Question from Yvonne
I have a big problem at work. I have an associate who is a narcissist, and it hasn’t been easy in the past—but possible—to work with her. Now the situation has changed: I have a new boss and she doesn’t like me. Now these two are a team, and they are working against me, not giving me important information, and telling lies about me. They are very unkind and unfair!
I have talked with them, but it has made the situation more difficult. Now I have lost my smile, feel insecure, afraid and everyday more sadness. I practice meditation every day, but I lose my inner peace.
I work with children and for me it’s important to work in harmony, but these people are making it impossible!
How can I find a way to work with them in peace? How can I lose my fear? How can I find my inner peace again?
Thank you very much for reading my question.
Answer from Dharma Teacher Kenley Neufeld
I hear your deep suffering from the relationships at work. And I also hear your desire to continue working with children and to work in harmony with your colleagues. To lose one’s smile, happiness and security is very painful. An experience that I too know very well from my own life.
For many years I had a colleague that caused me great pain. Whenever I interacted with her, it was difficult and tense. And she also spoke about me to others in a way that wasn’t always truthful. In this workspace, we’d need to interact on a daily basis. And neither of us were going to leave the job. So, what could I do so I didn’t suffer so much? I feel you are asking a similar question.
Through our practices and from listening to our Teacher share frequently about relationships, I realized this person wasn’t going to change. More importantly, my happiness is not the responsibility of this other person. In our practice, we are encouraged to come back to ourselves, to our practice, and learn to have compassion both for ourselves and for the other people in our lives. Compassion for myself was the realization that my happiness is my responsibility.
Compassion for the other person meant identifying something I could use to not suffer so much. I looked for something this person did really well. One positive attribute. This is not necessarily easy, but I identified one thing. Then every time I saw her, I would pull up this one positive attribute into my mind. And slowly my suffering was reduced. I could work with her again. This became a practice and a training. A very concrete solution.
This wouldn’t be possible without staying connected to the dharma (listening to dharma talks), practicing meditation, and seeing my responsibility in taking care of myself. In the 7th Mindfulness Training of the Order of Interbeing it says, “We are aware that real happiness depends primarily on our mental attitude and not on external conditions and that we can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that we already have more than enough conditions to be happy.” Not an easy aspiration! But something we can move toward. This is how we can lose fear and cultivate inner peace. But this doesn’t mean that fear is removed and that we’ll feel peaceful at all times. When we have the fear, we recognize it and take care of it, including how you wrote to us with the questions.
All that said, compassion for oneself could also mean making difficult life changes. If your workspace is unsafe and toxic, and internal processes have not resolved it, then you may need to make a change. But please try the practice suggested above and continue to explore this idea of real happiness, non-fear, and inner peace.