might just shock those revered rabbis who were its founders and greatest proponents. Or perhaps not. Just possibly these great rabbis might stroke their long beards in approval because some Kabbalistic concepts seem applicable to modern secular life. For instance, does Kabbalah offer us any assistance with one of life’s greatest challenges—-“difficult” people?
Among its most basic concepts is that of tikkun. Man’s role, offered as an opportunity for learning and spiritual advancement, is to repair the fractured world. That is the meaning of tikkun. It is about recognizing the spiritual sparks of divinity which are hidden beneath shells of matter and chaos.
All matter contains hidden sparks of God–even individuals who we may regard as “difficult” people. When confronted with them–do we react automatically, often counterattacking vigorously and sometimes to an extreme? Or do we pause to allow the neurotransmitters and adrenaline coursing through our arteries and veins to dissipate?
Let’s face it–such individuals often provoke a reaction within us that is defensive in nature. We are faced with a challenge in such situations–can we step back from that surge of adrenaline for a moment? Can we see behind the actions of someone who provokes us and offer a response which is more measured and less emotional ourselves?
This is not a call to be submissive towards an affront, to passively accept what is unfair or irresponsible nor to ignore such actions. It suggests that in the moment that we don’t react, there is an opportunity to de-escalate the negative energy that is building and to direct a response that is more pointed but less inflammatory.
The individual who can detach from the reactive response seems to ultimately “win” the encounter anyway. A knowing smile in the face of an emotional responder may aggravate them even more, further denying them the upper hand. The reactive responder looses credibility. They have lost control, seem less confident, less capable of explaining their position, less certain of their actions. They often turn off otherwise sympathetic observers because of the way they react.
These people represent spiritual challenges to us. If we recognize the deeper spiritual nature of existence, if adhere to the notion that we are spiritual beings having a human experience then we might actually recognize these experiences as opportunities to grow. We may even notice that our when we react forcefully to an affront with a counterattack, we gain a temporary sense of justice. We feel we have avenged some wrong and put the difficult person ‘in there place”. What can often follow is a sense of regret. The escalation of words and emotions may have led us to attack back with a viciousness we would not choose to recognize as worthy of emulation.
Can we go so far as to silently thank them for their presence? Can we regard difficult people as challenges to our spiritual practice and as opportunities to learn from them? That might seem like an insurmountable task.
Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.