I once listened to a radio interview that featured an albino man discussing people’s judgments about him and how those judgments made him feel. While I was compassionate toward his suffering, in listening to his ‘observations,’ it became clear that a very large part of that suffering was self-induced, just as it is with all of us.
People with publicly visible ailments will often presume that most of their dealings involve their condition. We all tend to imagine that everyone is focused on whatever we perceive as our primary intellectual, social, and/or physical weakness.
In the example noted, the man imagined that everyone that looked at him was seeing him as an albino person. The fact is, they may not have really seen him at all.
The reason most people would have a very limited experience with anyone they walk past is because they’re doing precisely the same thing the albino man was doing. They’re wondering what other people are thinking of them.
In the case of the man with albinism, the internal conversation of a woman passing him in a shopping mall might sound like this:
As she steals a look at herself in a passing mirror, she thinks, “This is the worst haircut I’ve ever had. That hairdresser was an idiot! She didn’t listen to anything I told her and now my hair looks disgusting right before my job interv—” And then her eyes pass the man and her brain suddenly diverts to, “Wait, something is different there….?”
Of course, brain chemistry will deliver whatever emotions are requested by her narrative. And because that chemistry will affect the entire body, one of the things it will do is put an expression on her/our face.
In this case, when her eyes just happened to pass over the albino man, she may have had a disgusted look on her face because she was thinking a disgusted thought about her hair. And then she would have shifted to looking shocked.
Despite it possibly appearing so, none of these expressions that are read by others externally, are because she has anything against albinos, internally. The disgust was over a previous experience, and the shock was just because albinos are rare, and our brains are trained to spot differences in patterns. She could easily have been so lost in her own thoughts, that it’s plausible that she wouldn’t even fully recognize that the man was albino until he’d already passed her.
Meanwhile, in his thoughts the man is thinking, “There it is again. She looked right at me and gave me that disgusted look. Like—what? I can’t go shopping just like everyone else? I’m so different that I’m just supposed to hide so you can be more comfortable?”
Now, I have no idea what that actual man would think, but this applies to anyone anyway: if we’re taking offense at people’s expressions, then we’re assuming we know what people are thinking. And if that’s the case, then our problem isn’t the other people, it’s our own belief that we can mind-read.
In my fictional example the girl is not thinking a disgusting thought about the albino man. But he is thinking a disgusting thought within his consciousness, and then he’s blaming that thought on her. It’s both inaccurate and painful, and it means he’s doomed to repeat it, because he has not recognized the real cause of his suffering.
This isn’t to say people don’t get discriminated against. I’m sure some people do walk past and think unkind, ignorant, and judgmental thoughts. And on top of that, people can be generally cruel when they themselves are feeling unloved. On top of that we also need room for child-like innocence, which can appear insulting to an overly sensitive person.
While certainly some people are attacked more than others, absolutely everyone experiences profound examples of discrimination in their life. Even ‘beautiful’ or ‘rich’ people, have others that hate them only because they’re attractive, or they had the wrong (rich) parents. But the point is, what relevance do these opinions really have? If everyone experiences judgment, it’s obviously just part of being alive, like weather, or breathing, or tears.
We’re foolish to believe anyone lives a life without suffering. but it is equally important to remember that suffering happens inside our heads. We experience suffering in our consciousness. The only reason other people’s expressions bothered the albino man, was because he assumed their expressions had something to do with his thoughts, when they were actually about their thoughts.
Everyone lives in separate realities. Stop fooling yourself. YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE THINKING. So stop telling yourself chemical-laden stories and blaming them on others. Because that is the heart of most of our troubles as humans.
We use our thoughts to create a me, and then we use more of our thoughts to attack that creation. We invent the stories about what we guess are other people’s judgments about us. And then we blame those judgments on the person we imagined thought those things. This is ego craziness. And we can stop it any moment we choose, so long as we learn how.
Do not invest your life guessing what is going on, or replaying what you believe did go on. Do not use your thoughts to launch attacks on yourself. Just go quiet inside. You don’t need to learn to fly to get away from people’s opinions. You just have to let go of the weight of the judgmental thoughts you’re thinking, and you’ll float naturally to a whole new plane of existence.
Enjoy your day.
Scott McPherson is based in Edmonton, where he teaches intentional reality-generation, which is much more like plain old happy living than it sounds. 🙂
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.