For that matter, with your teenager, spouse or mother-in-law…
I don’t know about you, but there are certain people that I’ve met in my life that, no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get along with them.
Nothing I did, nothing I said seem to make a difference. These folks have included those in my family, those I’ve worked with, and those who I don’t know very well at all.
Not getting along with someone results in suffering.
Since the intent of Practical Buddhism is to eliminate suffering without having to engage in ritual and ceremony, this post is about how to use Practical Buddhism to get along with anyone.
The origin of suffering
Suffering is part of human life. Because we are cerebral beings we are endowed with the ability to attach to people, places, and things. Because we attach ourselves to people, places, or things we become disappointed when something doesn’t go our way.
The resulting disappointment, anger, resentment, guilt, etc. is a form of suffering. Because suffering takes so many forms, it’s almost impossible to escape the presence of suffering. But the Buddha taught a way to avoid suffering altogether.
By acknowledging our attachment to things, or in this case people, we can immediately see that if we simply don’t become attached to someone, we won’t suffer.
Easier said than done
The other side of the coin is that we desire to become attached in many ways. Not only do we feel love and affection for those we love (another form of attachment), but we feel angst and disappointment when they don’t behave as we wish.
The distance between our expectation and their behavior is where suffering lives.
If we, as Practical Buddhists, are to eliminate suffering in our personal relationships, we must approach the problem differently.
Since we lack the ability to control the behavior of others, we need to look at ourselves if we are to find a solution to the issue of not getting along with certain people.
In looking at ourselves we need to ask some basic questions:
- What is my expectation in this relationship?
- Is my expectation realistic?
- Is it appropriate to have any expectations?
The fallacy of expectation
Forming and attaching to an expectation is the issue. Without expectation there can be no disappointment. In the absence of disappointment, suffering ceases.
What we learn from this example is that without the attachment to an expectation of another’s behavior, we cannot be disappointed by it. When behavior ceases to be attached to the desired outcome it is simply behavior.
The behavior observed and not judged remains an observation and not an injurious incident.
Can you really get along with your boss all the time?
Well, maybe. Maybe not. But the outcome is under our control.
The Buddha taught that the attachment to desired outcomes in the root of all suffering. In an empirical sense, we have the ability to not form attachments and therefore not invite suffering.