A friend sent me a recent article by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Its essence was that we deserve the best and so when people treat us badly we should move away from them, have only those who cherish us in our life.
Many thousands of people thanked him for the article. It was a beautiful piece of writing.
And what more powerfully healthy message can there be than that we all deserve kindness, compassion, love, cherishing?
Let’s not ever forget that message. It is vital.
But it is missing a crucial element…
And that element is that…
There is no other. Not in the way they appear.
The other is not an objective, independent, fixed entity. It is not something or someone separate from an apparently objective, independent, fixed me.
The other is the mirror of everything believed about the me.
The way you appear in this moment. The way the world appears,. The way all experiences appear is a creation of the same beliefs that are creating this idea of me right now.
When I am tired, low and insecure, words take on different meanings than they otherwise would, people can seem harsher, less caring, experiences are more troubling. In these moments all the attention is on ending the suffering of self. I can’t get enough from out there to satiate this lack and so everyone falls short.
It is all made of the same stuff. There is no separate me and no separate other.
When this isn’t clear, insecurity, lowness or fear can kick off a cycle of withdrawal that has no resolution.
You offended me so I’m going to withdraw from you. That separation from you makes me feel worse not better (because really you are part of me). So I close down even more in an attempt to suffer less. I become more vigilant, more defensive, more prickly. And all the time I am looking for things that will secure me, make me feel whole not realising that I am looking for wholeness in separation. I am fruitlessly looking for security and stability in the ultimate transient city of thought.
Defences multiply. The list of personae non gratae lengthens. My world shrinks.
Which is a shame.
Because we’re not here to get smaller, tighter, more contracted.
So let’s turn it all the right way round.
Instead of being watchful of other people’s behaviour (because it can never be judged objectively), let’s notice the way it is perceived.
Let’s notice the elements of our self identity and self belief that their behaviour seems to be transgressing.
Let’s notice what is actually offended and hurt.
Let’s notice that we are doing exactly the same to them.
Let’s acknowledge the times in the past that we have done exactly the same to other people.
This is not easy. The shields and armour built up in that identity were there for a reason. Often in childhood. They had to be. That abrupt fall from nothing but love into the world of confusion meant that every protection was inevitable and necessary and perhaps even life preserving.
But the shields continue to create the danger even when the danger has long passed.
The telescopic sight of the defence rifle reveals only the frightening past. Meanwhile the present is overlooked.
As the armour falls away, as the weapons are lowered, we see people, not through the castle wall embrasures and arrow slits, but really see them. As presence. As intelligence. As love. We see their confusion, their harsh words and actions, their helpless search mirroring ours.
And now maybe, for the first time, there is honesty, understanding.
Maybe for the first time, we can ask for what we want. Tell people how we would like to be treated. Not shouting it in their faces or in abrupt texts. Or to anyone else but them. Or through silences and cold shoulders. Or through unvoiced expectation. Or through blocking, withdrawing and going NC. Or over and over again in exhaustively replayed scenarios in our own ruminating, resentful mind.
Just simply telling them, from the love of what we are already.
Showing, with our own actions towards them, how what we want is possible. (How else could they know?)
So yes, dear Sir Anthony. You are right, of course. We all deserve only kindness, compassion and love.
And it starts here with us. No one else.