We have many relationships with others that go unnamed. We just ‘are as we are‘ around our friends. We don’t translate those feelings and relationships into words. We don’t think to rank them by their level of tolerance for us, versus our tolerance for them.
If we do think of the people we know in this way, we will often find that the friends that are most tolerant of the challenges we present, are also the ones who are often very slow to forgive and forget if something does finally go wrong.
Conversely, there’s another group of friends that will often get madder, faster, but their forgiveness happens almost immediately afterwards. From simmering to explosions, or holding a grudge to letting things go, our spectrum of reactions happens based on each person’s propensity for thinking.
The quicker-to-anger group has a rapid, strong reaction that acts like a pressure release valve that quickly reduces the problem to a manageable level. In essence there is an emotional explosion of thought, then sudden, quiet concentration on a solution.
In many cases in life, being like that can save time, money and lives. Yet, from a more emotional perspective, the reactions can feel machine-like and the anger can feel disproportionate.
Despite the impressions those reactions can lead to, quick, strong approaches don’t feature less caring, they feature less over-thinking. Often they are less focused on compassionate decorum and more on a successful (read: compassionate) final result. (Think Dr. House from the show House.)
Conversely, those that show a lot of tolerance usually accomplish that via a detailed justification narrative. We feel an impulse to move away from poor treatment, but some of us learn to restrain ourselves with narrative ropes that hold back our feelings. Those thought-ropes are what keep people in unhealthy relationships.
Unfortunately, those narratives build up over time, and they can get to the point of being suffocating. Pressure can build until finally, after being held down for years by those justifying narratives, the true feelings of the otherwise tolerant person can snap the narratives and their feelings can explode forward.
After that, things are not likely to improve. Just like the tolerant justifications indicated a propensity for over-thinking, the anger will be handled the same way. All of that thought-powered anger and resentment can last for years.
When it comes to facing life’s challenges, those that meditate more about the world and ruminate less about themselves, tend to react too quickly and too strongly to difficulty, but they do also tend to recover quickly and strongly as well.
Those that meditate less about the world, and ruminate more about their comparative place in that world, will often react more slowly and tolerantly, but then explode, and then take longer to recover –if ever.
Neither group is right or wrong in how they face life. But they do approach it differently. So it’s worth thinking about our relationships and ourselves, in these terms.
Who do we show tolerance to and who won’t we show it to? And why? And what kind of person are we for others to deal with?
Many times people will say we have an issue with a person, when in reality we just see the value in our choice but the price of theirs, and they do likewise. But in the end, everyone gets a benefit, and everyone pays a price. Freedom is choosing which combination suits us best. Respect is letting others do likewise.
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.