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The Woman At The Next Desk
Source: Nerves And Common Sense
IT may be the woman sewing in the next chair; it may be the woman
standing next at the same counter; it may be the woman next at a
working table, or it may be the woman at the next desk.
Whichever one it is, many a working woman has her life made wretched
by her, and it would be a strange thing for this miserable woman to
hear and a stranger thing--at first--for her to believe that the
woman at the next desk need not trouble her at all.
That, if she only could realize it, the cause of the irritation
which annoyed her every day and dragged her down so that many and
many a night she had been home with a sick headache was entirely and
solely in herself and not at all in the woman who worked next to
her, however disagreeable that woman may have been.
Every morning when she wakes the woman at the next desk rises before
her like a black specter. "Oh, I would not mind the work; I could
work all day happily and quietly and go home at night and rest; the
work would be a joy to me compared to this torture of having to live
all day next to that woman."
It is odd, too, and true, that if the woman at the next desk finds
that she is annoying our friend, unconsciously she seems to ferret
out her most sensitive places and rub them raw with her sharp,
She seems to shirk her own work purposely and to arrange it so that
the woman next her must do the work in her place. Then, having done
all in her power to give the woman next her harder labor, she snaps
out a little scornful remark about the mistakes that have been made.
If she--the woman at the next desk--comes in in the morning feeling
tired and irritable herself, she vents her irritability on her
companion until she has worked it off and goes home at night feeling
much better herself, while her poor neighbor goes home tired out and
The woman at the next desk takes pains to let little disagreeable
hints drop about others--if not directly in their hearing at least
in ways which she knows may reach them.
She drops hint to others of what those in higher office have said or
appeared to think, which might frighten "others" quite out of their
wits for fear of their being discharged, and then, where should they
get their bread and butter?
All this and more that is frightful and disagreeable and mean may
the woman at the next desk do; or she may be just plain, every-day
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
If we realize the effect of successive and continued resistance upon
ourselves and realize at the same time that we can drop or hold
those resistances as we choose to work to get free from them, or
suffer and hold them, then we can appreciate the truth that if the
woman at the next desk continues to annoy us, it is our fault
entirely, and not hers.
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