The other day I was reflecting on something that had happened that rubbed me the wrong way. As I played it out again in my mind, I noticed how little time it took before I went down the “I can’t believe how wrong this is” rabbit hole.
And I mean it.
I was hell bent on coming up with 100,000 ways that this thing that had happened
TO ME was just plain WRONG. Awful, in fact.
Which of course (from this perspective), meant that the person involved in this interaction with me was also VERY WRONG. Not just wrong though.
Undeniably, insanely wrong. Defective, flawed, a hopeless case.
So wrong in fact, I could feel with 100% absolute certainty in my body, that this person was not fit for society.
Talk about a raw nerve being touched.
Thankfully, it didn’t take me too long down this rabbit hole to recognize that I had emotionally slipped back into my childhood. I quickly realized that the intensity and irrationality of my reaction was more about some historical experience than what was happening in the here and now.
I mean, I did not like what had happened to me, but that didn’t automatically qualify this person as bad or wrong.
Something was obviously amiss for me and the last thing that I needed was to be harsh or judgmental towards myself for something this unconscious getting touched inside of me.
So, I took a deep breath and stayed gentle with myself as I breathed into my discomfort.
Later, as I reflected on this experience, I began to consider how many people make things that they don’t like, things that are different or even dissatisfying to them, bad or wrong.
I imagine that the number of people who do this is probably astronomical.
It’s a simplified way to try to make some sense of feelings happening in the here and now that feel intense or maybe even a wee bit irrational.
And it happens so fast, far below your radar of consciousness.
The confusing part is that although these feelings have been triggered in the here and now, your irrational reaction to what is happening, really isn’t about now.
This kind of reaction towards someone or something else is always a clue that you’ve emotionally reverted back to your childhood.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
Nowhere in all of nature and mankind does right/wrong exist, other than in math. Nowhere.
For sure, there are things that happen that you like a whole lot more than other things that happen that you find offensive or don’t like.
That’s what personal preferences are all about.
Each of us are wired differently, need different things or approach the world differently based upon our unique characteristics, our life stories. And yes, people very often have different preferences than you.
That doesn’t mean those things (or people) are bad / wrong.
It simply means that they’re different from you and want something other than what you need to be satisfied with life.
It means that you have a preference for some other choice or type of behavior than what is happening.
It means that you prefer to be treated differently than what they are capable of doing.
It means that you have a different approach to life, loving, or managing your affairs than them.
It means that you would choose a different way to communicate or talk to someone.
But all these differences do not mean bad or wrong for the “other” and good and right for you..
It just means something different.
Sadly, our world does not do a fantastic job of supporting individuality and uniqueness. Here in the United States of America, our country prides itself on rugged individualism and “going for what you want”.
Yet, the minute someone deviates from the “norm”, they are vilified and made “extreme” or radical.
How sad and confusing then, for those brave people courageous enough to “go for their lives” especially if doing so looks different than the rest of the crowd.
I mean face it, who’s going to stay connected to their own “true north” if that means ostracization from society and those they love and depend upon for support and survival?
What I have come to learn in my work as a therapist is that in many cases, “different” touches fear inside of people.
People are afraid of what they don’t understand. Whether that happens inside or outside of them.
It’s a survival approach to life, an old vestige from our early ancestors who had many more threats to their literal existence and often only could survive if they made quick conclusions about their primitive encounters.
It was very effective then, but today leaves little room for connection and understanding.
It’s hard to move towards something that you’re afraid of, even if it’s not a scary thing. No wonder so many people feel disconnected from each other.
I realize how counterintuitive it is to consider that your way of operating and understanding the world might not be as evolved as you’ve been led to believe.
It is difficult to consider this. Especially when someone or something so different than you is standing right in front of you.
You might ask yourself though, the next time this happens, is this person or experience really bad or wrong or am I afraid of what it is about them that I don’t understand?
It’s worth a shot.
Making room for “other” does not mean that you have to change or give up who you are.
It simply means moving over so that the other person can have a seat too.
Kate is an INFJ-3 on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Enneagram.