Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Maybe They Don't Know. Maybe You're Wrong.

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness



Not-So-Fashionably Late

Many years ago in the midst of one of my 5th grade math classes, a classmate came in late, walked across the room in front of the teacher, and then sat down at her desk.

The teacher freaked. “That is so disrespectful! You don’t ever walk in front of a teacher who’s in the middle of teaching! You should be ashamed of yourself!”

I don’t recall seeing the girl’s face, but I can only imagine that she been amazingly upset and embarrassed. She had no ill intent and hadn’t known better, I’m sure. Clearly, however, no such similar thought had arisen within the teacher to prevent her from blowing up at the girl as though she’d thrown a textbook at somebody’s head.

Musical Scares

A different time in grade school when I was in music class, a student was given the opportunity to play on the piano. It wasn’t a recital or anything and may even have been during some free time at the end of class.

While the girl played, another girl must have had an itch in her ear because she began scratching at it.

The music teacher flipped. “How dare you! You are so rude putting your finger in your ear when someone is playing for us! You’ve just lost your privilege to play the piano for the rest of the year!”

I’m not going to lie: I certainly wasn’t that girl, who must have felt horrified, but this one actually traumatized me. I can’t tell you how many times in my life after this incident had happened that I’d felt fear when in a group of people, especially when someone was talking, and I’d felt the need to scratch an ear.

Imagine…

There are plenty of instances in my life where I had been the one directly receiving other people’s totally blown out of proportion emotional explosions—or implosions.

I would say or do something, perhaps mistakenly or perhaps just being myself, and people would utterly lose it. Usually they’d react by berating and/or punishing me, and sometimes they’d just completely shut down and not want to talk—ever again.

If someone I’ve hurt decides they don’t want to talk to me anymore or get revenge, even after an apology (which I’m usually quick to give), while I think both options are quite stupid and immature, I can still understand it if I had stolen their car or had killed one of their family members. But nothing remotely close has ever happened.

Below are 4 general categories and scenarios to describe what I mean. Afterward, I’m going to give you some questions and further thoughts to ponder.
  1. Mistakes
    Imagine that you were asked to help someone to do something you’d never done before, this being something that they are quite experienced with. When you made a mistake or didn’t perform to the level they expected, they blew up in anger at you; perhaps they abused you in some way.

  2. Differing Beliefs
    Imagine speaking your mind because, why not? Imagine living your life as you because, why not? In no case are you being negative or harmful but another perceives you as offensive. You’ve neither said nor done anything wrong, but another flips out at you because they believe that what you’ve said or done is wrong.

  3. Challenges
    Imagine that you’re a kid growing up in “The System of Standardization.” You don’t know much about anything and you’re a curious one, so you ask a lot of questions. Sometimes your questions may be misplaced, which is something you can’t know because you’re so young, and sometimes your questions are fair. Naturally, you ask these questions to people you view as “authority” figures, such as teachers, who you think would have the answers. Trouble is, these questions don’t fit either "The System’s" structure or the “authorities’” mentality of “what an acceptable question is.” The “authorities” go berserk, and you’re the victim.

  4. Ignorance
    Imagine that you said something to someone but hadn’t realized that what you were saying was misplaced. This is to say, you were positive in your words and hadn’t intended harm, but you hadn’t known that the context within which you were making your statements was inappropriate for those statements. Offence was taken, though you were told more through a “cold shoulder” than anything. You immediately apologized to the degree you could, but were then curtly told to go away and don’t come back.

Ponder This

I’ve seen it happen plenty of times to others, and I’ve experienced it plenty of times myself: I or another says or does something that should, theoretically, do little if any harm, and the one on the receiving end loses their composure faster than an ice cube melts in a volcano.

Does this sound familiar to you? Have you been, or are you still, the person who completely loses their shit in a way like that described here? The person who can’t tolerate ignorance or innocence; who can’t tolerate mistakes?

If so, I’d like you to think of similar experiences from your own life and then reflect on the following questions in regard to those experiences:
  • Is it possible that you were wrong?
  • Did you really know best?
  • Could it be that your reaction was overblown?
  • Could your perceived offender have had no ill-intentions?
  • Could it be that your apparent offender didn’t know any better?
  • If you think they “should” have known better, don’t you think they probably would have chosen better?
  • What, really, caused you to erupt? Your perceived offender’s words and actions, or what those words and actions triggered inside of you?

Unjustified Reactivity

If someone offends another, the offended one has a right to be upset.

But, one, most people wouldn’t be offended most of the time if they could actually see what they were getting offended about—hint: it’s internal and is very likely not about the person who they perceive to have hurt them—and, two, in situations such as those discussed here, the people who are the perceived offenders typically have little if any idea that they’re apparently in error!

With very rare exception, in all the cases described above as they’d been witnessed or experienced by me, there’d been no blame, no slander, no nothing lousy at all on the part of the perceived offender. Just people being people, making mistakes in ignorance—or maybe not making any mistakes at all but either not being “perfect” by another’s standards or not knowing, say, that the person they’re about to ask a question to is afraid of curiosity.

Similarly, in any of these instances, it’s not as if I or others were usually jerks and so people would make the assumption when they’d felt offended that any of us were trying to pick a fight. A mere moment’s conscious thought would have revealed to those offended that we were probably completely ignorant that what we’d just done was apparently wrong.

Multiplying the Hurt

These kinds of situations provide clear evidence as to one of the reasons why many people try so hard to be “perfect,” to be “right,” to be “good enough.”

We’ve not been given the room to make mistakes. We’ve not been given the space to gently grow out of ignorance but have forcibly lost our innocence.

It’s not that a mistake is made or a personally appropriate action is taken, someone happens to feel offended, and then there is discussion between the two people as to differences in their perspectives.

Rather, hurt is inadvertently created, and then rage flares instantaneously, blame is laid, and shame consumes the perceived offender. It doesn't help that the one feeling offended is often perceived as an "authority" and this person basically overpowers the perceived offender. When the offended one says it's over, it's over.

Not only, then, does the perceived offender walk away traumatized, but because there’s no conversation, they must often walk away without ever knowing why they’d apparently erred. As for the offended one, he walks away in self-justified anger never considering that through such an unnecessarily-explosive, negative reaction he’d caused more harm than he’d perceived the other to do unto him.

Don’t get me wrong, I can understand that certain situations described here could initially provoke a WTF?-type of reaction. However, the reactions are always blown out of proportion.

Driving in the Pain

Let’s take this one a step further.

Imagine being traumatized at some earlier point in life and thus being thrust into a state of mental-emotional imbalance. Imagine carrying this pain around with you for years or decades, and necessarily yet helplessly behaving in a way indicative of the pain.

Although your behavior doesn’t cause harm to others, someone takes offense anyway and goes blitzkrieg on you because you’re not living up to their standards.

I fully acknowledge that there is a time and place for shaking people up, including traumatized people, to push them toward action and healing. Life itself does this all the time through karma, or the Law of Cause and Effect.

The trouble, here, is that the ones freaking out make no consideration whatsoever for the pain their perceived offenders may be carrying. They may even know about this pain; the physical, mental, and/or emotional distress may be quite evident. Yet they show no love, compassion, or empathy.

They cannot help but be charged up to the point of detonation due to a given situation’s resonance with their own repressed, earlier-life trauma.

Indeed, they unconsciously see “out there” a reflection of their own hurt “in here,” and they attempt to destroy it “out there” by hating on the one who portrays it.

These explosions are, of course, to no benefit. The offended ones remain lost in their self-righteous indignation, and the traumatized ones hurt all the greater having had the nails of their affliction driven in further.

People clamor for positive change, but so few understand that, one, we cannot force people to change, and, two, we cannot instigate positive change by utilizing the same low level of consciousness as the perceived problem itself. Hate, anger, and resentment cannot heal trauma or instigate positive change: only love, compassion, and empathy can do that.

The Deli

A few years ago, I was walking by a local deli when I looked in and saw a friend sitting at a window seat. He waved for me to come in, and I did.

Just inside the door, the owner, who saw me enter while working in the back, asked if she could get me something. I said, “No, thanks,” and then sat down next to the friend to talk to him for several minutes before leaving.

While sitting there, the owner hadn’t said anything to me, and I can’t say what she’d felt. I would guess, though, that she’d been annoyed by what I’d done, as I’m sure a lot of people in her position would also have been. The deli is small, it’s a place of business, and it had been lunch time.

This awareness came in hindsight, however: I hadn't even realized my mistake until I randomly thought of the occurrence a year or so later. That is to say, at the time I’d erred, it hadn’t yet crossed my mind that I was doing something generally perceived as “wrong.”

Now, in this instance, suppose the deli owner would have said something to me about the faultiness of my actions. Would it really have been necessary or appropriate for her to have angrily shouted, “What the hell are you doing!? You think you can just walk into this place and hang around and talk? If you’re not going to buy anything, get out of here!” Couldn’t she have walked over and calmly said, “Hey, I’m running a business, and it’s lunch time. It’s not right of you to come in just to talk but not order anything. Would you please leave?”

In either scenario I would have both respected her request and learned what not to do should such a circumstance arise later on. In the latter case, however, I wouldn’t have had to potentially experience a whole gamut of feelings from fear to shame to anger, and I wouldn’t have had to walk away senselessly traumatized.

Just One Moment

All the situations discussed above have been similar. Yes, some may have carried more initial shock value than others.

But as I said earlier, if people would take only a moment’s rest before losing their composure—to consider the whole of the situation rather than being immediately washed away by their emotions—they’d see that, most likely, no harm was intended and there’s really no reason for them to get all bent out of shape, to attack their perceived offender, or maybe to shut their perceived offender out of their life altogether.

So if and when you feel like blowing the hell up at somebody, please take one moment—just that one moment—to stop and consider these two things:

Firstly, consider how you feel when someone else goes into a fit of rage at you because you’d unwittingly said or done something to bring their deep disapproval. Profoundly uncomfortable and quite unhelpful, is it not?

Secondly, consider that maybe the person who you perceive to have offended you doesn’t even know that he or she is wrong. Consider that maybe he or she isn’t wrong, but that you are.

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