How To Handle "Difficult" In-Laws



How to handle in-laws who always spoil family get-togethers? How to handle a fussy, arrogant, proud brother in-law? 


I can not advise you exactly what to do in practical terms - what to do, what to say, what not to do, what not to say etc. – since we can not prepare for the next moment in this way without depriving ourselves of natural spontaneity. The main thing to look at is not what to do externally, but what is going on internally.

Even from your short message, the words seem to carry an energy of impatience, frustration and anger towards this individual you are speaking about. Look at this in yourself. Be aware that there may be strong feelings of annoyance or even rage, and that these feelings are connected to the thoughts you have of another person. Thoughts of who the person is, what they have done, what they are like, what they should be like - all can be there, and they also carry a general expectation of “he should be different”. Notice how useful all of this suffering is in yourself. Do your grievances and upheld negative feelings help you in any way? Have they helped you up to this point? Likely not, otherwise you would not ask the question. If we can notice the futility of our stored resentment and hostility towards “another person”, then naturally it will drop away, since we no longer believe we need it.

Feelings may arise habitually that feel uncomfortable and negative. Let these feelings be as they are. Do not judge them, welcome them without labelling them in any way. This helps you realise that these energies are just energetic patterns that live in the body and love to come up and be expressed. Let them. Watch them, there is no need to get involved in them or analyse them.

Notice that in a strange way, the negativity or inner disturbance is enjoyed. Something inside loves to create the problem of the other person, keep hostility alive, enhance the separation between the idea of yourself and the idea of another person. These are all merely ideas.

The beliefs and hostility you carry have a direct influence on the energy fields of other people. Our very belief that “someone is difficult” can harden the apparent difficulty of another, and it magnifies and over-exaggerates actions of another in our own minds.

However this person makes you feel, accept the feelings. The other person merely acts as a trigger for what is already there. In this way, the other person helps highlight all of the ego, fear or limitation in oneself.

As your own negativity and reactivity begins to burn up using the advice above, situations and possible actions become clearer. You are no longer paralysed by resistance, and action can flow if needed.

The painful energy that someone carries in themselves can manifest as appearances of arrogance or as someone who disturbs others. The painful energy in them seeks to create it and feed on it in others, and yet their host is somehow unaware of it. They are not consciously thinking, “I want to upset things here”, but something in them does want to upset things. That is not to say that you getting upset is “wrong”, but that this behaviour of another can be noticed when it arises.

Our own inner reactivity and pain are seeking problems, seeking ways to justify themselves and take over the mind. “Difficult people” are a great excuse for the mind to be very disturbed. Notice this. Watch this.

Perhaps you need not handle this in-law. Perhaps give him space to be before believing all of the mental judgements that the mind wishes to place on him. Notice that likely the mind avoids complete non-resistance or directly speaking with individual about the behaviour, and instead does neither, and seeks to create a story about the person and keep this story alive, imbibed with a sense of “me” and “he”.

In practical terms, you can go to the person and express how you feel, how you view his behaviours and how it seems the behaviours affect the group. If you go without strategy, without judgement of your own feelings, without resisting your inner state, then it will be an honest expression rather than a competition. The alternative is to let him be, so that the mental stories of the person are no longer contaminating your inner space at all, and you no longer take his actions to be your responsibility. Spontaneous action may arise from here, but it will not be in your personal control, it will be intuitive and fresh, unpredictable.

The main thing is to reduce your own suffering. Inner suffering and resistance only breeds more of it externally. Feel the weight that this burden may be creating and notice its laughable futility. If anything, it prevents useful action or it taints it with frustration. 

You need not carry the assumption that all must conform to your will, or that other people are under your control. When you drop this assumption, there is more ease, lightness, and so any action taken or words spoken carry this energy which can cut through the dense restiveness of someone else. Action that carries heavy resistance or frustration is likely to crash into the same energy of another and merely create a mess and great defensiveness. Free yourself through accepting what is at this moment - how you feel, this present experience, don’t avoid or run from pain, be with it, allow it without trying to change it. If action is required, it arises intuitively, or you may realise that so much of this trouble has been created merely by thoughts ABOUT the situation or thoughts ABOUT the other person. See that thoughts are only thoughts. Believe in troublesome thoughts at your own peril. To not take them seriously, to see them as mere appearances not representative of truth, is to free yourself from bondage of stories and addiction to negativity.

The conditioned mind content of yourself is judging and condemning the conditioned mind content of another. For a moment, let the content be, and be aware of the space in which all content arises in, which is not separate from yourself. The more you are aware of your own being, your own essence prior to the emergence of an energetic person, the more you can see this in another, and the less you are consumed by judgements and hostility of the mind.

I have put up another page that looks into personal doership, how we create a great psychological load by believing the idea that within each body there is a separate person that is responsible for all actions, and how this load can be lightened. Click here to read it.

I hope that has helped in some way, thanks for your question,