I was recently in a social setting where a small group motioned for me to join them. Yet when I approached, they made no effort to include me. It seemed a small thing. Perhaps they were immersed in their conversation, but I immediately felt invisible. I don’t think anyone meant any harm. They were unaware at best. Nonetheless, the situation felt very adolescent and though I didn’t know these people well, I left feeling a little insecure, not even sure about what.

A week later, I was in conversation with a woman from that same group. While she was warm and gracious, I felt diminished for being in her company. As others joined our conversation, I felt like we were all props in her drama. This was puzzling until I realized that she could only relate to others as either above her or below her. In order to keep herself up, she held everyone she met below her. It took enormous presence on my part to resist her draining energy.

My learning here came precisely because I didn’t know this person well. We had no personal history to muddy what I was experiencing. It was stunning to me that, though I hardly knew this woman, having been in her company only twice, I felt excluded, less than, and invisible, even though there were no harsh words, no incidents, no conflict of any kind.

We all emit energy patterns and, because we’re sensitive, we’re all affected by those patterns. The current of our presence is powerful, whether we realize it or not. And we’re responsible for the energy patterns we emit. Beneath all our words, we either welcome others as equals or we distance and judge them. When under the influence of such judgment, we’re challenged to stand firm in our own worth without accepting what others are projecting and without shutting down our sensitivities.

In Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, Odysseus is on his way home from the Trojan War, when he is instructed to pass by the island of the Sirens whose call is so compelling that no one hearing them will ever leave the island. He has himself strapped to the mast of his ship, and has his men fill their ears with wax. He then has them pledge not to untie him no matter what happens. Even strapped to the mast, he has a hard time resisting the call of the Sirens. But he does.

This ancient story warns us of the power of seduction and addiction, but it can apply to any pattern of energy that is against our true nature. Insecurity is such a siren that appears in many disguises. For me, it appeared in the social gamesmanship of this woman I hardly knew.

We can’t deny the feelings that overtake us as we move through the world, but we can stand firm in our true nature. Like Odysseus, we can withstand the Sirens we encounter while staying on course as we find our way home.

This excerpt is from my book, The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom that Waits in Your Heart (Atria 2016).

*painting by John William Waterhouse (public domain)

Originally published at medium.com