In nature, some animals attack –all fangs and claws. Some are camouflaged, quietly waiting; almost as though they are not there at all. Some animals use armour. Some run. Some gang up. Every animal has a way to protect itself from danger.
People are very similar. But rather than ‘breeds,’ we have ‘histories.’ And when we attack, it’s those histories we use. So, just as we can’t manage a lion like an deer, we can’t manage our lives with others unless we are taking action appropriate to their breed of personality.
It does no good for a cheetah to council a snake to use its claws, or for a snake to tell the cat to ‘slither into a hole.’ Without a history that shaped their mind for it, no one under stress can default to skills they did not learn and cannot imagine.
Unfortunately, that lack of knowledge can appear to be a lack of willingness to someone with the knowledge. For example, we might wonder why an anxious person would be tentative or nervous when we would not. But if a child experiences a death or major trauma early in life, they can come to believe that those things happen more often than they do –hence the anxiousness.
When that sometimes-true belief is wrong or limiting, it can lead a person–and those around them–to determine that the anxiousness is a ‘fault’ to rid themselves of. But no one’s childhood is right or wrong. They simply happened, and they have echoes.
There are even people who are stressed because they feel they had ‘perfect parents,’ that they cannot hope to live up to. So no one gets out of childhood without some type of personality that was at least in part formed by stress, or an unnatural lack of it –as in the case of the ‘perfect’ parent.
This means that, when looking at other’s less healthy behaviour, we cannot analyze it based on our reality. We can’t assess the situation based on our childhood and our beliefs. We must ask ourselves who they think they are. Because, when we are under stress, it is natural and normal for people to resort to the basic skills they found helpful as children.
These inclinations toward certain responses to certain stimuli is what forms the shape of a person, and each type will contain upsides and downsides. But no one is perfect. We say people are ‘well rounded.’ But we never describe people as being able to roll through everything in life, smoothly. We’re all better suited to some situations than others.
That being the case, before we ask someone else to not have their childhood, we should consider that we are the same way –others must accommodate our ‘faults’ too. But if we cease to see them as faults, and more as our personal geography, then we focus less on trying to move mountains, and more on finding workable routes around them.
It’s not like friends or lovers aren’t aware of each other’s ‘faults.’ It’s simply that we understand where they came from, and we’re each prepared to manage our way around them in deference to the other person’s innocence. They did not intend to gain the central fear they gained. That was delivered by chance. And the friendships prove that good relations with anyone are possible. We just cannot ask people to be who they are not equipped to be.
No matter how much psychological work a person does, the point is not to remove our personalities or our uniqueness. That can’t be done. We must be someone. And to be an individual means we will have our own responses –including the negative ones our childhoods taught us. Our job is not to become perfect. It’s simply to manage who we are as best we can, and to find a community of people who are as open to our imperfections as we are to theirs.
If you would like to know more about how to be comfortable with yourself, or how to respectfully manage your personality and others, those are skills that can be learned. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and in only a few weeks you can experience meaningful change.
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.