The world is full of them. How hard it is for us, non-idiots, to put up with them. But to get our jobs done, our kids fed, and our pets groomed, we must deal with them.

Idiots come in many shapes, forms, and types, but the ones that frustrate me the most are those who don’t believe in any form of mental illness. These creatures maintain that all mood disorders are cute, creative stories crafted by persons who enjoy obsessing, ruminating, and crying their eyes out… a wealthy bunch who can’t think of anything better to do than come up with a make-believe tale about a few neurons wandering around the limbic system afraid to ask for directions, just like Moses.

We must tune out the idiots to achieve any kind of sanity or serenity. But how? Here are four ways that have worked for me.

1. Expect nothing.

If you expect your cousin to understand your bipolar disorder, then you are going to be disappointed when your cousin doesn’t understand your bipolar disorder. But if you sit down to lunch with her fully expecting her to space out on 90 percent of the conversation, you won’t walk away from the table bummed out that she didn’t inquire about your manic cycle. Or know that it doesn’t have anything to do with a washing machine. I think Sylvia Plath was referring to idiots when she said, “If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” That goes for parents, in-laws, siblings, pets, spouses, children, and ministers.

2. Don’t offer information.

I don’t do this one well. I tend to spill my guts to whoever is seated next to me — which is why I have made so many friends on flights between Maryland and Ohio. The conversation doesn’t always go well, though, especially if I’m talking to an adamant anti-medication person who believes all psychiatrists are agents of the devil, involved in a racket with Big Pharma, reaching into the pockets of innocent people everywhere, and spilling poison into the bloodstreams of children. Obviously, that dude is not going to approve of my I-would-be-a-gonner-without-meds tale. He could very well give me the old furrowed brow to express utter disapproval.

At this point, most folks would change gears and go back to talking about the weather or the turbulence ahead. On a bad day, however, I keep going full stream ahead and absorb this guy’s opinion, tossing it around in my head. Before the flight is over, I am back to feeling like a pathetic loser who is addicted to antidepressants and at the mercy of an evil empire.

When this happens in a dialogue with a close idiot in my life, I take the disapproval very personally and I start to dislike myself. No one, however, can disapprove of you, or furrow the brow, if he has no information to analyze or shred. So if you stop giving the idiot material to bash, he will have to find something else to grate—hopefully, a person, place, or thing that has nothing to do with you or your life.

3. Try some visualization.

This technique helps me with the idiots I have to see on a regular basis. Visualization essentially gives you some much-needed boundaries to protect yourself from the cannon that could be fired at the next family function. You have to experiment to find the right kind of visualization for you. For example, you could visualize yourself in a bubble, where absolutely nothing can hurt you. It resembles a mother’s womb — a place many of us would like to revisit. Or you can envision the idiot in a bubble. Whatever she tries to launch at you isn’t able to penetrate the protective force.

My recent visualization is to imagine that the deemed idiot is made of stone. Why? Because I am continually frustrated that she doesn’t respond with more compassion. Visualizing her as a statue of ivory stone reminds me to keep my expectations in check and that she can’t take away my self-esteem or self-worth just by her cold, stoic way of being.

4. Don’t take it personally.

I really hate it when people say this to me. However, I read chapter three of Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic, The Four Agreements on my way to see an idiot the other day, and his words helped me build a layer of protection around myself so that I left her house feeling less disappointed and hurt than I usually do. Ruiz explains that we can become immune to hurt and rejection. For real. He writes:

There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. You become immune to black magicians, and no spell can affect you regardless of how strong it may be. The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune. Someone can intentionally send emotional poison, and if you don’t take it personally, you will not eat it. When you don’t take the emotional poison, it becomes even worse in the sender, but not in you… As you make a habit of not taking anything personally, you won’t need to place your trust in what others do or say. You will only need to trust yourself to make responsible choices. You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you. When you truly understand this, and refuse to take things personally, you can hardly be hurt by the careless comments or actions of others.

There you have it! The Idiot’s Guide to Dealing With Idiots!