The bit about giving thanks reminded me of Ajahn Liem's talk on katannu-katavedi that some people will be familiar with:The old spiritual writers are unanimous: when you are provoked to some wrongful thought by someone else, you should give thanks that they have revealed the corruption that lurks inside your own soul, for if it wasn't there, you wouldn't have felt it.
Yesterday morning on the way to the Steeple House an immensely violent thought shot into my mind, a picture of me hitting someone who has brought me a lot of trouble over the years. I tell people who are disturbed by the same sort of things that pop into their awareness that this isn't uncommon, that intrusive thoughts, whether violent, sexual, or disgusting, afflict almost everyone from time to time, and that they shouldn't focus on them but push them away and regard them as transient mental trash which you shouldn't pay attention to. However, the truth is that I don't really know how common such thoughts are because nobody really talks about it. Psychiatrists, psychotherapists and spiritual directors may, as they are used to dealing with the minutiae of people's interior lives, but it's hardly a daily topic of conversation, and perhaps there are lots of souls who are genuinely never disrupted by nonsense of this kind.
My advice is usually that intrusive thoughts don't reflect the real personality of the person they assail: they bubble up spontaneously from the depths of the unconscious and if they represent anything it is the common and disturbing scope of the human imagination. But the truth is that sometimes there's something there. My violent image came from a bedrock of anger against a particular person and while I shouldn't pay attention to it - to the extent that I begin endorsing it and it turns from a thought into a fantasy - I should be aware of, and fear, it. 'He who hates a brother walks in darkness', says blessed John, and I should pray for that buried and denied emotion to be eroded by grace.
http://vimutti.org.nz/wp-content/upload ... _Angle.pdfwe can also acknowledge even the debt we
owe to our enemies, and feel grateful for
life’s obstacles. Viewed from this angle,
such opponents help us to grow in wisdom,
patient endurance, and a spirit of sacrifice.
People who are envious and jealous only
serve to strengthen our own hearts and
bring out the best of our mettā and karunā,
which we might ordinarily lack.
All the difficulties we face allow us
to see the world in its true nature. And
through learning how to overcome life’s
challenges, we find the way to a life of
ease. All our illnesses and problems can
thus give rise to insight in us.
That's an excellent attitude, which I have found repays careful consideration even if I can't live up to it. I also like the practical approach to dealing with such thoughts. Sometimes they are to be ignored as inconsequential, and they certainly should not be taken as definitive in any sense. But sometimes it pays to look for an underlying tendency which supports them.