The letter below was written in response to my blogpost “Our Human Commonality.” The writer has several questions and points she wishes to have clarified. Though I have not had time to address each point, I have attempted to elucidate my thoughts, somewhat. I hope that this offers some relief to the writer, at least, in having her ideas profiled. It is always my sincerest wish to make a positive difference to any concerns directed my way. Please bear with my pace in responding.
... in reply to your blogpost “Our Human Commonality”, I have a few things to say/ask/comment on.
1. "Whatever another’s behavior is, it is relevant to you only in how you interpret it and pertinent, only in how you allow it to affect you."
Here I'm reminded of how my grade school teachers would tell me not to be bothered by or complain about the boys that were pulling my hair and insulting me (and eventually, when older, sexually abusing me and my fellow female-classmates) because they were doing so to get my attention because they liked me. My negative mind says, "Feelings of anger, sadness, feelings of being mistreated are not okay, because they are feelings that YOU yourself choose to have. You choose how you let others affect you, therefore, if you're hurt, it's you own fault."
2. "If you are treated unkindly or hurtfully or if another’s action leaves you troubled or confused, try to check your anger, frustration or impatience. Perhaps it is beneficial to understand the behavior by the motive – not with judgment, but with compassion. It is possible that anyone who feels it necessary to be unkind may be fearful, in pain himself, or, at least, momentarily misdirected in his understanding of his interaction with the universe."
Aha, so feelings of anger, feelings of being hurt are okay! They must be. But ah, of course, if treated badly, I must try to understand the one who I interpret as having treated me badly through compassion. It is true, many of the people who have hurt me, I can see that they did it because they were in pain themselves, because they were misguided, and so on. But, being the person that I am, and as I feel I was (again) taught to do at an early age in school, I take on responsibility for the whole situation. "______, be the mature one and walk away when the boys are spitting on you. They will grow out of it, but you're such a mature little girl, you know how silly their behavior is. Just walk away."
I don't allow myself to be hurt, because I know that I must be understanding with the one who hurt me. And I do understand them, they are very misguided and in pain, anger, frustration. But I still don't stand up for myself, because I feel that I should be mature, responsible, understanding. I take on responsibility and guilt for the whole situation, because the ones that hurt me “are not able to take responsibility, they are treating me badly because they don't know better.” I don't allow myself to be a victim. EVER. That's the last thing I'd do. My mind says: “Never be a victim. You choose to be a victim, so don't victimize yourself, that is pathetic and selfish. If you choose to be a victim then you are creating a reason for being a victim, thus, you are creating the problem, you are the cause of the problem because you interpret it as there being a problem.” When instead, I know the message (a good one btw) that you want to tell me is simply, “be understanding, compassionate, and forgiving with those that hurt you.”
I very much feel that this is one of my biggest problems, and a huge obstacle for me in conquering my own mind and finding a peaceful, compassionate, healthy state of mind. I think the fact is that people who are sensitive and responsible from an early age, learn to be responsible for everything so much that we are never allowed to be victims, when in fact, sometimes you really are a victim. We let others mistreat us, because we take on ALL the responsibility of the situation instead of putting some of the responsibility on other people. Because others DO affect you, and you affect others. Just like you say later on, we are one, hurting others is to hurt yourself. And I believe, so very strongly, that we are affected by others, we can't choose not to be.
Many self-help books, and in my opinion much of Buddhist thinking, AND your philosophy as I've interpreted it, promote this idea that one is only affected by others in the way one chooses to be affected. Basically, I think the philosophy holds much truth and wisdom. But I also disagree, because I think you're missing one point, one very important point. For people with CNC especially, I think there's a key ingredient missing. People with CNC (at least those who are like me) need to learn to STAND UP FOR THEMSELVES and to demand responsibility of others. That is the best kind of love, the kind of love that doesn't let you get away with doing hurtful things. It's not just about learning not to let others have a negative affect on you, it's about learning not to have negative events take you over, accept them, be hurt by them, forgive, move on, but also, because we are all connected, and because our actions DO affect others, what we must learn is also to encourage and ask others to treat us nicely. We have to expect good behavior not just from ourselves, but from others too! Unfortunately, I feel that the advice that is often given about “choosing how others affect you”, “choosing how you interpret things”, “learning to interpret things objectively”, accidently becomes yet another imperative to sensitive, responsible individuals to take on yet MORE responsibility. ....of course, this has to do with how one interprets this advice...(*sighs*...oh, the complicated twisting and turning of it all.)
It is so easy for the negative mind to turn this philosophy into another torturing voice of, “see, you're responsible for this, the guilt is all yours.” That's why I think it is so important to mention in there somewhere, that, others CAN hurt you, and then, you must try to understand through compassion why, but you must also not accept people doing mean things. You must ask more of them. Because, as you say in the end:
3. "If we hurt others, we hurt ourselves. If we hurt ourselves, we hurt others. When we demean ourselves, it extends to all of us."
So we can't let others hurt us either, because then they are hurting themselves too! Do you see what I mean? I feel, as always, that I haven't had the time to formulate myself very well... but I'm hoping that you will understand, that my thought will somehow get across even if I can't express it that well...
What I liked so much about your book “The Secret Language of Eating Disorders” was that it removes guilt. Not only from the victim of the negative mind, but from everyone (since family members and friends also become victims) surrounding the victim. And yes, I say victim, because I feel that at times, we are victims, and when it comes to the negative mind, one is certainly a victim. Even though I know that the idea of removing “victimization” is to empower people and make them feel that they have the power to take control of their lives. For me, the idea of never being a victim rather encourages the idea that I am responsible for everything in the world. I don't need to be empowered, I know that I have the power to control my life, I need to learn that I don't have the power or responsibility to control the universe.
But yeah, as I was saying, I liked how you encourage the removal of guilt in your book. I think, if one doesn't get rid of the idea of guilt, one gets stuck, and can never learn to truly be responsible. One can never be empowered until one realizes that being in control of your life doesn't mean being guilty when things go wrong.
The second thing I liked about your book, was that it made me feel that it was okay to feel like a victim. Sadly, I do see a lot of what-to-call-it...”over-victimizing” oneself, putting guilt on others, and so on, among sufferers of CNC and eating disorders. And this one must learn not to do.... It's definitely important. But still, what I'm missing in all these wise words that try to teach me about how to be objective and so on.... I miss something that deals with the idea of standing up for yourself, of telling others who hurt you that what they do hurts. I miss the idea that all feelings are allowed, the idea that we don't choose our feelings to ALL extent, even if we can in some respect. Please, all feelings must be allowed. Otherwise, they get stuck, fixated and I can't let go of them... (not including the feelings that the negative mind tricks me into ofc... but feelings of anger and sadness must be allowed and accepted as part of human nature! Then, of course, one has a choice what to do with those feelings. Let it out in art, deal with it so that you can let it go, or go punch someone are all ways, some better than others I'd say...)
... I hope you will understand and consider what I've tried to say ... I still admire you for the wise and loving philosophy that you promote.
I apologize if I was unclear about your right to the validation of your emotions. Certainly, your pain, your trouble, your experience should be voiced – but – I reiterate, to someone who can intervene effectively with your violators. For your best interest, as well as theirs, had your grade school classmates been appropriately taken to task at the time – for “spitting and hair pulling,” they would perhaps not have gone on to hurt you and your friends more seriously later.
Logically, what does “standing up” for yourself mean? By understanding someone’s behavior, how does it follow that you would assume their guilt or take responsibility for them? Each of us is an inadvertent victim of circumstance at some point in our lives. Many crises are the result of misunderstandings. Negative assumptions are contrary to solutions.
Imagine you as a small child, having been stung by a wasp. It is momentarily painful physically – emotionally, as well, if you subjectively think that the wasp did it to you.
‘Why did the wasp pick me to sting’? ‘Was I a bad girl, mommy’?
Understanding actions by understanding motives can take away some of the pain you feel. It ceases to be personal. In this case, looking to the nature of wasps will reduce and, perhaps, alleviate emotional involvement. There are several possible realities at work here. The first step to wellness is to be aware of the problem. The second step is to be aware of your intended result and the steps needed to attain it.
Being sensitive does not mean being powerless. Having power does not mean being confrontational.
Even though we cannot always choose our interactions, our individual power allows us to choose our responses.
To demand responsibility of others may not have the effect you are seeking. Nicely, encouraging and asking others to treat us nicely, is always an option. But, again, their response is a product of their individual reality and their interpretation of events. Truth is only truth in the context of its speaker. Borrowed truth – out of context – can become a lie.
I agree that the Negative Mind would rather construe and translate anything said to mean something detrimental to, or about you. The Negative Mind has no mandate and no ability to offer you anything but criticism about yourself. It is merely programmed to ‘search and destroy.’ Your ‘status quo’ needs to be re-informed.
If (single quotes from my blog Our Human Commonality) “… the advice that is often given about ‘choosing how others affect you’, ‘choosing how you interpret things’, ‘learning to interpret things objectively’, accidently becomes yet another imperative to sensitive, responsible individuals to take on yet MORE responsibility…” as you indicate, it is not the advice given, but rather, the inaccurate thinking that needs to be corrected, gently, lovingly.
In an ideal world, with proper parental regulation early in life, the small child will develop an emotional realization so that life does not necessarily present subjectively. The reality is that your bullies’ actions were more about their limited empathy than anything to do with you. Bullies and abusers generally feel powerless. Your reaction, if in anger or frustration, gives them a ‘power fix,’ and in turn, does exactly what you would wish to avoid. Reactions will condone the negative worthiness of their actions and perhaps, as a consequence, compel them to continue in their offensive manner. Possibly, if their negative actions have been responded to with clear boundaries set by appropriate authorities, it may have given them a sense of security and an indication that someone cared enough to teach them right from wrong.
Consider a small child, needing attention but being ignored. She may turn to deviant behaviors because, albeit negatively, at least, she is now being noticed.
Every action or lack thereof, is a lesson. Each has a consequence. Feelings of anger and sadness are indeed, very human emotions that we all feel from time to time. However, negative emotions are, effectively, a neurotoxin. For better brain health and better health generally, allow your emotions to air, certainly, but in a way that is conducive to positive change.
Respect in communication is emotional ecology.
The universe wins.
Peace and Love.