It Is Hard To Hug A Cactus

Posted on Jun 12, 2011

My clients often ask me, “How can I be happy when someone else is the cause of my unhappiness?”  Or stated less diplomatically, “Why do I have to change when he or she is the crazy one?!”

Relying on others to change so that we can be happy inevitably leads to feelings of anger,  helplessness and resistance. Usually, we want to detach from the other person to avoid these feelings. It is hard to accept that we must be the one to change, even if the problem isn’t our fault. However, when we change, we change the systems to which we are connected like a ripple effect.

How can we work through our resistance?  Through compassion. The Dalai Lama defines compassion as the wish for others to be free from suffering. When we are compassionate, we “suffer with” another person. When tempered with empathy, the suffering is less distressing. It is this sense of connection that softens the pain.

It isn’t easy to soften toward someone when we feel we have been wronged.  I often say to my clients that it is hard to hug a cactus.  But it is when our loved ones are most prickly that they are most in need of a hug.