I used to think I was people-smart. Meaning, that I understood the motivations of other people. And by understanding their motivations, I could read, understand and explain their behavior. I thought I was people-smart because I’ve been known to be right, to be able to predict people’s behavior, before. I think we all pride ourselves on being able to do this to one extent or another.
I now realize that being people-smart in the way that I was proud of being is not a virtue. It is instead an indication of the nature of my own thought processes and is not necessarily where they are coming from. There’s a saying that I’ve used for years that I generally understood the meaning of, but that I never really applied to me and my behavior at every level that it should be applied.
“We hate most in others what we hate most about ourselves.”
I understood on the surface what that meant: if someone likes to get angry at other people, I used to feel a self-righteous anger because they were getting angry. I would think to myself, how dare they impose their anger on someone else and express it that way? They are wrong for that and I am righteous for being upset that they are so wrong. Or, how dare they speak to someone that way? They are wrong for that and I am righteous for being upset that they are so wrong.
Sometimes it’s hard to hold a mirror up to ourselves to see the insanity of our own behavior.
I went around for many years doing this. In fact, I still have to catch myself doing it sometimes. Observing people, watching them, looking at their behavior and predicting why they do certain things. Engaging in entire flights of fancy regarding their thought processes, motivations and the possible consequences as they pertained to current and future actions and the ramifications of those actions. I could look at someone’s expression and tell you matter-of-factly what they were thinking. I could listen to a conversation and tell you what something someone said really meant. I could do this by observing their body language, listening to the words they used, the tone, watching and listening for the subtle clues that give an indication of underlying motives, of where words and actions do not necessarily coincide.
Don’t get me wrong, as I said before, I was right some of the time. I’ve studied body language, learned how to tell how people lie, why they lie, when they lie, where their eyes look when they’re making the lie up, the way hands or legs twitch or move or grasp each other when they’re telling the lie, the way shoulders are hunched or not when they’re lying to cover up the original lie, toes tapping, body rocking, lip or nail-biting, ear-pulling, tone-shifting, practically all of the little tell-tale signs that indicate the thought processes underlying the words as the lies pile up on top of each other. We can all do this to a greater and lesser extent, but I prided myself on having actually gone out to learn specifically how to do so in order to increase my abilities that much more.
But it is all vanity, in the end. Because what I have ultimately learned is that we can never know for certain where someone is coming from, what someone is thinking. We can look at their eyes and body language and listen to their words and come to an approximation. We can observe all of the signs and clues and come up with an idea. But we can never know for sure what is going through another person’s head.
But even more importantly than that, is that we shouldn’t try. To the extent that it evolves into more than assuring our basic survival it becomes another ego-tool utilized as a way of controlling one’s environment and other people; it is, in essence, an act of aggression and an energetic imposition of structure upon what should be and is, essentially, structure-less. And, by attempting to read another person in depth we are ignoring what we should be paying more attention to: ourselves. We are not responsible for other people. Other people’s actions are not our responsibility. What other people are doing, how they are acting, even as it affects us, is not our problem. It is theirs. Let me say that again, another way: anything anybody else does around you or to you is their business, not yours.
If someone does something that affects you negatively, then it is necessary that we look at ourselves in order to determine what we did to exacerbate the situation. If you get in an argument with someone and they harangue and berate you, then you need to look at how you set yourself up to be in that position in the first place. How did you set that person off? What did you do or say that brought that negative energy out in them?
Does that sound like too much for you to take on? Does it sound insane to you? I realize that this is not a popular way to be. It can even be said that this is not a natural way to be, if being under the sway of the emotions is considered to be our natural state. But it is the compassionate way to be. It is the civilized way to be. It is the elevated way to be. It is the way forward that leads to a civilized and elevated interaction. To civilized and elevated relationships. To civilized and elevated societies.
By allowing people the sovereignty of their own thoughts and behavior and accepting responsibility for your own, you are driving all blame into one. You are making the decision to become sovereign yourself, to no longer accept the cop-out of blaming others, of placing sovereignty outside of yourself and being a victim. It’s way too easy to blame other people for your problems, for your situation. It’s way too easy to blame your ex for your emotional disfunction. It’s way too easy to blame your old boss for your current lack of a job. It’s way too easy to blame your parents for your childhood. It’s way too easy to blame God for your tribulations.
People will surprise you when given the chance. Some people, I should amend. Some will do exactly what you think they will, what the signs show and tell you they will, each and every time. But it is not your place to pidgeon-hole them like that. It’s not our place to limit their potentiality in that manner, even if it is only in our own minds. Because when we expect someone to speak or act in a certain way, we then adapt our own speech and behavior in anticipation of that response and by so doing project that framework onto and into the other person. You are, in essence, using the emotional energetic link you are engaged in to create a holographic reality through the force of your imagination that limits the potentialities of the moment to the extent that the other person is incapable of transcending the contextuality of the interaction, which is difficult, given the tendency of emotions to sync in conflict approximating a cause and effect feedback loop that, generally, can only escalate unless outside intervention occurs. Is it then little wonder that they live up to your expectations by engaging in the behavior that you have set them up to fulfill?
By taking the opportunity to examine your own behavior and seeing where you caused your current situation or emotional state, you are recapitulating your life. You are engaging in a life-review, something that most people only do at the time of death. By doing it early you are taking control of your personal ethical and spiritual evolution. You are making a statement to the universe that you accept the responsibility of being a sovereign soul. You are releasing others to eventually become responsible for their own thoughts, words and actions by removing yourself from their equation, not letting your thoughts, words and actions give them the excuse to engage in karma-building behavior. You are making the choice to move forward into the future in control of your thoughts, in control of your words and in control of your actions.
There are so few people walking around the planet right now that are in full control of their thoughts, words and actions that by being one of those who are, you are courting the state of awakening and contributing directly to the overall state of enlightenment of the human race. Because, of course, this is an integral part of the overall Enlightenment process. An important realization on the way to understanding that love and compassion, as the expressions of relative bodhicitta, are the direct pathways to manifesting ultimate bodhicitta, which is resting in permanent abiding and silencing the nigh-automatic discursiveness of the uncontrolled mentality.
For many of us, it’s an ingrained habit to attempt to control our immediate environment by projecting our own thought processes onto others. And it gets worse every time we get lucky and turn out to be right. Because then we think we’re on to something, we get all high and mighty, proud and self-congratulatory. It is ego-clinging to the extreme. Egocentricity. The mind holding itself above others, prideful, disdainful, presumptuous. These are qualities to be culled from the personality structure and the only way to do so is by driving all blame into one. Accepting responsibility for our part in the dual or multiple-nodal collaborations that our interpersonal interactivity represents within the flow of time and space that we call our lives.
This teaching is not for everybody. Some will read this and think, what?! And that is fine.
Drive all blame into one. Take responsibility for everything. Even things that you really do think are other people’s fault. Make it a mental exercise where you are trying to find the place in the sequence of events where you last take responsibility for the outcome. Eventually, the teaching will become second nature and you will find that your own nature becomes more civilized, more elevated.
For those with eyes to see, let them see. For those with ears to hear, let them hear.
All others will come to understanding in their own time.