Thursday, May 27, 2010

Brian’s Reflection: Friday, May 28, 2010

As we learn to have compassion for ourselves,
the circle of compassion for others -- what and
whom we can work with, and how -- becomes wider.

Pema Chodron, from “When Things Fall Apart’

I have felt for a long time that most of our unpleasant behaviour towards one another erupts out of self-hatred, or (to use a much overworked phrase) “low self-esteem”. What psychologists call “projection”. We are mostly un-self-aware of all the turmoil within. But you can we sure that if we spew out anger and meanness all over others, individuals or stereo-typed groups, it is probably projectile vomiting from the volcano of self-negativity.

I was “brought up” – I think unconsciously on the part of my parents and perhaps my Scottish Presbyterian culture – to expect a great deal of myself. It was a standard which most people were not able to live up to. Reality and expectation clashed. No one helped to sort this out – certainly not the Presbyterian minister of our church!

But the bottom line is: we human beings screw up a lot! This being the case, two things need to happen. One, we need to give ourselves some slack. And Two, we need to stop dumping our frustration on others. Meaning, of course, we do need to “know ourselves” well.

I really like Pema Chodron’s sense of “compassion”: “what and whom we can work with, and how”. Integral to being compassionate is discerning what is realistically possible. Compassion is not just blindly “accepting” what’s coming down the pike. As in so much of Life, success is dependant on seeing things as they are, as they possibly can be.