Has this ever happened to you? You're scrolling through your social media feed when you come across something that really catches your attention simply because of how profoundly idiotic it sounds? Like I'm talking a whole other level of stupidity where this person appears to have gone full retard and it's like witnessing the tragic beauty of a car crash - something both deeply horrifying and strangely alluring at the same time. It's so emotionally triggering to you in the moment that you just can't let it go. You couldn't even if you tried, that's how bad it is. You have to stop and push back on whatever it is, because some part of you deep down feels like, if you were to allow that bullshit to perpetuate, it would just ripple out and create so many more problems in the world and it seems like such a simple fix, you wonder why no one else has bothered to do anything about it already.
In a way, it almost feels like you don't have control over your own mind and body. That you're being guided by some invisible hand, driven by some higher unseen force that you can't explain, but which feels absolutely real to you in the moment.
So you stop, like the good samaritan that you are, thinking this will only take a second of your time. A simple course correction and they'll be back on the right track and you can feel quite good about yourself, knowing you helped make the world a better place.
Only it doesn't go as you imagined. Not at all!
This person, it turns out, was not only dumber than you first thought (which in itself is an unholy miracle), but far more stubborn as well. Even worse, they insist on just being absolutely wrong about everything, which only pisses you off even more; and so you double down until suddenly you find you've wasted half the day on this bullshit and you're no closer to changing their mind, but you just feel really angry and exhausted and wound up for reasons you can't quite articulate.
Maybe you even wanna bunch that person for getting you so worked up over absolutely nothing ...
Personally I'm grossly offended by people who are easily offended by stuff.
... but you can't, cuz it's the internet and you don't know who they are or where they're from; or even if you do, it's probably half a world away, such that the amount of energy and resources required to fly out there isn't worth the effort, and you still haven't quite perfected telepathic mind control - which would have been useful for avoiding all this in the first place.
To say nothing of the fact you can't punch them through your screen either, like you've seen in cartoons.
Worst of all, that's time you won't get back that you could have used to do literally anything else and have it be more productive, which is just a salty cherry on top of that vexatious sundae of vitriol.
I know I've wasted my share of days on pointless bullshit like that too.
Maybe the demands of real life finally come and drag you away such that you're forced to take a break from the conversation; or maybe you just get so fed up with this person that you wind up flipping the table, or smashing your phone on the ground, or just something where you up and rage quit from the whole thing entirely and storm off, a boiling hot mess.
Quite possibly, the stress starts to seep into other areas of your life, compounding the problem.
In that time, your passive aggressive side comes out and you start plotting all the ways you wish you could get back at this person and fuck them over. You'll show them! They'll rue the day they ever decided to waste your precious time with their flagrant wrongness!!
Just a dark wizard fantasizing about holding your enemy's feet to the fire ...
right before you drop the rest of them into it. We've all been there.
But then you take a few deep breaths, eat some comfort food, go for a walk, have a cold shower, work out, put on some thrashing mood music, play some violent video games, or whatever else it is you do to ultimately get it out of your system and calm back down.
Suddenly, the burning anger begins to subside and is now little more than smoldering coals.
Maybe you grumble about it and feel bitter, but the more introspective part of you is slowly starting to think that maybe your own actions had contributed in some small part (or, more likely, a fairly large part) as to why that all went south. Indeed, it takes two to tango.
Keep watering that particular fire.
You withdraw into yourself, to that secret place within the darkest depths of your own conscious mind, somewhere amidst your private fortress of solitude, your own built-in safe space, to gaze upon the reflective pools of self-knowledge. Only now do you begin to take stock of your emotions.
That little voice inside your head begins to question you:
Did I listen to respond or to understand? Was I even listening to the other person at all? Did I make a good-faith attempt to acknowledge when they made a valid point or did I just try to force my position onto them? Was I working towards mutual understanding or was I simply looking to one-up them?
To satisfy my own ego?
Did I make the best argument I could? Were they responding negatively to my facts or, more likely, the way in which I was presenting those facts? Was it what I said, or how I said it? Did I happen to say something particularly off-putting? Or at least that could have been easily misinterpreted as off-putting? Had I somehow offended them in some way? Did they feel dehumanized? Did they feel like I didn't care about them as a person and that's why they got so defensive?
Did I even bother to ask?
Did I ask for clarification of something I didn't understand? And did I offer clarification on something they clearly weren't getting? Did I recognize a fault in one of their underlying premises and try to reframe what I was saying instead of simply beating a dead horse, repeating the same thing over and over again? Maybe they would have been more receptive if only I'd been aware enough to phrase things slightly differently.
Why I was I so angry with them?
I was angry because I didn't like what they said initially, but what about after that, for those many hours the conversation dragged on? I was angry because I felt like I wasn't being listened to. Like my concerns were invalid. Like my feelings didn't matter. Like the truth as I understood it, and my worldview, and all my nuanced experiences didn't matter to them. I could shrug it off if they were just wrong about the facts, but something in this made it feel deeply personal, very visceral.
I felt like they didn't respect me as a feeling, thinking human being. As an equal. Somehow, my sense of self-importance and smug, self-righteous superiority and correctness had been flipped on its head.
I felt dehumanized. Like my life, my existence, didn't matter.
To them, I was just some troll, some mindless robot, some object.
How did all this happen? How did it all go so wrong? Moreover, why didn't anyone stop me and point any of this out or correct me along the way? Why didn't I recognize any of this and stop myself?
The answer is, it takes a great degree of security and power to be able to overcome one's ego. If you have that, then people's opinions don't matter to you, because what can they do to you? Not much at all. It's only when you are dealing with someone of greater or equal power than you that you feel an egoistic need to plant your feet and stand and fight, because part of your brain is whispering softly that this is a fight for survival and that something deep in the darkest depths of our subconscious associates being wrong with death.
I've used the example before, if you see something on the ground that looks like a snake and it turns out to be a stick, you suffer less from not picking it up than if you pick it up and it turns out to actually be a poisonous snake that bites you.
Being wrong means death!!
This an ancient circuit hardwired deep into our unconscious minds. Thus, we evolved complex brains capable of critical thinking and self-analysis to be able to abstract problems and create fictions in our minds to test things out, so as to avoid pain and death.
We are still evolving.
Imperfect, programmable Moist Robots that we are, we are still learning, still growing, still trying to understand the vast complexities of our world.
Treat others as you would wanna be treated. It's a simple enough concept to understand, but hard to put into practice, because very often times - especially in the heat of the moment when we're under a lot of stress and just reacting based on emotional impulses - we don't exactly have the wherewithal to understand ourselves and how we wanna be treated. We aren't thinking, we're just feeling, and then expecting the other person to think while we ignore their feelings.
Thus, we are speaking past each other.
We are not operating on the same plane, either intellectually or emotionally, and thus there can be no meeting of the minds somewhere in the middle. We are disengaged from the other person and thus can no more get a message across than a radio tuned to receive a different frequency than the one being transmitted. So all we wind up hearing is static and noise.
The way to overcome this is to become more aware of how we feel, not what we think. Our feelings will guide the rest. People will relate better to us if we can match their emotional tone. Thus, we need to be the ones to readjust ourselves first. To turn our dials and recalibrate, because it's unlikely the other person will think to do this.
They might, but it's also possible they might never realize it.
Bruce Lee used to say, "Be like water." Water is the element of emotion. Water is only hard when it's cold. When it's wet, water is soft, deep, gentle, reflective, receptive, patient, adaptive, transmutable, flowing. It serves as a carrier of information and memory. It takes on the shape of whatever is around it and seeks to level off and return to stillness.
Once you stop, reflect, and become receptive, soft, and still, you will be able to adapt to the person you're speaking with, matching their level.
From there, once you've established a clear signal, you can rise up to a higher frequency, a higher emotional tone. So long as they can see what you're doing and where you're going, they should follow you willingly, but you still have to be willing to adapt on the fly. To dial it back if necessary, in case you lose them again.
That takes a great deal of empathy and patience.
More than you might have or be willing to devote to this issue.
This is why it's important to step back and assess just how meaningful this particular fight really is to you. Whether it's something worth getting up in arms about, or would it be better to use your time, energy, and resources doing something else?
Assuming it's worth it, though, you will suddenly find yourself spurred on by that same invisible force that led you in the first place down this dark and dismal road. Only now, it doesn't seem quite as dark or as dismal, because you've left your own darkness behind and allowed your inner light to shine through and be seen. To serve as a beacon and a signal for the other person to hopefully reciprocate, because you are both fundamentally beings of light.
The light in me honors the light in you.
Darkness is the absence of light. You cannot send a signal with darkness, and any light will simply pass right through it. It's only when light meets light that you create anything meaningful. And often times, when you meet on the same frequency, it quickly explodes into this brilliant moment of revelation.
Suddenly, you both see clearly.
The darkness fades and the world doesn't seem so scary anymore. You begin to see the other person and the two of you can journey together quite a long ways, even down to the darkest depths, and not lose sight of the person you're traveling with. You may encounter some truly horrific monsters along the way, but they won't be half as frightening as what your imagination would conjure up if you didn't have the light to see them.
All negative emotions ultimately trace back to fear, and all fear is ultimately fear of the unknown.
The darkest depths.
We strive to know things and to understand ourselves and the world at a deeper level to better align ourselves with objective reality - whatever that is - in order to further our own survival. To seek the light and become enlightened, as it were, because being wrong means death.
These are ancient ideas.
It's no coincidence that our human civilization, and indeed almost all cultures throughout the world, are structured around an acute obsession with archetypical stories of the transcendent hero of light. Jesus, Buddha, Horus, Goku, Simba, Superman, Harry Potter, ad nauseum.
Most stories confirm to the so-called Hero's Tale, which is a moral tale for how to live in the world, which in part involves the symbolic death of one's self and subsequent resurrection into something greater than you were before the death of the ego. You fall because there's something wrong with you. You're weak, ignorant, imperfect. You have to journey into that place of profound darkness from which you might not return. In mortal terms, you're removed from the gene pool and those that succeed you and pass along their genes are those with the qualities that will ensure future survival.
In a spiritual sense, you reincarnate and try again, hopefully having learned something and retaining some of what you learned from that failed experience such that you try and do better.
The lessons will continue until they are learned.
In a personal sense, you kill off your old, false beliefs about the world, which is deeply terrifying, but also necessary.
The only way to #HealTheDivide within the world is to first #HealTheDivide within yourself, for the world is a reflection of what's in your heart. Some of you understand that. Some of you think that's a bunch of woo-woo mumbo-jumbo - just some superstitious crap - but it is literally true that the world you experience is more-so a reflection of your own perceptions than of what's actually out there.
You understand mental filters, right?
Same thing. The idea that you are coming from a particular place and see things from a particular vantage that is literally different from what someone else standing elsewhere sees. You both look at the same thing in an objective sense, but your own biases color the way in which you interpret what you're looking at.
To some extent, even your own physiology can play a part in that (blind people, for instance).
We evolved to process sense data in a way that is pragmatically useful to us and aides in our own survival, as opposed to what's actually there. So none of us really sees the whole truth, but facts matter to outcomes so trying to align what's useful with what's truth becomes our goal.
The only way to know what's really true is to check-in with one another and make sure we're all on the same page. That first requires us to know ourselves and our own position thoroughly, and to take stock of its strengths and weaknesses. This in turn requires humility and empathy, a willingness to entertain the idea that we don't know everything, aren't seeing everything, and might in fact be wrong.
That we might be the blind ones or the biased ones.
That hurts to admit, because being wrong is painful. Being wrong means death, but better that we kill off that part of ourselves before it kills the rest of us completely. To cut out the cancer within and put out the fires inside us before they consume us.
Life is a journey. One we're all on together and which never really ends. We're all still traveling, all still learning, all still growing, all still evolving. If we allow ourselves to get derailed by these petty nothing arguments, it's going to kill us. I mean that both literally and figuratively. None of us has the energy or the resources to deal with all the world's problems. Most of us don't even have the energy to deal with our own, but that is the place we have to start, and it's at once both the easiest and hardest thing to do, because who wants to change? Who enjoys having to lose a part of themselves?
But it's something we have to do. We need to just let these petty nothings die, let the past die, let those parts of ourselves die that no longer serve us. To stop getting distracted on the road to life and keep moving forward towards the bigger goal, which is finding ourselves and each other in the darkness, somewhere in the middle.
It's a long hard road, but every step you take is one more than the person who stopped where you are now. Keep going and remember what you're heading towards.