Every one knows the trying phases of her own working neighbor. But with all this, and with worse possibilities of harassment than I have even touched upon, the woman at the next desk is powerless, so far as I am concerned, if I choose to make her so.
The reason she troubles me is because I resist her. If she hurts my feelings, that is the same thing. I resist her, and the resistance, instead of making me angry, makes me sore in my nerves and makes me want to cry. The way to get independent of her is not to resist her, and the way to learn not to resist her is to make a daily and hourly study of dropping all resistances to her.
This study has another advantage, too; if we once get well started on it, it becomes so interesting that the concentration on this new interest brings new life in itself.
Resistance in the mind brings contraction in the body. If, when we find our minds resisting that which is disagreeable in another, we give our attention at once to finding the resultant contraction in our bodies, and then concentrate our wills on loosening out of the contraction, we cannot help getting an immediate result.
Even though it is a small result at the beginning, if we persist, results will grow until we, literally, find ourselves free from the woman at the next desk.
This woman says a disagreeable thing; we contract to it mind and body. We drop the contraction from our bodies, with the desire to drop it from our minds, for loosening the physical tension reacts upon the mental strain and relieves it.
We can say to ourselves quite cheerfully: “I wish she would go ahead and say another disagreeable thing; I should like to try the experiment again.” She gives you an early opportunity and you try the experiment again, and again, and then again, until finally your brain gets the habit of trying the experiment without any voluntary effort on your part.
That habit being established, you are free from the woman at the next desk. She cannot irritate you nor wear upon you, no matter how she tries, no matter what she says, or what she does.
There is, however, this trouble about dropping the contraction. We are apt to have a feeling of what we might call “righteous indignation” at annoyances which are put upon us for no reason; that, so-called, “righteous indignation” takes the form of resistance and makes physical contractions.
It is useless to drop the physical contraction if the indignation is going to rise and tighten us all up again. If we drop the physical and mental contractions we must have something good to fill the open channels that have been made. Therefore let us give our best attention to our work, and if opportunity offers, do a kindness to the woman at the next desk.
Finally, when she finds that her ways do not annoy, she will stop them. She will probably, for a time at first, try harder to be disagreeable, and then after recovering from several surprises at not being able to annoy, she will quiet down and grow less disagreeable.