Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

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Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby green-tea » Wed Dec 09, 2009 1:44 pm

This is a bit personal, but I don't have any other place to ask. So, if I could get a Buddhist perspective on this i would really appreciate it. As I explain below, I made a mistake with some poor speech and attitude. I have been paying the price...

My father made it apparent that he harbors hatred and ill-will towards someone who I care about. My friend owes him some money. She is poor and my dad is rich. My dad doesn't need the money, at all.... I was repulsed by his vindictiveness and became angry telling him, quite strongly, to "shut the f*** up". Later that night we talked things over in a much calmer manner for about an hour. I believe forgiveness should be extended towards this woman he hates so much. He's not going to sue her, but at the same time he wants to maintain his hatred towards her. That's how we left it.

A week later he brought the issue up again. He told a story of a woman who walked from a bar one night to a farmer's driveway and stole his truck so she could get back home. He pulled out his shotgun and killed her as she was trying to drive away. He told me the police found the man guilty of nothing and my father sounded quite satisfied with that. He then told me that if I ever tell him to, "shut the f*** up" again he will shove his fist down my throat.

I replied, "Do it".

To my astonishment, he took a swing at me! I responded by pushing him to the ground and yelling at him asking what he was doing. After we got up I told him that I can't believe he actually hit me and said that it was definitely not OK for him to hit me. He then said that, "next time I will use a weapon." Later he said that he in fact wouldn't use a weapon and apologized for scaring me. This was after extreme pressure from my mother.

So...my question is this:

How should I respond to people who want to do me harm? I wonder if he will change his mind and resort to a weapon. Weapon or not, he has obvious resentment towards me. There are many ways to hurt people that have nothing to do with weapons. He is old and failing in health. I'm concerned that as his mental faculties decline he will loose more control and possibly follow through on his threats.

I want to protect myself physically, while protecting my character and spirit as well. I don't want to adopt attitudes towards my father that will harm me or him.

Thanks for listening!!! I would love any input on this!
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby jcprice » Wed Dec 09, 2009 2:33 pm

Hi green-tea,

I am sorry to read that you are in such difficult circumstances at the moment.

However, in my own practice, I have found that all of my own suffering has been a great opportunity for insight, or at least motivation for practice.

My thoughts on the matter are:
1. Are you safe? Out of compassion for yourself, if you are in danger of harm, you should remove yourself from that danger.
2. You have already acknowledged that you may have acted unskillfully. It is worth reflecting further on the cause and effect elements at work here. Great insight and opportunity for further insight.
3. It is worth reflecting that it is hard enough for us to make changes in ourself, let-alone attempt to change others.
4. While we may attempt, out of compassion, to help others, without the wisdom to succeed, our efforts are likely to be wasted.
5. A good basis for action in the world are the Four Sublime States (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el006.html): Lovingkindness (Metta), Compassion (Karuna), Sympathetic Joy (Mudita), and Equanimity (Upekkha). I have found the cultivation of these states of mind extremely useful for reducing suffering and improving skillful action.
6. As a first step to lovingkindness, it is important to acknowledge that, just like you and I, all unenlightened beings seek happiness and freedom from suffering, but they deluded about how to achieve it.

I am unsure of your current practice and understanding of the dhamma, so I'll stop there.

Also, I've only just joined these forums and I'm a bit rusty posts such as these.

With metta,

Jason
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby green-tea » Wed Dec 09, 2009 4:34 pm

Jason,

Thanks for your quick reply. Appreciate it.

I believe that I'm not in immediate danger. I am spending less time with my father and certainly staying away from "hot" topics. My family is talking with psychologists about some of his recent behavior...which I expect my father will find threatening.

I am new to Buddhism and most of my information has been acquired via books, but I have been going to a Dharma center here in town. I have not accepted refuge, as they put it, so I don't really have anyone to talk with about personal issues - from a Buddhist perspective.

This is how I practice:

For practicing love & kindness I have a set of beads. As I move from one bead to the next I say one of the following statements:
May my father be happy.
May my father be healthy.
May my father be live in safety.
May my father be free.

As I say these things I imagine how I am making him happy, how I am contributing to his health & safety, and how I help set him free self-deception. I perceive this as reminding myself what my intentions are with him. Sometimes I imagine him doing these things for himself, or just leave it at a general wish.

For practicing compassion I use the beads again with the following:
May my father be safe and free from accident
May my father be free from anger.
May my father be free from fear.
May my father be free from worry.
May my father be free from indifference.
My my father not be caught in the extremes of craving and aversion.
May my father not be the victim of self-deception.

Again, I imagine what part I play in these issues as I am doing the practice.

I think the next practice is intended to develop sympathetic joy.

Myself: I rejoice that I _______.
loved one: I rejoice that ________.
friend: I rejoice that _______.
neutral: I rejoice that _______.
difficult: I rejoice that _______.
all the above people together: I rejoice that _______.
ALL BEINGS: I rejoice that _______.

I did this practice a few times before the altercation with my father. My dad is the "difficult" person in the list. I recall being a bit surprised that I had trouble finding things I was able to rejoice over concerning my dad. I found that troubling, but didn't really follow it up.

Frankly, I wonder if that was a warning sign that I ignored. Maybe this attitude of mine contributed to him feeling unappreciated/threatened. And then he later hits me. I'm not blaming myself, but I am wondering what I can do to better manage all of this.

I am thinking that if I focus more on meditations such as the above I can improve my underlying attitudes and intentions which in turn will improve the relationship. Any thoughts on this?

Thinking about the concept of equanimity has helped me greatly, but I don't know how to formally practice it.

Thanks!

jcprice wrote:Hi green-tea,

I am sorry to read that you are in such difficult circumstances at the moment.

However, in my own practice, I have found that all of my own suffering has been a great opportunity for insight, or at least motivation for practice.


My thoughts on the matter are:
1. Are you safe? Out of compassion for yourself, if you are in danger of harm, you should remove yourself from that danger.
2. You have already acknowledged that you may have acted unskillfully. It is worth reflecting further on the cause and effect elements at work here. Great insight and opportunity for further insight.
3. It is worth reflecting that it is hard enough for us to make changes in ourself, let-alone attempt to change others.
4. While we may attempt, out of compassion, to help others, without the wisdom to succeed, our efforts are likely to be wasted.
5. A good basis for action in the world are the Four Sublime States (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el006.html): Lovingkindness (Metta), Compassion (Karuna), Sympathetic Joy (Mudita), and Equanimity (Upekkha). I have found the cultivation of these states of mind extremely useful for reducing suffering and improving skillful action.
6. As a first step to lovingkindness, it is important to acknowledge that, just like you and I, all unenlightened beings seek happiness and freedom from suffering, but they deluded about how to achieve it.

I am unsure of your current practice and understanding of the dhamma, so I'll stop there.

Also, I've only just joined these forums and I'm a bit rusty posts such as these.

With metta,

Jason
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby Laurens » Wed Dec 09, 2009 4:35 pm

Hello green tea,

To be fair you were being provokative in saying "Do it", not saying your father was right in taking a swing at you, but perhaps your saying that is what pushed him to it. Would that scenario have ended in the same way if you apologised sincerely for saying "shut the f**k up" and explained the reasons why you were angry etc etc in a calm manner?

I think the main lesson here for you is to be more considerate in what you say and when you say it. In that post you describe two situations in which you say the wrong thing at the wrong time as it were, the first being telling your father to "shut the f**k up" the second being tempting him to "do it" when he was speaking of being violent.

In your speech you should be calm, peaceful and understanding. You should speak at the right time. The way to deal with this situation is to talk in a calm and understanding way to your father, try to understand where he is coming from as well as trying to get your point across, don't let it turn into a shouting match. Be apologetic and forgiving.

The man is your father, not your worst enemy, I am sure you can resolve this issue simply by having a discussion about it. If you give up your resentment towards him and he sees this, I am sure it will be easy for him to give up his resentment towards you. The problem currently seems to be that you both resent each other quite a lot and this is a vicious circle, you just make each other mad. This problem won't solve itself until one of you stops resenting the other. In the Dhammapada it says that hatred does not cease by hatred, that hatred ceases by love alone. Give it a try. :)

As for dealing with people that want to hurt you. Not telling people to "shut the f**k up" or pushing them to "do it" is a good start :tongue: .

All the best
Laurens
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby green-tea » Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:35 pm

Laurens,

Thanks for the reply. I agree with everything you said and am wondering if there are any practices that might be suggested to help give up my resentment towards him. I understand that I should speak with calmness and understanding. Generally I do this, but as I described he pushed my buttons. I know those buttons of mine exist and am hoping that Buddhism can offer something to help manage those buttons. I would like to eliminate harmful reactions all together!

Maybe I simply need to spend more time in meditation...

Thanks!

Laurens wrote:Hello green tea,

To be fair you were being provokative in saying "Do it", not saying your father was right in taking a swing at you, but perhaps your saying that is what pushed him to it. Would that scenario have ended in the same way if you apologised sincerely for saying "shut the f**k up" and explained the reasons why you were angry etc etc in a calm manner?

I think the main lesson here for you is to be more considerate in what you say and when you say it. In that post you describe two situations in which you say the wrong thing at the wrong time as it were, the first being telling your father to "shut the f**k up" the second being tempting him to "do it" when he was speaking of being violent.

In your speech you should be calm, peaceful and understanding. You should speak at the right time. The way to deal with this situation is to talk in a calm and understanding way to your father, try to understand where he is coming from as well as trying to get your point across, don't let it turn into a shouting match. Be apologetic and forgiving.

The man is your father, not your worst enemy, I am sure you can resolve this issue simply by having a discussion about it. If you give up your resentment towards him and he sees this, I am sure it will be easy for him to give up his resentment towards you. The problem currently seems to be that you both resent each other quite a lot and this is a vicious circle, you just make each other mad. This problem won't solve itself until one of you stops resenting the other. In the Dhammapada it says that hatred does not cease by hatred, that hatred ceases by love alone. Give it a try. :)

As for dealing with people that want to hurt you. Not telling people to "shut the f**k up" or pushing them to "do it" is a good start :tongue: .

All the best
Laurens
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby Laurens » Wed Dec 09, 2009 6:03 pm

green-tea wrote:Laurens,

Thanks for the reply. I agree with everything you said and am wondering if there are any practices that might be suggested to help give up my resentment towards him. I understand that I should speak with calmness and understanding. Generally I do this, but as I described he pushed my buttons. I know those buttons of mine exist and am hoping that Buddhism can offer something to help manage those buttons. I would like to eliminate harmful reactions all together!

Maybe I simply need to spend more time in meditation...

Thanks!


Firstly there is the practice of metta meditation, which can help enormously. I don't know of a huge amount of online resources for this, but I am sure other posters can help you on that front. I can point you towards this article here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/wheel007.html which may be of some use to you.

The other thing you can do is some simple contemplation, at the moment some of the things that your father has done have upset you in some way, but I am sure he has done some kind and caring things to you in the past. Reflect upon the senselessness of holding on to resentment for something that he has done, take a look at the bigger picture and try to see the kindness and loving side to that person.

Read about cases in which people have forgiven someone who has commited a horrible offense towards them, such as murder etc. It doesn't have to be Buddhist stories, just type 'amazing cases of forgiveness' or something into google and see what comes up. If these people can forgive murder then surely you can forgive your father for something much more insignificant.

Letting go of resentment just requires stepping back and looking at things as they are. At the moment you resent each other because you are fixed on a few small problems. If you can, I would urge you to think of a time when your father has done something really special for you, remember how it felt, take note that your relationship has not always been difficult, and it doesn't have to continue to be. All things are transient.

You can also try things like, if you notice yourself thinking in a negative manner about your father (or anyone), dismiss those thoughts by thinking something positive.

Also to get into the habit of considering what you are about to say before you say it. Will saying this bring harm? Is it the right time to say this? Is it the truth? These are a few things you could consider before speaking. When someone is being angry and verbally abusive etc. with me, I simply say to them "I'm sorry, but I don't want to talk about this if you're going to shout at me." I know from experience that shouting back at them doesn't solve anything at all.

These are just a few little suggestions, I hope it helps.

All the best
Laurens
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby Laurens » Wed Dec 09, 2009 6:16 pm

"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby Dhammabodhi » Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:26 am

Hi green tea,

Excellent advice above. Much Metta to you and your father. May you both find peace. :anjali:

Dhammabodhi
-Samāhitam cittam yathābhutam pajānāti.

समाहितं चित्तं यथाभूतं पजानाती |

A concentrated mind sees things as they really are.

-Ujuko nāma so maggo, abhayā nāma sā disā.

उजुको नाम सो माग्गो, अभया नाम सा दिसा |

'Straight' is this path, fearlessness is its way.
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby green-tea » Sat Dec 12, 2009 5:58 am

Just wanted to write thanks to everyone for replying to my post with your particular advice and encouragement. We had a family discussion tonight and it went really well, as far as discussions go. I am sure that posting my questions here and reading your responses contributed to this.

We talked about how to implement a more lasting change within ourselves. I myself will use the methods that we talked about in this thread. My Dad has a different angle, but if he keeps it in mind it should improve the situation. But as Jason reminded me, expecting change within my father can lead to frustration. For the most part, I will focus on myself.

Laurens, I printed out the links you gave me and will keep them handy when I get irritated. It was great you reminded me to think about his positive attributes. I haven't been doing this nearly enough lately.

Thanks!
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby pink_trike » Sat Dec 12, 2009 6:38 am

I hope you'll stay very aware of your safety, and try to avoid anything that may provoke. This statement:

He then said that, "next time I will use a weapon."

...should not be taken lightly, especially in light of the story of the woman being shot, which it seems he may have found satisfying.

As a former psychotherapist I strongly suggest that if the psychologists don't ask for a complete medical examination that your family should insist on it, especially if he's taking any medications. This kind of behavior can be symptomatic of physical or neurological illness (which is becoming increasingly more common in modern society).

In terms of Dharma, I'd suggest that viewing your father and circumstances as clearly as you can with a minimum of emotion would be an essential practice, as well as noting that he is living with a turbulent mind (at the very least) which is causing him to suffer and even attack his family. Its important in these kinds of situation to carefully maintain a balance of clarity with kindness.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby Tex » Sat Dec 12, 2009 7:24 am

Completely agree with Pink's comments.

Anyone, father or not, who has already swung at you and then threatens to use a weapon "the next time" should be taken very, very seriously.

Please be careful.
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby Bozworth » Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:40 am

Is creating distance between you and him an option? Writing problematic people off and going separate ways is a simple and effective solution in many situations, but it's not possible in all situations - particularly familial ones.

Better advice has already been given; that's just my 2 cents.
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby green-tea » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:40 pm

Thanks again for all the replies to this post.

Speaking with his general doctor this week, he explained that the weapon he was thinking of using against me was a piece of wood. He told the doctor that his father used to hit him with wood. My mom was there and was disturbed by his lack of emotion when explaining this to the doctor. He wasn't displaying regret, remorse, sadness, guilt, shame...he was just explaining things. One emotion has definitely surfaced, and that is fear of my mother. She is very angry with him over this, and he is afraid of her rejecting him. Fear of my mother is what drove him to "reconcile" with me last week. Apparently he is being more affectionate towards her.

This week in Satsang (the weekly talk at my nearby Dharma center), they were talking about our tendency to project personal truths or perspectives onto others. I believe, quite strongly, that through discipline we can change. So, I am trying to balance my belief that he can change against growing evidence that he doesn't want to or can't do that changing. (By change, I mean being more forgiving, compassionate, loving...) I hate to put him into a box though. If we all decide that he can't change, then any movements towards change will be more difficult for him.

I'm trying to leave a space for him in my heart, while at the same time keeping myself safe.

Yes, I have distanced myself from him. The plan is that I won't be alone with him anymore. We have ordered an anger management workbook that he will work through with my mom. He is scheduled to see a psychologist in January.
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby dspiewak » Wed Dec 23, 2009 9:13 pm

I am not a scholar and I cannot quote you anything from a text on this topic, but I want to tell you that your experience is not unfamiliar to me. I wish for you to be calm, healthy, peaceful, and successful, and I wish the same for your father and mother.

I do recommend metta meditation as have the others in this thread. It is absolutely invaluable as a way to slowly shift the course of the mind away from anger and toward the dissipation of anger. You may want to read the Karaniya Metta Sutta, and learn to chant it. These practices have been enormously beneficial to all of my personal relationships.
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby Chula » Wed Dec 23, 2009 9:32 pm

When practicing metta, also try to show compassion for yourself. In the circumstances where you get angry at whatever your father does, you are suffering yourself. Seeing this clearly will help you not go to anger as easily - not necessarily because you find something good in your father (although if that works by all means use it), but because it just burns you inside. Then it becomes much easier to show compassion to angry people, because you know how it feels. I also suggest trying to breath through any tightness you feel in the body if you suddenly get angry. In its grosser forms it always has an uncomfortable physical effect.

Hope this helps..
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby catmoon » Thu Dec 24, 2009 12:15 am

Metta for difficult people is... difficult. My experience has been that it is best to simply keep chipping away at it a little each day. Don't try to get there in one fell swoop. In time, maybe weeks, maybe months, you will succeed in creating some small goodwill that you can actually feel. The hard part is making that first crack. Once it is there, the crack can be widened with less difficulty.
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby orangemod » Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:43 pm

Hi green-tea
I know almost nothing about Buddhist teachings, unlike so many here.
But if I may, my Father has passed away last year. We had a very good relationship. I remember telling my Mom that of course I am sad that he is gone, but having the great relationship we had gives me some peace.
I sincerely hope you can go to your Father and talk to him about this. I cant tell you what to say, but I can tell you that someday he will be gone and I wish you to only have a good feeling about your relationship.

Everyone has a different place they are in as it relates to forgiveness and what they are willing to do to repair bad feelings....as I said, I cannot tell you what to say.
But in my estimation, if you really try to make things okay again, you will at least feel you did all you could when he is no longer here. Sometimes just saying: "Hey Dad, I'm sorry I told to to screw-off :) I was just angry and lost my temper" He may (hopefully) reciprocate and say he is sorry too. Things can really get better from there. One thing is for sure, it cant hurt to try !!!
At present my own Brother is very unfriendly to me. I said something that he was offended by. Forget the fact that it was not offensive or meant to be. He just let his personal insecurity get the better of him.
So whats old Dave do ??? yup, I apologized to him and told him I meant no offense and gave him some information that might help him understand.
What did he do? Well, he refused my apology and apparently "wants" to remain "offended"
Well, what can I say ? I felt I have done all I can and no longer feel bad about our poor relations. That is because I have done all I can. I refuse to carry around hate for him. I am sorry for him that he does !!!

"Holding onto hate for others is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die"
I wish you luck.
Cheers, Dave
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Jan 08, 2010 2:15 pm

dear Green Tea

My heart goes out to you. You are in a very difficult situation I think. I am currently having problems with a narcisitic boss and you father reminded me of him. There can be no doubt that growing up with a man like that has affected you as well. Please do whatever required to generate better mental health for yourself. Also the temptation will be strong to bury your negative emotions in meditation. It is eventually better to work through them with someone. Being mindful of the mind also helps a lot.

with metta
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Mudita
& Upekkha
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Re: Dealing with people who want to hurt us...

Postby 5heaps » Sat Jan 09, 2010 5:39 am

green-tea wrote:I would love any input on this!

Technically there's nothing you can do.. it's a situation involving 2 contaminated objects (ie. you and your father).

On the other hand you can try and set up a brighter future with what you've got. Two methods spring to mind:
1) leave harmful people and find very virtuous lucid people to live and practice around.
2) try to apply your dhamma knowledge to the situation, which will lead either positive consequences (ie. really learning compassion, learning about the obscured nature of hate+resentment+etc, of detachment from the 8 worldly thoughts) or negative consequences (ie. kicked out of the house, emotional hell, etc), or both.

Applying dhamma knowledge of course implies having learned dhamma well and then contemplated it well.
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