How we see ourselves, and how we see others…

Photo by Andrew Nicholson

We all respond to life differently depending on how we feel. However, these differences in responses can be so wide and varied, that we can often feel like we’re completely different people, both within ourselves, and towards others when we’re going through life’s highs and lows.

Here are just a few our natural responses during the lows:

  • Guilt – when we feel guilt, our typical response is to blame others.
  • Shame – our behaviour revolves around humiliation.
  • Fear – our response is anxiety.
  • Pride – our response is scornful towards others.
  • Anger – our response is to become very critical, judgemental, sometimes even hateful.
  • Grief – our behaviour revolves around regret.

You can see just how varied they are. From these emotions, our responses become judgmental and negative; we find ourselves easily offended, feeling jealous, angry, sad, annoyed or frustrated, because our natural filters (how we view the world) will tend to make us believe that another’s behaviour is somehow aimed at us. We seem unable to separate ourselves from it, rarely wondering why someone is actually behaving that way, or what this may mean about them on a personal level.

When we’re experiencing one of the higher emotional states, our responses are dramatically different.

  • Courage – when we feel courage, our response is through our strength, stepping into that part of ourselves which wants to move beyond our fears.
  • Willingness – our response becomes optimistic.
  • Reasoning – our response is to understand situations, rather than automatically becoming offended by them.
  • Acceptance – our response is forgiveness, so we don’t take things personally because we understand that we’ve all been there, and those who are having a negative response to the world at any given time are doing so because they’re struggling with something at that particular time.
  • Love – (this is not falling in love with someone else, it means to become a loving person within yourself) our responses become all of the five above. It is self-acceptance and not taking things personally.

Each and every one of us have this range of emotional responses, plus more. Which is why on any given day, we might respond very differently to something than on another day. This of course explains why others do too. It may help you to understand the well known phrase ‘What others think of you is none of your business’, because the simple fact is that what others think of you will depend very much on which of these emotional states they’re experiencing at any given moment. If they’re in one of the lower emotional states, they may respond negatively or judgmentally. If in one of the higher emotional states, they’re likely to respond with understanding, acceptance and optimism. However, where someone else is on this emotional scale at any given point in time is simply not yours to decide.

The scale of emotions brings with it a very powerful level of awareness of self and others. If someone else’s behaviour has the power to shift your energy and drag you down, then are you taking responsibility? Or are you handing over your emotional remote control and giving someone else permission to decide your emotions for you? You know the answer to this, but do you know how to take charge of your emotional remote control?

The wise Eleanor Roosevelt said ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’. Yet we do just that when we dip into shame and guilt, overly focusing on what we perceive others think of us. Some go through life literally looking for reasons to be offended and finding it at every turn.

It’s in these situations that we feel like victims. If you think about it logically for a moment, then if you don’t know on any given day how you’re going to feel or respond to life, and your emotions can come crashing down in an instant because this is decided for you by others, then of course you’re going to feel like a victim. What this actually means too, is that your happiness depends very much on the happiness and behaviour of others. Again, this is simply not something you can decide for them.

It is very powerful how sitting in judgment of another has the ability to bring out the worst in them. They sense it and reflect it straight back towards you, giving you even more to sit in judgment of. Losing that judgment has quite the opposite effect, because they sense the lack of it too, and tend to step into the best of themselves around you.

The most effective way to achieve this is to be able to see and understand others’ behaviour fully. Without understanding behaviour, the way most people tend to feel good in spite of it is to surround themselves with positive thinking tools which can often also act as barriers. In other words, no one can get close enough to hurt you. Not allowing someone else’s behaviour to effect you, yet not actually understanding it either, is very surface-level awareness.

If you find yourself taking offence at others’ behaviour often, or judging others regularly, then it’s definitely a signal that things need to change. However, the something that needs to change is within you. The change is three-fold:

  1. Understanding how you experience and perceive the world, and what motivates you.
  2. Understanding how others experience and perceive the world, and what motivates them.
  3. And once you know these two things, then part three is to observe HOW you are perceiving others experiencing their own world, but through your own model of perception – are you sitting in a place of judgment, or seeing with loving eyes?

These days, instead of judging others, I observe how or if I am judging others, because that is where my true learning is. Doing so tells me what my emotional state is at any given time and whether I have mastered my own level of understanding. This is all I can realistically take responsibility for.

Remember, when we judge others, we rarely define them. Instead we define ourselves as someone who needs to sit in judgement of others. In other words, we define ourselves as being in one of the lower emotional states and intolerant towards the different ways others experience life, and that is all…

This is our blind spot. This is where we miss ourselves entirely, because in order to sit in judgement we must truly believe that our way is the only way. The truth is that this simply is not true – our way is only one of many.

One of the most perception-altering tools we teach are the behavioural traits of the 9 Enneagram models of the world (the 9 ego types). Each of these 9 ways of being have a different motivational drive which brings with it a very different experience of life and thus very different behaviour. Each will manipulate in a certain way to protect their motivating drive when facing challenge. Understanding these ways of being, particularly the behaviour which unfolds when each of these types are in a lower vibrational state, allows you to see, understand and in most cases forgive, much of human behaviour without making it a somehow about you and therefore a reason to feel offended.

On a personal level, this understanding has allowed us to have a great deal of empathy towards behaviour, whilst not being manipulated by any of it. Manipulation loses all of its power when the motivation behind it is fully seen and understood – and this means manipulation on a seemingly positive level (for instance, a ‘player’ seducing you into bed by making you feel wonderful) and on a negative level (someone emotionally blackmailing you).

It also means we had to face up to our own ways of manipulating and learn to let them go. This has had a powerfully positive impact on all our relationships, particularly with ourselves and each other. Most people are blissfully unaware of their own shadow side, yet wonder why they face continual difficulties in their relationships, intimate and otherwise. Behaviour is generally always blamed on the other individual, because we rarely ever observe or see ourselves. We tend to think we are the ‘sane’ one, and it’s the rest of the world which is suffering from some form of madness…

This journey has had the most profound impact on our ability to experience a deeply authentic sense of inner peace. We have had to work from the inside out, facing our own shadow in the process, owning it fully, and learning to release the behaviour which wasn’t serving us with conscious awareness. Positive psychology is a wonderful tool for feeling better instantaneously, but when the shadow side is left unseen and disowned, it continues to surface time and time again. There is no amount of icing over things which will work long-term, until you can see and own all aspects of yourself. Doing so is an awakening from within, bringing you into connection with your own consciousness.

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