When people act negatively towards us, they are hurting. What they need most from us is the thing that is hardest to give. They need to feel loved and included by us.
When we find ourselves acting unloving towards them, it is because we don't feel loved, i.e., we are hurting. We think they are withholding love and we resent them for it. We think they do not deserve to be loved because of the way they treat us – as a matter of fact, we think they deserve to be punished and so we act unloving towards them. Then they feel hurt and are even more unloving back at us.
We fail to see that we are like them. Like them, we are reacting from our own unhappy beliefs. For instance, we may be acting out of a belief that has us thinking that they have to be loving to us first before we can be loving to them.
I find beliefs such as the one mentioned above only guarantees more misery for us.
What works better is for us to act loving towards these challenging family members no matter how unloving they act towards us. Why? Because to act loving towards them is a kinder, more loving way to treat ourselves. It is less disturbing to our own peace of mind to be kind to those we care about.
For instance, instead of thinking, “They shouldn't be so _______ (jealous, controlling, demanding, selfish, mean, etc) it's better, kinder to think,
“They must be unhappy to act the way they do. Because I understand what it's like to be unhappy with myself I feel compassion for them and want to look for what I can appreciate about them. Instead of wanting to punish them I choose to love them. I realize there is nothing they can do to keep me from loving them, and I will not waste my time thinking, or speaking negatively about them.”
When we insist on relating to these contrary family members as someone we love, rather than as someone who is unloving, we grow. Often their behavior changes dramatically too! They become kinder towards us. In doing so, they become happier, without realizing, perhaps, that they are actually befriending themselves in the process of being kinder to us. And vice-versa, in being kinder to them, we are befriending ourselves.
Rather than trying to change them, by aggressively confronting their unloving behavior, for instance, we see their behavior as an opportunity to see ourselves more clearly. We come to understand that part of the reason we have such trouble with them is because they are mirroring to us our own behavior towards them whenever we judge them as wrong. In other words, we do the same things towards them we are mad at them for doing – we blame and act unkindly.
This is the reason these people are in our lives – they are teaching us how to become more loving human beings – to others, but more importantly to ourselves.