If You Don’t Know Yourself, You Can’t Understand Others
Each of us, born with a specific DNA pattern and then shaped by our environment and life’s circumstances, has our own unique view of the world. In the words of Anaïs Nin:
“We see the world as ‘we’ are, not as ‘it’ is; because it is the “I” behind the ‘eye’ that does the seeing.”
This is something that I often have to remind myself of. When exasperated by what I consider the inexcusable behavior of another person, I’ll find myself muttering under my breath expletives about the offending party’s stupidity, arrogance, selfishness . . . (fill in the blank).
How can anyone think like that!!?? Assholes!
But all my anger does nothing to cause change in anyone else. Because real change comes from within. We can yell, punish, or state our opinions more forcefully, which may result in temporary (but false) change in others, or we can take a different approach.
One of my favorite books is Thank You for Being Such a Pain: Spiritual Guidance for Dealing with Difficult People by Mark I. Rosen, PhD. Notice the title is “spiritual” not “religious” guidance. This book is not preachy.
Mark Rosen defines a difficult person as:
Anyone whose words or actions provoke unwanted and unpleasant emotions; a difficult person is someone who causes us to feel things that we would rather not be feeling. [p. 15]
The purpose of defining a difficult person in terms of our own discomfort with the unpleasant feelings aroused, is to find a way to cope with these feelings that is productive and healing for us. It’s a way to get beyond being stuck in anger.
It’s not about excusing or tolerating bad behavior. Some people do evil things, and some actually get a kick out of it. It’s human to react with hurt and anger. And, if bad behavior escalates to a dangerous state, we need to get ourselves to safety before contemplating on why such behavior is occuring.
Yet, most the time, we are not in physical danger. Rather, we find ourselves angry at what someone said, or how they reacted (or didn’t react), or how we felt ignored or dissed. And we carry around our…