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There are a few toxic people in my life, though not many, thank heavens! I’m sure you have a few in yours too, even if you try very hard to surround yourself with nurturing, loving angels (or even if you don’t try at all, but just naturally attract such folks). And some of the best advice I’ve heard, indeed, is to avoid these negative thinkers at all costs. But sometimes we just can’t...the toxic person may be our sister (but not mine, that’s for sure!), or a next door neighbor, or an individual in our workplace. Sometimes we can’t run away…we just need to deal.
At a yoga workshop I attended over the weekend (the subject of which was gratitude, appropriately), I was reminded that the yogic perspective is to view everything—yes, everything—as coming from the Divine, and that includes, I guess, toxic people. So I gave this some thought, and realized that yes, it’s quite possible that these negative individuals are here to teach us something. In fact, one of the things they teach quite well is how to be positive, because who in the heck would want to be like them?
Now I will admit that I don’t especially like going out to dinner with a nasty naysayer, and I don’t enjoy being near angry bullies. Nor do I appreciate the scads of emails I get from fuming, opinionated members of political parties to which I do not--and never will--belong. And I will admit that feeling compassion, affinity, or empathy can be a real challenge when it comes to folks who are spewing their poison my way. But…when I do manage to handle my reaction (or non-reaction) with grace and ease, I usually feel much better about myself, and in most cases the poison-spewer usually calms down.
The world would be a lovely place if it were filled only with peaceful, charming, loving yogis, but such is not the case. And, though I wouldn’t advise spending a great deal of time with a toxic individual nor would I advise watching too much of such people on TV or listening to them on the radio (not to name names but one blustering cigar smoking right-winger comes to mind), I’ve also found that a few hours with someone who is really angry, critical, morose, and bitter reminds me of how lucky I am to live on the other side of the fence.