Sunday, 3 January 2010

You see what you go looking for........

My dad always had a pretty negative view of others and the world in general. His fear and paranoia made him suspect everyone (mostly those that he did not know) of stupidity and wrongdoing. I appreciate now that this contempt for others was just a result of his insecurity and fear. For years I never challenged this view, having been immersed in it from babyhood. However, in early adulthood, I did start to reject this outlook and our relationship suffered as a result. I no longer let him regularly tell me that everyone was dim, made stupid decisions and that nobody was capable of kindness or giving.

In a phone call a few months before he died his particular irritation that day was towards the terrible people that drove (their 4X4s) to pick their kids up from the school near his house. OK there is a green argument here but his getting angry in his house was not doing anyone any good - in fact it was just harming him (and actually he adopted the 'we're all doomed' approach to green issues anyway!). I more or less said, what I just wrote, to him and he got a bit angry. However, I think he was a little meeker than usual (he was ill) and I believe I managed to get a bit of a message across to him by telling him the following story. I can't remember who told me this story originally or where it comes from but I love its lesson.

You see what you go looking for...
There were two identical cities twenty miles apart. In one lived a man called Optimy and in the other a man called Pessimy. Optimy loved his city, Pessimy hated his. One day Optimy decided to go travelling. He'd heard of a city about twenty miles away and thought it was time to visit. On the same day Pessimy made the same decision - he thought it was time to find a better place to live.

Ten miles from the two different cities they had both left, Optimy and Pessimy bumped into each other. They asked each other what the city they were travelling to was like. Pessimy said,
‘The city I left is full of beggars and thieves,’ whereas Optimy said,
‘the city I just left is full of happy and kind people.’ Both men travelled on and were surprised to find a city full of not what the man they met said, but of the same things that were in the city they had just left. In other words, Optimy saw a city full of happy kind people and Pessimy just saw beggars and thieves.

I had to tell this to my dad very quickly so he would listen and not interrupt. His response was, 'have you ever thought of studying psychology?' !!!!! I just replied that, yes there's lots in the world that is awful, but there's also lots that's great so you can either spend all your time looking at the horrible stuff and making yourself feel terrible or you can try and focus on the positive. (I am not belittling the many catastrophic injustices in the world, I am just talking about day to day existence - and a general demeanour!).

Same with people really. Everyone has weaknesses but everyone has strengths too. What do we tend to choose to focus on and 'label' people permanently with so they cannot start afresh? People do irritate me sometimes of course, but I try to own that irritation - especially if it is something that I know doesn't irrirate everyone - as after all it was me that got irritated - something inside me. And I am pretty sure I irritate others. This is not to say there are not people I avoid...people that my psyche really cannot deal with....not yet anyway.

So despite early lessons in fear, doom and gloom, I'm sniffing the flowers.


  1. Actually I just re-read that, makes my dad sound awful. To people he knew and respected he was a cheerful and loyal friend with a fantastic sense of was 'all those other bu**ers out there!'

  2. I enjoy your posts - always something to think about

  3. Drivers often put on an "everyone else is an idiot" hat when they set off in their cars.

    You do see what you look for, though.

    I remember at one point in my life hearing two holiday reports. One couple had had a fantastic time, met lots of interesting people, Fabulous. The others experienced rude waiters, inconsiderate hotel staff, the lot.

    It was about the holiday-makers themselves, not their holidays, I decided.

  4. Thanks for your depths Molly :) I often wonder about the irritation in others, as to whether it is a mirroring of something inside of me that I haven't looked at ;-)

  5. Hi everyone...thank you Mark - really thank you..I was worried this post was a tad sanctimonious!!

    Cogitator - your comment made me think about my post on evaluations a while ago - about how they tell me more about the person that filled them in than the quality of training I delivered. People are half full, half empty or brimming over....and to some extent it's their choice (aside from a bit of genetics that will give them a certain disposition!!!) When I am in a car I always say...we all make mistakes at some point...let's try and be forgiving when it's someone else's turn!!!!

    Ooo Heron, time to start reading some Jung!!!! I will probably blog about the unconscious at some point but in a nutshell...he said, the things we find irritating in others can often be things we have suppressed ourselves. An example...if we are irritated by someone's outlandish, flamboyant show-offy behaviour, it's because we have consciously chosen to be 'contained' and our outlandish side was suppressed into our subconscious. So our conscious grates with it...and our unconscious screams to be let out!! Others see our unconscious more than we do ourselves because our ego filters everything for us to keep it all manageable..i.e. we unconsciously resist seeing what we have suppressed. oops - off I went.

  6. Bit hard on an ailing man in bungalow suburbia where he didn't belong, I reckon!!!

    I see vicars and hairdressers...!

    Cogitator - apparently endings are really really important with holidays. Say you have a fab holiday but something bad happens in the very last bit, you are likely to put a bad slant on the holiday and remember it as bad. And vice versa. Just to add another possibility to it!

  7. Not sure about the endings bit, Claire. I can see it makes sense, but if I've had a good holiday, I'm floating, and no amount of airport hassle, rain, delays or bad food can touch me.

    I suppose, on the other hand, I've never come back to something major like a house burnt down, family death or anything.

  8. I also think it's worth adding that "pessimism" doesn't always mean"unhappiness". Genetically, I come from a long line of what I'd call dissatisfied people; Things, situations, people, colours, food, other peoples opinions, attitudes, politics, manners, all can make me generally feel quite irritated, but equally they can do the opposite. Also you can draw a lot of positives from moaning about stuff, sometimes it helps to really make you see the positives in your own life. I'm a glass half empty person, but I guess that means I'm always a mouthful closer to the next full glass than most people.

  9. You have intrigued me Nick...I think I have questions about what you have written - but I might have to think further before I ask!!! I don't see pessisim as simply equating to unhappiness...that bit I am sure about....but I will have to think about the rest!

    I do struggle with a lot of moaning though!

    I think you are a optimistic in your pessimism.

  10. Oh and I meant to dad really did like the story - in his own way!

  11. Nick, I love that mouthful closer to the next full glass thing! I am also I think a naturally 'dissatisfied' person and as a result I chase that next full glass pretty hard with often rewarding results and experiences and memories that I otherwise wouldn't have had - which in turn make me feel more satisfied!

  12. Could I said, the more I chase (do), the more satisfied (full up) I become. Remember the title of my life film is Project xxx


I LOVE comments......