Frustration Dog

We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are. 

~The Talmud

We have a saying at BEabove about the Seven Levels of Effectiveness: deceptively simple, endlessly complex. We’re constantly discovering new and interesting aspects to how the energy fields show themselves. One of my favorites is the whole arena of being a nice person.

NOTE: this post talks about being an “above the line person” while dealing with “below the line people.” This is a bit problematic because the very act of labeling who is what creates a sense of separation, a polarity of good and bad, and places “us above the line people” higher up than “those below the line people.” With great trepidation I am going to muddle on anyway, in hopes that the usefulness of this blog will overcome its innate problems. 

As we move more and more above the line, embracing the fields of Courage, Engagement, Innovation and Synchronicity, our brains become more emotionally mature and resilient, less reactive in nature, and more able to stay present and grounded. We become less interested in conflict, more attuned to others’ energy, and much more motivated by connection than competition.

In other words, we become nicer human beings. Human beings who seek solutions rather than dominance. Human beings who easily and naturally see others’ perspectives and are cued to compassion. This is, indeed, a lovely thing, and most people respond to it beautifully. Above the line, we co-create harmonious relationships where innovation and even magic can occur.


The challenge arises with those people who are either in a permanent or temporary below the line state, and are uninterested, or even threatened, by our desire to create from interconnectedness rather than competition. Sometimes this is just who they are in this lifetime or moment, and sometimes our very presence triggers a more below the line state because of the mirror effect. They see in us who they actually desperately want to be.

Either way, everything that worked with people at a higher level of consciousness can at best, be ineffective, and at worst, backfire here. For example, I had a close relationship with someone who was struggling for a time with a lot of Fear and Hopelessness. He would often complain about certain people in our life, while my tendency was to take a more compassionate view. The impact was that, rather than opening his heart and also finding compassion, he felt judged by me. Not my intention, but definitely my impact. My above the line response seemed to backfire, at least in that moment.

Our above the line response can be seen (from below the line) as weak, judgmental, stupid, and naive. At BEabove, we used to think that the answer here was simply to surround ourselves with people committed to living an above the line life, but we’ve learned that while this is indeed an excellent strategy, it’s also often too simplistic and unattainable. Sometimes we can change our lives so that we no longer intersect with folks who are working a different edge of consciousness, but often we can’t without a level of disruption that may not ultimately serve.

And so, what then? I have been thinking about this because last year I had an encounter with someone who (at least to my perception) seemed triggered into competition by my presence. Everything I said, he had an example of how he did it better. All of my opinions were challenged (and often found wrong), and everything I did was met with either disinterest or patronizing comments.

I found myself bending over backward to examine how I was creating this situation. I honestly couldn’t put my finger on any below the line way I was being myself, but I did find some really good stuff in the mirror. This person was a bit of a know-it-all. Check. They liked to be the center of attention. Check. They thought their view of the world was the only truth. Check. I can see some of all that in me. Yep, they were a great mirror and I appreciated the chance to look at my own rough edges. This is a valuable and not to be under-appreciated thing.

And still, I became clear that I in no way wished to have further dealings with this person, and as I was processing the whole thing, I found an analogy for my unease. They reminded me of an unreliable dog, one that is protecting a bone or a certain territory. I felt I had to be careful or I risked being bitten. As long as I was cautious and stayed on my side of the yard, everything was fine. But had I confronted, I wasn’t sure what might get released. It felt to me as if this person was waiting for me to make a false move so that they would be justified in putting me in my place.

My situation was temporary, and I can easily control whether or not I meet them in the future. But what about when we live next door to, or even in the same yard as the dog? (And honestly, is avoiding the area really a good solution ever? As I reflect on  my experience I find myself wondering what else I might have done that was more courageous and authentic than my strategy of simply waiting for it all to be over.) When we encounter the dog every day, clearly avoiding doesn’t work, and placating becomes exhausting and has us be a bit below the line ourselves, operating out of fear of the dog rather than full self-expression. Here are a few ideas instead:

One–see if the dog can be tamed. Bringing kindness, care, and patience often wins them over. After all, no dog is born mean. Something happens, and they become so, and so it is with most people as well. Killing them with kindness seems to work best if you are not the one triggering this person, that is, if their competition is not directed at you. Often when we are the trigger ourselves, our kindness is seen through the eyes of suspicion, perhaps as a strategy for control and dominance, and thus it doesn’t work. It’s also crucial that this kindness come from a wholehearted place of love, not tinged by fear of upsetting the person. Love creates love, and fear only brings forth more fear. When we walk on eggshells around someone, it creates an unstable fear-based energy field.

Two–keep the dog out of your yard. That is, set clear boundaries. Make very very clear what you will and won’t tolerate. Again, this must be from a calm, centered, place of love — both for yourself and actually, for them. The message to send is that the dog is welcome when it behaves well. In other words, be an open invitation for their best self.

Three–ongoing training. We might think of this as zero tolerance and immediate feedback. Once you have set the boundaries, don’t expect that they will honor them. They often won’t, and it may take numerous reminders until they see you are very very serious. Just as with dogs, this feedback and boundary reinforcement needs to be immediate and specific.

Four–community rules and standards. You’re probably not the only one who has noticed the dog. In a work environment, this is often the person everyone is afraid of or avoids. (As we all know, bullies get away with bullying because no one speaks up.) Sometimes the most above the line thing is to be a catalyst for the community to establish a more positive culture. Again, it must be from a heart-centered place, without a desire for revenge or vindictiveness.

It’s also important to note that the negative behavior may not actually be a personal thing, but rather, a systemic one. The person we are assessing as below the line may be representing a part of the system that needs to be healed. Some people would even argue that this sort of behavior is always systemic, never about the person themselves, and this can be a helpful place to look. It certainly speaks to our innate interconnectedness. However, in our experience, sometimes the answer is in working with the whole system, and sometimes it’s not.

All of these options require courage and working from a place of creation rather than reaction. They are, I believe, forms of love, ways of being kind that actually transcend traditional niceness. As one of my clients once said to me “real love has teeth.”

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned an innate complexity. The minute we even start talking about people who are “below” and people who are “above” we create an us/them situation, which is below the line. So there is an inherent paradox here in examining how to work with those “below the line people” as if they are separate and different from we “above the line people.” The truth is, we’re all both, and we’re all polishing a different aspect of consciousness at any given moment. Some folks are here to be sandpaper for our souls, helping us find the most heart-centered responses even in difficult situations, helping us discover all the many manifestations of love.