The other day I was in a waiting room, trying to ignore the Judge Judy wanna-be on the blaring TV and, well, waiting, when a grey-haired woman hurried in, eager to talk to the receptionist about whether this was the correct office for her appointment next Tuesday. She was doing a practice-run, I guess.
She wasn't there five seconds when I could feel immediately that she was frantic, grasping and basically fearful. Her emotions felt a little like a person who's flailing around in a pool when they find out that they can't touch the bottom and they don't know how to swim. My first reaction was my usual one, which is to put up a shield of resistance to the emotional person while the alarm in my head says, "Go away, go away, go away."
As I felt myself stiffen and go into resistance mode, I decided to try a different attitude. This time, I let go of the force field of resistance to her emotions and instead adopted the stance of "let it pass me by." It's a bit like the statue of the Buddha that you've no doubt seen, when he's sitting in lotus position, with one hand raised, palm facing outward. I think of that hand as parting the winds of emotions so that they pass harmlessly to either side. Then, I turned off the alarm in my head and replaced it with self-talk along the lines of "It's her issue, let her deal with it; let it go," etc. I also focused on taking a couple of deep breaths and keeping my eyes off the poor lady.
And you know what? It worked! I was able to survive the onslaught of emotions without paying a price myself. I patted myself on the back all the way home.