I just watched the latest Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talk (Feb. 8, 2011) where you mentioned “pretending can be very powerful” and wanted to share this short anecdote on a different type of “pretending” that I thought you and others might like:
You may remember I have a “Sam” type of “enemy” at work, a situation I have found very very difficult. I often thought to myself, “If only I could just forget everything that has happened up to this point, and start afresh, it could be just fine, as he’s a suffering mother sentient being, plus on an ordinary level, really an ‘okay guy.’” I just couldn’t let go of the anger and aversion that had built up.
Then he was away from work for two months. I tried doing equanimity meditation, but it still didn’t feel like it was really working. But I kept thinking to myself, “If I could just react to him like I react to a friend, I’m sure this would help a lot.” So when he came back from two months away, I really tried to completely let go of this habit of seeing him as a threat, as a danger to my self-confidence and self-worth, etc. and just pretend to react to him as if a good work friend had returned.
And guess what – it has really worked pretty well! I found myself joking with him, enjoying his company, and not even getting upset when he made negative comments about my work(!!) but rather treating such comments as you would when a friend makes them – appreciating the truth as a caring gesture.
So I still have of course some negative feelings, but pretending that he was a friend and trying to forget all the old stories, knowing that in many other circumstance this could be the “reality” really helped. I can see that there is great potential for a virtuous cycle to start. He feels valued and safe with me reacting to him as a friend, and so is nicer to me, and in turn it’s easier to see him as a friend and so on!