“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”
― William James
What? You might be thinking… I am unique and special, or.. I’m not as good as others or there’s no way I’m like THEM.
I am writing today because it is becoming more clear to me all the time just how much we are alike. Of course we have our unique quirks and strengths and bodies and desires, but let’s look under that. As I prepare to travel and meet other people I am always struck by how we are all dealing with similar internal issues and feelings. We all want to feel better and be happy, even if we seem to sometimes go about it in unhealthy ways.. ie. no one does drugs because they want to feel worse. At the core of our human existence, we are more the same than different. OK, now how is this helpful?
When we drum up a case about Them, it’s often negative and puts you in the victim role. Your nervous system reacts and starts the stress response including muscle tension, stress chemicals and general negativity. When we can see that parts of Them are like parts of Us, the scope widens and we can relax and see it in a bigger view. It does not mean you have to accept what you do not like or want, just understanding it can bring about marvelous change and creative solutions.
I was in a workshop a few years ago with John Bradshaw, author of many self-help books and some of the first books written on shame. He did the following exercise: Write down 3 people in your life that irritate you the most. Now write down what it is about them that irritates you: what quality, behaviour or trait bugs you? With mindfulness we can start to bring our unconscious patterns to the surface.
Usually we find that the 3 qualities or traits are similar or the same. Now, for the interesting part… how do you feel about that quality in yourself?
Chances are, it is a part of yourself you’re not on good terms with. Let me explain. We learn at a very young age what parts of us are acceptable, and what parts aren’t (yes- we are doing this to our own kids). The parts that aren’t acceptable get locked away and become ‘exiled’, but they still exist. Now when we are confronted with someone who mirrors those parts… it’s really uncomfortable!! Ask yourself.. what is it that I can’t accept about this person and why? Sometimes you can uncover a BIG FAT CORE BELIEF such as “he’s lazy… Laziness is bad” or “She’s a show-off, I was taught never to show off“, “He’s so self-centred. You must be humble” or “She’s greedy. One must have self-control“.
The things about beliefs (remember beliefs are just thoughts you keep thinking) is that they are like moldy sandwiches. When you find them…..ewww, they’re messy… but now you have the wonderful chance to clean them up.
Try it: Do the exercise above and see what comes up. By the way… we are often attracted to partners that hold our dormant traits… and then those traits become the irritants until we see we have them ourselves. Shine the light on yourself and experience a new freedom by not being trapped by unconscious beliefs. This is not to say you must go out and be lazy, show off and talk about yourself til you’re the last one awake! But maybe, just maybe, you could try a lazy day, promote yourself, or contribute more about yourself to a conversation. Once you can see and touch your core beliefs, you can laugh and say “Oh- you again”. Poof. No more power. More alike than different.
“When you tug on a single thing in nature, you find it attached to the rest of the world”