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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Clay


When we witness or hear about people doing things we disagree with, how often do we ask ourselves the question, "What would cause someone to do that?" instead of quickly creating a judgment about them? It's easy to say that someone is "bad" for XYZ, and more of a challenge to seek a deeper understanding. We are also easily overtaken by our triggers, which causes us to slip out of present awareness. For example, getting "cut off" in traffic may trigger fear, which causes us to get angry and label the person a "***hole" as a quick defense. Instead of entertaining the thought that we might not have been seen or to realize that we are only angry because we got scared. Or maybe we got angry because, as little kids, we are taught not to skip the line and continue to take that lesson into our adult traffic scenarios. What would life be like if we didn't get swept away in our reactions?

Many people never ask what causes people to do what they do, most importantly themselves. Instead, we operate out of judgments posing as facts about people without ever actually asking deeper questions. Why is that? One reason is that if we did, we may have an unknown/ uncertainty, and our brain is wired to avoid unknowns and uncertainties. So we take the path of least resistance by creating a quick reactive judgment, then we identify with the judgment as to the truth (being right), and then we react from this perceived truth. We do this over and over and over, aging throughout our lives, and our behavior toward others follows suit. We end up an adult who considers all drivers who "cut us off," "***holes," for example. I wonder if any other animal in the world ever got mad at another for getting in front of them or if that is a special thing we humans own exclusively.

When did all this behavior start? When did your behavior start? Our behavior began when we were infants (if not before) fresh out of the womb. Exploring our environments and getting a sense of who we are and what is going on. Although there are many different behaviors, a person can express how different our beginning experiences are from one another. Probably not so different if we got down to it. So many adults are labeled as "bad," yet how many children are born "bad"? When do we as a society begin to take responsibility as a whole for the behaviors we cultivate?

We are the way we are because of what we are exposed to. Everything has an influence on us. Our biology, environment, nurturing, and the people we are exposed to all play a part in our developed behavior in the world. The more unsafe we are perceived to be, the more our default defenses shape our behavior. The safer we feel, the more we are able to consciously select the behaviors we favor and discard the ones we don't.

I offer you this. The next time you see something you don't like in somebody else, ask yourself, "What would I have to go through as a child to become what I see in another adult?".

Let's start by being calm in traffic
Let's start by being calm in traffic

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