In last week’s column I wrote about five of the ten personal truths that have and continue to influence my living. The remaining truths to be considered this week are:
- What another feels, thinks, says and does is 100 per cent about him or her!
- Communication is about getting through to myself, not through to another.
- Individuals who are troubled and troubling are not out to make life difficult for others but are unconsciously trying to show how difficult life is for them.
- A life examined is a life lived.
- There is no greater wisdom than human kindness.
People are frequently surprised by the sixth truth. Typically, the current notion on communication is that it is about getting through to another. However, I regard this as control and, indeed, in attempting to convince the other you are using him or her as a substitute for yourself. Of course, as with much of human behaviour, it is a clever unconscious means of reducing emotional and social threats by placing the responsibility for accepting and understanding what you are saying on the shoulders of the person you are talking to or at. When I talk at somebody I preach to the other and want them to follow my values, ways and beliefs, rather than following them myself and allowing the other person to live their own lives. Somehow, when I preach I need to be ‘right’ and any difference is perceived as a threat. The indicators too are that I am not still convinced of what I am preaching. When I talk to another I tell them what to feel, think, say and do and woe betide if they dare go against or not follow through on my advice-giving. However, the word ad-vice implies it is unwise – a vice – to give counsel to another, even when they request it. In any case, all I can do is talk about my own experiences. In speaking to others the focus is on the ‘you’; in speaking with others the source is the ‘I’. In preaching or advising, what we say to others is often what we need to be saying and doing for ourselves. Mature communication is creating a shared space where the other person comes to their own decisions on the issues being discussed. It is for each of us to understand communication as about getting through to self, discovering our own truths and convictions and allowing others to get through to themselves. When communication comes from within, from the ‘I’ place, then it flows between people.
The seventh truth springs from a lifetime of trying to understand and resolve my own troubled and troubling behaviour and that of the many individuals who sought therapy from me. This truth echoes another truth not mentioned above which is that parents (or others) do not deliberately and consciously neglect their children, but, nonetheless, they are responsible to though not for their actions. Parents who possess high self-esteem – which is a strong consciousness of their unconditional loving nature and their power beyond measure – rarely neglect their children, and when they do they are quick to make amends. Parents who have self-esteem difficulties, which we all have to some degree or other, unconsciously act-out or act-in their created alienation from self and their dark actions towards children mirror their dark interiority. Judgement, condemnation and labelling such parents mirrors a darkness within those who react in these ways and only serve to threaten more the well being of the targeted parents. When I view a parent’s or another adult’s or a child’s or a teenager’s difficult behaviour as revealing how difficult life is for him or her, then I can truly help the person to consciously understand and resolve their inner turmoil so that they are no longer a threat to others. There is no possibility for progress when we protectively judge ourselves or others – we remain stuck in unconscious defences – and the whole sorry saga of neglect deepens like a coastal reef.
The eight truth comes from the pen of the French philosopher, Rousseau and demands little explanation. However, genuine kindness – with no strings attached – is a rare commodity but its presence radically changes the ethos of where we live, play, pray and work.
The ninth truth that a life examined is a life lived calls for each of us to regularly observe how we are with ourselves, others and the environment, particularly when we are aggressive, passive, shy, timid, fearful, obsessive, dominating, controlling, indeed, any emergency inner or outer response. These responses are substitute in nature and emotional safety needs to be found in order to act out from an inner solidity. The frequency, intensity and endurance over time of these substitute responses are important barometers of the urgency for unconditional love to be found so that mature progress can be made in one’s inner and outer worlds.
The truth regarding the meaning of illness I am going to address next week to mark the launch of a new book The Compassionate Intentions of Illness written by myself and Helen Ruddle.
Dr. Tony Humphreys practices as a clinical psychologist and is author of several books on practical psychology including Whose Life Are You Living?