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.