If you can’t cope with someone in your life, protect yourself by leaving them

Jul 13, 2023


We understand well that if, let’s say, you can’t cope with alcohol in your life – meaning that alcohol is what triggers your intense attachment – the very first step is to give it up. Nobody on the planet would expect you – please hear my words – would expect you to give up attachment to alcohol while continuing to drink alcohol. 


We get that. But when it comes to the person who triggers your intense anger, your whatever, we don’t get it. 


Sure, the long-term job is to give up the attachment to alcohol, to give up the anger towards your husband, but we have to know how to put ourselves in the conditions that are conducive to this.


When a person finally picks themself up off the street and recognizes they’re an alcoholic, that they’re sick of the suffering, then they can walk away from it, starting the long process of getting to the root of the problem, which is the attachment.


Same with anger. The relationship is going nowhere, you’re getting more miserable by the minute, you fight all the time. You have to be completely fed up with the suffering – not fed up with your husband; fed up with your suffering.


For sure, if you can work on your mind while staying in the relationship: excellent. But if you really can’t, if the relationship is really not worth it, then leave. 


This completely shocks us! We assume it’s weak to do this. No, it’s common sense; it’s self-respect.


Buddhism calls this renunciation. We’d call it self-compassion. You’re fed up with all your broken-record habits; you’re so sick of the pain and suffering that your delusions and behavior are causing you. Causing you.


The first step to realize is we harm ourselves; this is the first one to realize, and when you can see how you harm yourself by being angry, then you can see, of course, how you harm others as well. Eventually you’ll be able to have compassion for others who are angry because they’re harming themselves. But first, ourselves.


That’s a brave attitude, actually. Usually we just feel guilty instead. That’s a disaster!


So, what’s guilt? Guilt is self-hate, literally. The state of mind of guilt is aversion, which is the basis of anger; anger is just volatile aversion. Guilt is internalized aversion; that’s all. When I say, “You did this, and you did that, and you’re a bad person,” that’s called anger. When I say, “I did this, and I did that, and I’m a bad person,” that’s called anger against yourself, which is guilt.


So, we run to guilt automatically. This is the terrible irony of ego: we love to hate ourselves. We think there’s some virtue in guilt, but it’s automatic – it’s automatic – and this is rooted in attachment. 


They’re all rooted in attachment, and guilt is very much rooted in the attachment to being seen as a good girl, which is the deepest attachment of all – the hardest one to see.


I mean, attachment to alcohol and food – they’re pretty evident. But this deeper one is this attachment to be seen as a nice person, to be approved of and stroked and loved and praised. This is primordial, more than for sex and drugs and rock and roll. 


Guilt is rooted in that, because when you’re guilty, like you just broke the cup in the kitchen and no one saw you and already you’re imagining Mummy and Daddy or God or Grandma or somebody criticizing you. “Oh my God, I’m bad. I just broke a cup.”


So, with self-awareness we can gradually develop the courage to know what is best, not just buy into guilt, which paralyzes us. We’ll have the courage to leave – the alcohol, the husband – and find the right conditions for us to develop ourselves as a human being. 


Then we can begin to develop compassion for others. 


One step at a time.


More blog posts

The buddhas and bodhisattvas come where they’re needed

A question came up recently: Since Lama Zopa passed away and there have been prayers for his swift return, is that to be taken in a literal sense? Will he only reincarnate if there's prayer? It’s a really good question, and the answer is completely logical and simple...

Big surprise! Attachment is the main source of our problems

As far as the four noble truths are concerned, the main source of our suffering is attachment: this is what we have to understand. This is surprising: we don’t think like this. This is not Jung's model of the mind, or Freud's. And you don't get attachment from your...

Neuroses are not at the core of our being and therefore can be removed

Let’s talk about the fundamental point that underpins all of Buddha’s teachings from A to Z – all of Buddha's teachings from A to zed, as we say in England and Australia. According to the Buddhist analysis, the neurotic states of mind, the unhappy states of mind, the...

Share this article