How to Extract Positivity from Negative Minded People - the Stoic Way
What if a King showed you the whole process
Marcus Aurelius, the Emperor of Rome, allowed writers to criticize him. In year 161, it was rare. But the question is: why did he do that?
He knew something that others did not. I wish to share his method here.
Marcus Aurelius was an adopted son who was named future Emperor at the age of seventeen. Other than being the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome, he was a stoic philosopher. Meditations is his most famous book.
When I assign my own meanings to problems I face in my life, I often feel more relaxed. I look at the negative and try to define it in a way that helps me understand my experience.
Marcus Aurelius said, "begin every morning by saying, I shall meet with the troublemakers, the ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, unsocial, envious," and then told himself that "all these things happen to them because they do not know what is good and evil."
The Stoics accepted the world as it is. They believed in self-improvement by using the mind over matter thinking. "The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts," he said.
"If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself. But to your estimate of it - and this you have the power to revoke at any moment." ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Why do we dislike negative people?
When we hate negative people, we believe that they are going to corrupt us somehow. We think they'll demotivate us or discourage us. We doubt they'll make us feel miserable.
But we can learn to extract positivity from negative people. Marcus Aurelius recorded his thoughts on how to do that in his book, Meditations.
He convinces us gradually and subtly:
#1. The negative person is a human being
After all, a negative person is a human being. She is also passing through life and trying to make sense of her experiences.
Marcus Aurelius says this person also "shares the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity as you and me."
#2. Stick to your true nature
I remember a friend who told me a new lie whenever I asked her to repay her loan. Another friend told me to lie to her that I badly needed the money. But I didn't. I said to this other friend, "If she is not going to change then why should I change and start lying?" (I had read it somewhere.)
Only I have the choice to be me.
Marcus Aurelius says, "no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kin, nor hate them."
#3. Learn to coexist
Marcus Aurelius thought our social life is built on a choice to cooperate.
"We are made for cooperation," Marcus stated, "like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature."
#4. Your family helps you become you
My brothers, father, mother, and grandparents were always trying to tell me something. When I think, I feel how they wanted me to see things in the light of their life experiences.
I have positive feelings about all, even though I didn't like the lectures back then. I see how they shaped my life - both positive and negative aspects of my personality.
Marcus Aurelius mostly tells positive lessons he learned in his life. From his grandfather Verus, he got "good morals and controlling my temper." His mother taught him "piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich." His uncle taught him "not to worry about trifling things," and "to love my folks, and to love truth, and to love justice."
Always remember who you are when you interact with negative people.
#5. Let go of the negative emotions
I often get stuck when I feel wronged.
But holding on to negative emotions is of no use. Unless we let go of the hurt our negative interactions cause, we cannot see the positive lesson buried underneath.
Marcus Aurelius said, "I will observe the negative traits of people, and remove these traits from my own character."
#6. Be the change
If I am calm and not stressed, I can see through the chaos around me. I need to be myself, and others can be others.
According to Marcus Aurelius, we do not need to change how others act. But we can change. We have to change if we wish to be relaxed. That is a virtue.
#7. When you see negative people, thank the positive ones
The kind Emperor is thankful for the good people in his life.
When we have good people in our lives, we can be serene. Sometimes, we take those people for granted. We grow ungrateful, starting the process that leads us to negative people. (I have seen this happening in my life.)
#8. Do not be bitter and take life lightly
Have you ever felt life is not fair? Or why did a bad thing happen to you and not to somebody else?
The stoic master says people often feel bitter over their losses. But they need to accept that life owes them nothing.
The Stoics believed that the joys and desires of life were fleeting. Good or bad times do not last forever. Marcus Aurelius says we should take the events of our life more lightly.
#9. Change is a part of life
I often say we should accept change before it rocks our life. It keeps me on edge. But it also lets me live my life on my terms.
Marcus Aurelius said change is part of life. To feel happy, we must understand that change is a natural process, and it must take its course.
The path to happiness is changing what is within us. By transforming ourselves, we can be free of vagaries and frivolous desires. Happiness is our well-being.
#10. Be kind anyway
When I am angry, I can be pretty nasty. But that is when I need to be kind. My anger is my real test.
He asks a question. "Shall anyone hate me? That will be his affair. But I will be kind and helpful toward every man."
It means I have to be kind anyway. Others can try to make me angry or sad, but that is their character. I have to be kind and helpful no matter what.
When you interact with negative people, you have to observe them. Be yourself. Do not allow negative emotions to overwhelm you. When you understand why negative people behave that way, you can remove those behaviors from your life or opt for what you learned growing up.
I always tell everyone to enjoy and be happy. Why? Because I know we can fool our minds most of the time. If you break the chain of worrying thoughts for five minutes, your mind stops worrying.
Our hundred years on this planet is a short time. If we try to be deliberately light and joyous, we can live a better life.
Marcus Aurelius says about the interactions with the negative people: "You can use the interactions well, and they can be something for you to work on. Only focus on yourself, and decide to be a good man - or woman - in every act that you do: And remember: Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will bubble up, if you will ever dig."
"Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one." ~ Marcus Aurelius