Saturday, December 1, 2007

We all just want to be understood

When someone says something to me that makes me feel annoyed, misunderstood, or hurt, my impulse is to tell someone else about it. The reason for that is because there is a certain piece of me that has not been understood or accepted. Therefore I take that piece around to somewhere else to try to get understanding and acceptance for it.

One of the things that bothers me, and which often leads me to having a piece in search of acceptance, is people who cast judgment on other people's lives. When I take my piece around for acceptance, a side effect of that acceptance could be criticism of the person who rejected that piece.

Does this mean that I don't think other people should judge, but that it's okay for me to judge, or for others to judge as long as they agree with my judgments? I like to think that there's a difference. The difference is between judging someone's actions as being inherently bad and being disturbed by someone's actions. If someone bothers me, that means I want them farther away from me. It doesn't mean that the person is inherently wrong.

There is a place for judgment. There are some actions that are wrong, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about people who are steal or kill or cheat. I'm talking about people whose outlook or interpersonal style does not mesh with mine.

It bothers me when people make judgments about how other people live their lives. I don't like it when people think someone else should be working harder to improve themselves in some area, whether it's eating a different diet, exercising more, advancing their career, or improving their interpersonal skills. I don't think one can judge those kinds of things. Each person has their own preferences, goals, and barriers, and no one else can really understand what another person wants or has to overcome.

When someone says something that leaves a part of me seeking acceptance or understanding, I take it around to others in search of acceptance. All the other person has to do is say they see where I'm coming from, or not say much at all about it. But a lot of people don't do that. A common mistake people make is explaining that I really should not be bothered by the thing that bothers me. Apparently they think this will cheer me up. However it comes across as saying that I have no right to feel the way that I do. Even after I explain to people that the way I want them to be supportive is by accepting my feelings, they still explain to me why my feelings are wrong. This just leaves me feeling more misunderstood, so then I move on to somewhere else to seek understanding and acceptance.

When someone consistently says things that bother me, then I just stop talking to that person. It could be topic-specific. It could be that I find I can talk to someone about impersonal topics, but that there's no point in talking to them about my personal dilemmas.

There's a place for dialogue. I don't expect everyone to instantly understand me. But if someone persists in responding to me in ways that I don't like, even after I explain where I'm coming from, then after a while, I just have to stop sharing with that person in that way.

People can be close to the extent that they are on the same wavelength, but they also have to give room for distance in the areas where they are not on the same wavelength. I can't expect everyone to be close to me in all ways. If I strive for that, I'll just be frustrated, and won't be able to appreciate the ways in which I do connect with people. The complications arise when the ways I want to be close and distant with someone differ from what that person wants, or when circumstances put me into a situation such that a person is part of my life more or less than I would like.

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