Dear Dr. Norquist:
I have a neighbor who talks about me to the other people in our condominium. I know this because one of them reports to me about it. This neighbor makes up stories about me to put me down. She and I used to be friends, but when I saw the way she treated others, I decided I didn’t want to be friends with her. She is angry at me for ignoring her phone calls and she is getting back at me by spreading rumors that my husband is having an affair. I am so angry and humiliated. I have to face my neighbors every week, wondering if they think my husband is having an affair and I don’t know about it.
Now I don’t feel comfortable in my own condo. I’m irritable and angry a lot and I keep it to myself. I spend a lot of time thinking of what I could do to get back at her. I spend a lot of time alone when my husband is at work because I don’t want to be around my neighbors. I’m miserable most of the time. What should I do about this?
Dr. Norquist responds:
There are two levels to look at in addressing this situation. One is the interpersonal level, and the other is your internal state. On the interpersonal level, you can choose to take some action so that you do not feel victimized by this neighbor’s actions. Call her and let her know what you have heard from others, and ask her if it’s true that she has been talking about you in this way. If you face her directly, you will find she will not have as much power, and you will not need to isolate yourself from your neighbors.
The most important thing you can learn here, for your own growth and upliftment is to not let someone else’s words bring up bad feelings in yourself. One of the most important and most difficult things to learn in life is how to manage our own inner state. Do not let outside circumstances control how you feel inside. Practice taking control of your own experience of life. Remember, life situations affect us according to how we choose to perceive and react to the situation rather than according to what actually happened in reality. The external world reflects back to us our own subjective internal state. If we are happy, the world looks and feels positive and beckoning to us. If we are feeling hurt and mistrustful, the world looks and feels like a threatening and unsafe place.
Practice observing your perceptions and attitudes. See how you can change your inner state by changing your perception or your attitude. Life continuously gives us opportunities to practice this. Remember, your life is what you make of it, with regard to in your internal experiences as well as in the external world.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2013 Chaitanya Counseling Services