"Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people."
I would go one step further than Mr. Jung. I would go so far as to posit that the moment you embrace your darkness, you are free. Free from fear, free from judgment, free from holding yourself back from life. The more you can embrace your filth as dear to you, the better able you are to embrace it in others.
Conversely, judge your darkness, hate your self for it, and you will find yourself in a perfect position to do that to other people. It is a law of nature. If you do not accept yourself, you cannot accept another. In addition to the freedom that comes with embracing your scum, there is also another gigantic benefit.
Other people won't bother you. Imagine going through life not being annoyed by other people's habits, their lack of consideration, or their in-sensitivities. You will have better relationships. You will have more compassion for the struggles of others. You will know peace.
I learned this lesson, if you can believe it, the hard way, over many painful years. I have a long history of struggle; I believed that it was the best way for me to move through the world, that I was more interesting for it. Much could be gained, I thought, if you engaged in a confrontational manner with the people around you. I am pretty sure, given the history of my parents, that this philosophy is genetic.
For roughly forty or so years, I struggled. I fought. I was amazingly self-righteous. I was this way with my boyfriends, my bosses, some of my co-workers, and very often, with my friends, though not as much of the time. The turning point was at a job with a person who I thought was causing me pain.
For the six hundredth time, I found myself in a situation where I was just itching to get into a power struggle with one of my co-workers. This person had been bad-mouthing me, verbally threatening me, and acting out in ways that astonished me. Oh, how I wanted to fight back. How I wanted to show him that he couldn't do that to me!! Who did he think he was, anyway?
Fortunately for me, as I was thinking thoughts of vengeance and death by a thousand kicks to the shin, I checked in with my body. I was in knots. My breath was shallow. I felt awful. I realized that I had given him power over me, I had tied myself in knots myself, and I was mistakenly blaming him for my choice.
I thought for a while about why his behavior bothered me so much and I came to realize that part of it was because the stuff he was doing and saying about me activated my own questions about my self-worth. If I had been secure in myself and confident about who I was, the stuff he was doing and saying would not affect me. Ugh. The realization had the great effect of helping me forget about him, and the awful effect of having my awareness and focus turn suddenly on me. Was this really what I felt and thought about myself?
Yes, it was. I had uncovered this cesspool of self-damning sludge, and I had no other choice but to stick my hands in and get messy. I mean, I was up to my armpits in stank. But you know what they say about smells? You get used to them. And the sludge and grime? Not so bad, really. I began to see that much of what I was judging myself for was not really all that horrible. I desperately needed to be right because for some reason, being wrong felt like death to me. I had such fear and anxiety over wrongness, I had put it in this box labeled "horrifying" and had never really explored it. I started considering that being wrong might not be such a horrible thing, and that admitting it to myself and others might free me from the responsibility of hiding it from people.
As soon as I was able to come clean about my need to be right, to defend myself, to prove my correctness to the world, I was freed from it. I still struggled with my ego, but every time I was honest about it, and made these situations more about me, I gradually cared less about what others were doing. It was shocking the first time, how easy it was to let go, given my long battle history. But it was all I needed to convince myself that it was powerful enough to commit to.
Since that first time, I have found myself in situations where I have been forced to deal with my need to be the one who is "right". Each time, I am happy to report, it has gotten easier to let go, and easier to be okay with the possibility that I might be wrong. A couple of times, I didn't even think about it, I was just able to back off without even a pause.
This is freedom. This is what has brought me to the front steps of badass manor, key in hand. The knowledge that I can be wrong and it won't kill me has brought with it a calm that has improved every relationship in my life; most centrally the one with myself.
How easy is it for you to admit that you are wrong? Do you find yourself becoming defensive or tense in confrontations? What would it take for you to accept that you are not right? To accept that you don't have to win? That your value lies in your existence, not in the question of right or wrong?
It is huge, I know, but worth the effort. The benefits far outweigh the costs, and all you have to do is begin to consider it. Lift the lid on this possibility. You will get used to the smell, and before you know it, the sludge won't bother you either.
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Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, you come to the realization that your boss is a tool and it seems as though he has been put on this earth to destroy all of the joy in your life. You are definitely not the first person who has found herself in this situation. I myself could tell you some incredible and strange tales of my days under the thumbs of some People Who Act Strangely.
For many years, this appeared to be an unending and soul crushing theme of my existence. I had the uncanny ability to attract one boss (or co-worker) after another who made my work life torturous and my social life include more and more alcohol as time passed.
By the time I hit my early forties, I was desperate and beginning to think that I would never have a work life that I could tolerate, let alone love. I became known as the woman who always complained about her job. I was miserable, until one fateful evening over wine with a friend. We worked at the same place, but she did not have the problems that I had with work. She loved her job. (She's a boomer, so it goes without saying....)
I was telling her my latest problem with one of my co-workers, going on and on about how wrong they were, how dishonest and manipulative they were and mid sentence she stopped me and asked me to consider what, in all the times I had complained to her about one work problem or another, was the commonality. What was the thread that ran through all of my stories of woe of pain at work? I thought for a while. It took a good fifteen minutes, if I remember correctly. She waited patiently while I mulled it over. Then, suddenly, it hit me like a kick in the gut. "Me?" I asked her, sheepishly.
"Yes, you, you darling girl. You are your own worst enemy in these situations and you never see it." As painful as it was at the time, this was the beginning of me taking control of my work life and turning it into something I could love. Granted, it has taken me several years to perfect, but I can honestly say that I am a much happier employee than I used to be. I can also say that I could work just about anywhere and figure out how to enjoy it.
I discovered the secret to my success and while I would not by any means call it easy, it is a whole lot easier than what I was doing before, suffering, that is, at the hands of any fool I gave control to. The one thing that I always remember when dealing with People Who Act Strangely, (crappy bosses), is that it is never about me, and that these people are very often profoundly sad themselves or insecure about their abilities. How do I know this? Well, happy, secure people don't usually treat others badly. That is just physics.
Make room for yourself at work. Do not conform to a standard, do not become a sheep. The twenty-first century is no time to "tow the line." In all matters, you have to get the jump on crappy bosses before the fallout starts. If you come in with your intention, your desire to lighten the mood, and your desire to laugh before your boss has the opportunity to crush your soul, you can get what you need from your job every day and leave unscathed.
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"When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow."
"Disobedience in the eyes of anyone who has read history is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made--through disobedience and rebellion."
Oscar Wilde is a great resource for me. He viewed society with an inquisitive and cynical eye, but also with a vision. He saw beyond appearances to humankind's true nature at its very best and very worst.
This quote is representative of his inquisitiveness; is rebellion bad? Is disobedience bad? Or are they necessary?
It just depends on who you are and what you expect from yourself.
If you are not satisfied with the norm, if you don't fit into the standards that your society has set for you, then disobedience is the answer to every question. Rebellion, even in its smallest form, an act of faith.
Personally, I have come to rely upon rebellion and relish disobedience. They sit with me when I doubt my path. They tap me on the shoulder when I forget myself. The give me the confidence to look people in the eye with the fullness of my being.
That said, I would not need them if I felt like I belonged here. As thankful as I am for disobedience and rebellion, I am equally grateful for the society which requires it. I am lucky to have the opportunity to practice daily my need to go against the grain.
How about you? Do you practice disobedience or rebellion? Let me know in the comments below. Would you rather live in a society that didn't require some type of conformity to a norm? Or do you prefer having the opportunity to rebel? I would love to hear what you have to say.
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