I don’t remember where I first heard that, but when I did it started a powerful process of forgiveness and understanding that is still ongoing. At a certain point, when we are ready, we can finally see that the things we did that got us scolded, corrected, that bent others out of shape was not who we were and we ultimately were not being scolded, just our behavior, but neither us or the scolder could likely see that at the time. We can start looking objectively and releasing ourselves to the world from behind our common and habitual behaviors.
Our behavior so often meets others at their behavior. But because we run our lives without this distinction between our behavior and ourselves, we build narrow relationships, whole systems of punishment and ideas of identity that balance on this faulty evaluation.
People become related to and labeled as drug addicts, womanizers, criminals, self-centered, lazy, etc.. The person becomes synonymous with our mental or cognitive illnesses or issues as well. We are not very good at seeing the person behind the behavior, because we don’t want that behavior present in our lives, it makes us uncomfortable or threatens us. The best way to keep it out is to slap the label on and then fight the behavior or avoid it altogether. It’s also the best way to perpetuate the behavior, because that person’s sense of disconnection from others grows. For all of us who got the idea stuck in our heads that we were bad kids, do you remember how that label affected you? How it still might?
We defend our behavior as ourselves. Our parents did when we built up the umbrage to question them on their ways. Do you remember what it was like when you were in full swing of being critical of your parents? How right you were, how uncomfortable it was to see them keep doing or saying that thing? It may still drive you bananas. Their behavior was not them either. More often than not, their love for you met their fear for your safety and well being and that is just rarely a pretty place to come from and so largely misunderstood. The fear comes through most of all and we are impacted on a visceral level. We are either seduced or repulsed by each other’s fear. You have long-standing issues with them or other people in your life, but are you any more willing to disengage from your own behaviors and look objectively at whether they really work for you, your commitments and your relationships?
It’s a rare person who is willing to have their behavior questioned, rarer still to find someone willing to question their own without it being part of some old self-flagellation ritual (the bad kid). No one is really up for looking when it hits a place where the hurt that birthed these behaviors was so bad, so clear to the person either consciously or unconsciously (the hurt and the automatic behavior coming up without us even noticing it). The reaction, defending will always show up loudly and clearly. It takes powerful practice to keep going after self-defense kicks in and just look, without stopping from feeling made wrong or dominated.
See your heart open when you notice your pull to judge someone and you just allow that to pass and try to get present to the person. We’re judging all the time. You can try this on line for coffee, riding the subway, sitting down for a meeting, looking at photos of people you’ve heard of on magazines or the web, when your caller ID pops up and you know who’s calling. All of their behaviors that helped you form this judgment, all of the ways it worked or didn’t work with you and your reactions has us staying at this level of engagement with others, with ourselves. It scuttles the possibility of freedom from behaviors that reinforce pain, fear, disconnection, lack of intimacy, acts of violence. It keeps us chained to fear, to avoiding discomfort and to self-defense.
The stress benefits alone from not getting caught up in judgments and reactions is worth it. Try it and get back to me. It takes practice.