Do you find some relationships in your life very difficult? Perhaps you have frequent battles with a family member, or someone in your circle of friends, or even a colleague at work? How do you handle these challenging relationships?
Within the Toltec teachings are some very effective answers.
One of the hardest things for us to admit about people we find difficult, is that they are showing us something we do not want to look at. They are in effect challenging our self-image, and we do not like this - it pushes our buttons. As children, we tend to learn by having our buttons pushed. We learn to become more open towards life, since we do not have a definite self-image to protect. However, as adults, we hang onto our self-images most carefully, and therefore our buttons are always visible and everybody can push them. Rather than learning from our experiences, we then try to hide our buttons, or we push people away in the vain hope that they will not be able to find our buttons. In hanging onto our self-images, we spend our time trying to force other people to change, which always leads to anger, tension and eventual disillusionment.
As a result of this, one of the first steps in the Toltec teachings when it comes to handling difficult relationships - and in fact, ANY relationship - is to start with ourselves. By discovering what our self-image really is, we can then go about changing this self-image into something that is strong, confident and powerful. Once we change how we think and feel about ourselves, we suddenly find that the buttons that everybody else could push are simply not there any more. Gradually, we develop the ability to do what we believe is right for us - without being influenced by other people's opinions and expectations. This is the key to finding true freedom.
As our self-image becomes more and more positive, it becomes easier for us to learn from the challenging relationships that come into our lives. Instead of feeling threatened or disempowered, we can stand back and ask ourselves "Why is this person making me feel this way?" "What is this perception of myself and this other person that is causing me to feel so uncomfortable, and how can I change my perception?" This is part of the mirror concept, and working in this way with the concept allows us to change our self-image.
Conflict is a major issue in people's lives, and especially in handling difficult relationships. In many instances, it is only ever destructive. It is possible, however, to gain a new perspective on the conflicts that come into our lives, and so to deal with these constructively, as well as how to handle the fear, which any kind of conflict, or difficult relationship can bring.
The Toltec teachings also give valuable guidelines on the art of listening, since the failure to listen properly is one of the greatest causes of problems in relationships. Perhaps most importantly of all, and central to the Toltec teachings, is the concept of intelligent co-operation. We can learn to use intelligent co-operation to bring about true mutual support and upliftment through transforming all our relationships, including the difficult ones that we have always shied away from.