When I was a student in the Diamond Heart Meditation School, the leader of the school, Hameed Ali, made an observation that really struck me and has stayed with me since. He said that most people relate to reality in the same ways that they related to their parents. If throwing a tantrum worked with their parents, then they tantrum at reality. If bullying their parents worked, then they try to bully reality. If conning their parents worked, then they try to con reality. If denying their parents worked, then they try to deny reality. If sweet-talking their parents worked, then they try to sweet-talk reality. If ignoring their parents worked, then they try to ignore reality.
What if this is true? Looking around at others in your life, does it seem true? Looking at yourself, does it seem true? To me, it does seem true. And those of you who have read my book, The 5 Personality Patterns, will notice some overlap there, as well.
Now we come to the second part of Hameed’s observation: the fact that none of these techniques will change reality. Fighting it does not work. Conning it does not work. Sweet-talking it does not work. Ignoring it does not work. Reality is not a person, and it cannot be manipulated the way a person can be. In the long run, you cannot win a fight like that. For a while, you can seem to be winning. You can delude yourself. Or you can pretend. But eventually, reality will win. Why? Because it is reality, and the only way to change it is to accept it the way it is and then work from there.
Now, let’s add one more element to our observation: that when in distress, people tend to age-regress, that is, they tend to act younger, more like a child would act. And the last year has been a very stressful year for nearly all of us.
So, when you see someone fighting with reality, try to stay kind and remember two things —
- 1. they’re in distress
- 2. this way of behaving probably worked for them when they were younger
Instead of demonizing them in your mind, instead of going into your own automatic, patterned reaction, ask yourself what you can do to help them feel safer. As Stephen Porges says, “If you want to improve the world, start by making people feel safer.”