Why we treat each other the way we do
Yesterday, I told you about all the craziness that happened at my junior high school when I was a kid. And I said today I would tell you the rest of the story and what my mother told me that changed my life forever. So that's just what I'm gonna do…
First, a quick recap from yesterday:
- It's the early 70s
- Severe racial tension all over the US
- A riot broke out in my junior high school
- So much anger, so much fear
- Broken windows
- Flying chairs
- Screaming and fights in the halls
- Kids and teachers - scared and confused
- Everybody in the school is trying to get the hell out of there
And here's the rest of the story: When I finally left school and ran home, I saw my mother standing outside waiting for me. She must've heard what was going on.
She grabbed me…
The first thing out of my mouth was, "Why is everybody so angry? She looked at me and said, "When people are treated unfairly, and no one listens to them, they get angry."
I felt more love and compassion for people at that moment than ever before. My heart opened, and I imagined what it must feel like to be pushed aside and ignored.
A deep sadness took over, and I cried. I think I cried for all the people who felt angry and helpless and weren't being heard about their pain. But maybe I cried because I was just so overwhelmed with everything that had happened that day.
I was confused and didn't understand why everyone wasn't cared for, loved, or supported. Why was no one listening or doing anything to help?
I was only 15, but in an instant, everything was different.
From that point forward, it was like I was on a mission to figure out why we treat each other the way we do. I paid close attention and saw the same kind of behavior and response in big and small ways with all sorts of people and in all types of relationships.
So many folks in pain don't feel heard and live their lives with little hope that things will ever be different. But don't get me wrong…
After all these years, I have seen a lot of change.
As I said yesterday, there is good and bad news. Much has changed for the better since the 70s, but there's still so much left to do.
It's like a house with the kitchen and bathrooms remodeled. However, other rooms are still a disaster. They need upgrades to make it a comfortable and peaceful home for the entire family.
But here's the problem…
We spend all our efforts creating superficial change that doesn't last because we refinish the floors but never look under the floorboards.
After many years of exploration, education, and experimentation, I realized how we treat each other has become normal because it's cemented into the foundation of our culture.
The simple truth is…
99.9% of the problems in our lives are due to the ineffective and harmful culturally approved ways we behave with each other.
You heard me right.
And it's also true for the difficulties we see in the world.
Can you relate to any of this?
Have you ever spent time defending your position or trying to say things just the right way so your intimate partner doesn't get triggered?
Or do you stuff your feelings to avoid difficult conversations, so you don't get judged or blamed for being the problem? (Never any fun.)
With your family, how much time have you spent rebelling against being told what to do, or giving up on what you want, and just going with someone else's ideas of what's right for you?
Or do you have someone in your family on the other side of the political divide, and you would like to keep your heart open but can hardly imagine how to do that?
How about in your business relationships? Have you ever spent days, weeks, months, or even years jockeying for a position? Or have to work harder than anyone else to get promoted? Or do you just keep your head down to stay out of your boss's line of fire?
And then there's social media… It's hard even to imagine how much time we spend online worrying about what people think of us or trying to look good. And how many people have you seen making assumptions, getting defensive, or attacking people for their "bad" behavior?
Isn't it all so exhausting?
And what about the "big" stuff? So many people spend a ton of time and energy trying to change things to reflect their image of the world.
But it doesn't look like they care or have the skills to consider anyone besides themselves and people who agree with their point of view.
And you know what else?
Since none of this crap works very well... We're left confused, irritated, overwhelmed, or worse. And often give up on the changes we want to see in our lives, communities, and the world.
But why? What has us treat each other the way we do?
Remember yesterday I told you I would explain why I believe there is so much chaos and uncertainty in the world?
It's what's cemented into the foundation and hiding under the floorboards.
It would be best if you sat down for this one.
Are you ready?
It's our good/bad - right/wrong cultural paradigm.
Yeah, it's weird to think about it this way. But let's take a peek under the house. What do you believe has us care so much about what other people think?
Why are we hesitant to speak our minds? What causes our defensiveness or desire to explain or justify our position? Well, we don't want to be made wrong, and we don't want to get judged, blamed, or criticized.
Why do we rebel against being told what to do? Because they're wrong, and we are right.
Why do we give up on what we want? They may be right, and we may be wrong. Or why is it hard to keep our hearts open if someone disagrees with us? Because I am right and they're wrong, or they might be right, and I might be wrong. Take your pick.
And we all know it's bad to be wrong, good to be right!! You can take any of the other examples above or anything you don't enjoy happening today, and I could show you the exact right/wrong – good/bad theme ingrained in each one.
Typically, what I would say next is it's not your fault, and there's no one to blame for this. And that's truer than you know because "fault "and "blame" are all part of the rot under the floorboards.
It's in the air we breathe, and we are taught this from birth. It's what our parents learn and their parents before them – we don't even know there's another choice.
And trust me, I know even this might be hard to fathom. I've been exploring this for nearly 20 years, and I can't find one problem where this right/wrong paradigm isn't at the core of it.
Please understand, I'm not telling you all this to get you more depressed, but because…
We have to get conscious of what's happening before anything changes.
It's like planning a trip to a new city. You wouldn't just blindly set off without first consulting a map (AKA GPS) to see where you are going and how to get there.
You would use the map to orient yourself. As in: I'm here, and the city I want to get to is over there. That's the only way you can make a conscious, informed decision about your route.
Likewise, it's also important to be aware of the "map" when it comes to changing a paradigm. Where are we on the map now with our cultural beliefs and values shaping our thinking and behavior?
By being conscious of this map, we can make more informed choices about how we interact with others and navigate this beautiful crazy-ass world.
Well, there it is - THE MAP - of where we are now.
But please keep the faith because where we are doesn't have to be our final destination, I promise. We just have to start doing things differently.
If we all take this journey together, we can find the perfect place to build a new house with a stronger foundation - where everyone feels safe and cared for.
In tomorrow's email, I'll tell you about the three myths that keep us stuck and spinning in this pattern of good/bad and right/wrong thinking. (You may be surprised by what I'm going to tell you.)
And I'll also show you a few shortcuts to a new and extraordinary destination. Trust me; It will be a good one!
P.S. I would so love to hear from you... If you're willing, hit reply and let me know if you relate to any of the examples above - You know, those ineffective but typical ways we behave with each other.
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