There is a saying in Japan, “Do not give someone what they do not want.” This in part explains the stoic expressions we all saw after the terrible earthquake near Fukushima. For many in Japan, to show others your suffering is to impose it upon them and so expressions remain placid out of respect for other people’s psychological environments.
In the West we get offered all kinds of thoughts just like we get offered all kinds of foods. And food is a good analogy for thought. Some thoughts and foods we actually taste ourselves. Some we leave untouched. If we’re in a restaurant or someone else’s house, we may be offered food that others like that we do not, just as others may like other subjects or different types of discussions. The subjects are like the ingredients, and the conversation style is like the cooking.
Super-direct people are raw food eaters. Conversationalists are French Chefs. In a locker room you’ll hear hotdogs and hamburgers, and in business you’ll get steaks and shallots. None of these are right or wrong but they are all different tastes. Some people love debate, other people think it’s just an argument.
Let’s say you go to a party and someone offers you some food. If you taste it and don’t like it you might finish that bit just to be polite but you won’t go back and ask for more. Likewise with conversation. If you can taste an argument brewing and you don’t enjoy them, then stop talking or change the subject. Don’t head to the table that has the dishes on it you don’t like. Don’t volunteer to feed your brain thoughts it doesn’t like by hanging around people who constantly offer you things you don’t enjoy.
It’s worthwhile to note where you do spend your time. What is the menu like at the places you choose to go? If every time someone comes home they offer up their spouse or their roommate a big plate of how much they hate their job, or their boss, or drivers on the road, then that’s neither pleasant-tasting for the spouse/roommate, nor is it nutritious to the relationship.
A common thing to do in a romantic relationship is to serve rancid food. That is to say, food so old that you wonder why anyone would even offer it to anyone else. Is there something your spouse did two years ago, or two months ago, or two days ago that you’re still dishing out to them? Are you surprised they don’t want it? You wouldn’t either if the situations were reversed. If neither of you liked the meal in the first place, how on Earth does it make sense to keep digging it out even years later?!
Be cognisant of what foods you offer others. They can always say no, but if you regularly only offer bitching, or gossip, or sad stories, then don’t expect a happy life. Because what you’re tasting isn’t something anyone would enjoy, so offering it to others obviously isn’t going to improve your situation.
The next time you feel a clench in your stomach ask what thoughts your consciousness was just consuming. If they’re not pleasant, change them. Because in the end you really are what you eat.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.