At some point in life, virtually every individual has an experience which is extremely disappointing and painful, due to a perceived betrayal or undue negative reaction from another person. A great part of human interaction is driven by reactions of jealousy, envy, lust, greed, fear, anger or, potentially, a cowardly reaction that shifts responsibility and blame onto an innocent individual to escape the consequences. Those who are more sensitive feel deeply hurt or wounded by these interactions. They tend to try to judge appropriate actions of others based on their own internal standards, and when they find a different response, they fail to understand how or why this can occur.

This situation causes emotional distress for the individual who suffers it, as long as they are taking ‘personally’ what is in essence a common characteristic or trait of human nature subject to the ego-personality. When one looks at the situation from a wider perspective, it is possible to understand the general nature of the reactions one experiences in social interaction, and thus, to limit the emotional distress.

It is the nature of the mental-vital-physical forces that make up the human life as presently constituted that must be understood in order to eventually be subject to change. Sri Aurobindo points out that as individuals grow inwardly through the influence and action of the psychic being, they naturally begin to modify their response to one of appreciation, gratitude and understanding. This is a sign that even these deeply embedded habits of nature can be modified and overcome through the process of the evolution of consciousness.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “Your surprise at X’s behaviour shows that you do not yet know what kind of thing is the average human nature. Did you never hear of the answer of Vidyasagar when he was told that a certain man was abusing him, — ‘Why does he abuse me? I never did him a good turn (upakara).’ The unregenerate vital is not grateful for a benefit, it resents being under an obligation. So long as the benefit continues, it is effusive and says sweet things, as soon as it expects nothing more it turns round and bites the hand that fed it. Sometimes it does that even before, when it thinks it can do it without the benefactor knowing the origin of the slander, fault-finding or abuse. In all these dealings of yours there is nothing unusual, nothing, as you think, peculiar to you. Most have this kind of experience, few escape it altogether. Of course, people with a developed psychic element are by nature grateful and do not behave in this way.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Sensitiveness, pp. 65-68

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.