The Unbearable Rightness of Being

The Unbearable Rightness of Being

The recent murders in France by Islamic fundamentalists were shocking and scary. Terrorism –an apt name for the terror that it brings into the world. I heard a snippet of an interview with one of the band members that were playing in the club where 89 people were murdered. The trauma and devastation in his voice brought me to tears.

Naturally we are inclined to wonder why human beings would do this to each other. Why the anger, frustration, hatred and murderous intent? What could bring someone to do this and feel justified about their actions?

But actually the above statement is applicable to all of us, not just fundamentalists. If you look at the sentiment behind the statement we have all ‘been there and done that’. We have all hated someone intensely and wanted to kill them. We have all been so frustrated that we screamed and shouted and said cruel things to someone else. We have all been nasty, self-righteous and unforgiving. We are all human.

The human trait of ‘I am right, you are wrong’ is deeply ingrained in our DNA. Until we evolve beyond this point as a human race, there will always be war, terrorism and murder. There will always be suppression, genocide and inequality. Being accepting of differences, non-judgmental and selfless is just not in our nature.

Deep down inside, we believe that we are right. It is the other that is wrong.

You don’t know what you are talking about.
You are on the wrong path.
You are misguided.
You are crazy, a lunatic.
What you believe is absurd.
Where on earth did you get that idea from?

Whereas we are right. We know what we are talking about. My way is the correct way. If it is working for me, it will work for you. If it makes sense to me, it must make sense to you. I am right so I will prevail. I am right, my way is the right way. I will win because God is on my side.

And if you won’t listen, I will bully you into submission.

These are feelings and thoughts that are very familiar to all of us. Oh yes, we pretend. We pretend that we are understanding. That we accept the other’s perspective. We convince ourselves that we are nice and considerate and kind and calm and forgiving. But deep inside we resent having to sell out and subject ourselves to the will of another. It comes out in many ways – bouts of anger, losing your temper over something seemingly trifle, or we are accosted by it when we are alone through our thoughts that reflect our unhappiness. Even when we want to be tolerant and choose consciously to behave that way, it is usually rewarded by the inner shadow with feelings of superiority and ‘doing the right thing’. Is authentic tolerance even possible?

And this is valid for all relationships, your intimate relationships, your relationships with children, siblings, bosses, colleagues, acquaintances. But it extends further. Your relationships with institutions, corporates, companies, political parties, countries, religions. And especially people who try to repress you, or judge you. People who insists that their way is the right way.
And just to let you realise that you are not the unique exception to this rule, reflect on the last time that you got upset with anyone. Your partner, a colleague, someone else’s opinion about something – and what was it that upset you? I bet it was because their opinion differed from yours.

I was recently at the receiving end of this type of fundamentalism. I posted photographs of my graduation on Facebook. During the past two years I completed an MSc in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology – it took a lot of work and a great deal of sacrifice. A really old friend from school responded that ‘if you serve a living God, you don’t need to look or find any other teaching’. My emotions went from stunned, to outraged, to pity. I had to really think long and hard about my response. After a month, I ‘unfriended’ her.

For me, the bottom line is that there is really nothing you can say to people like her. She is in her paradigm and that is it. It doesn’t mean that it may not be what she needs. Perhaps this behaviour fills her life with meaning. Does this approach to life make her happy? Living a life of meaning certainly does not equate with living a happy one. If she feels that her purpose is to save the ‘lost and damned’ then good for her. But should she have the right to impose it on others? Feeling that this is her purpose, how can she not impose it on others? And how does this differ from any fundamentalism or fanaticism?

I like the saying ‘Live and let live’ but sometimes incidents happen and I battle with the inner conflict of taking up the fight and voicing my opinions versus allowing the ‘other’ to behave the way they do. But attacking and judging in turn just takes us back to the root of all evil, which is to force someone else to see your perspective and to make them understand that you are right.

I don’t want to play this game.

How do you not allow yourself to be abused; but at the same time, respect the other to be (and believe) in what they do. At what point do you have the right to fracture another’s beliefs? I don’t think that you ever do, but at the same time, I am not sure how to circumvent and navigate this type of situation. It is something we are all exposed to quite often; and I would love to hear how you (the reader) approach a situation like this.

As a Jungian, the answer lies in working with your shadow. It does not, however, remove the inherent problem of believing you are always right. And if you had to approach it from a philosophical perspective, you will realize that intolerance is what is needed to create diversity and movement in our world; to overthrow outdated ruling systems requires fundamentalism and people who believe there is a different and better way.

Bringing consciousness to this issue by thinking and reflecting on it will hopefully bring about more clarity and creative ways to deal with this. And a more appropriate and considered approach within the boundaries of my own morality.

I would love to hear your opinion on this matter.

All the best

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Comments (11)

  • Steven Bird Reply

    hi Anja. This post touches on so much I don’t know quite where to respond from. I suppose the central theme is the ego. It seems to me that the ego has to be right – well actually I think more true to say the ego has to be in conflict – because conflict reassures the ego of its existence – and it’s fear would be of annihilation because deep down it knows that ontologically it is no more than a construct or an archetypal shape that the psyche assumes. This would be what the Christian and the Muslim both gain from the war. Also this is what your old friend gains from challenging your sense of achievement on graduating. [This view of the ego as archetype was totally informed by the recent Alchemy of Symbols course – thank you!]. I hope I don’t sound like I feel I am *telling* you something you don’t already know. I write in a spirit of reflecting back what I see from what you’ve put out by writing.

    Interestingly (to me at least) I had a powerful response to my own graduation. For me the cap and gown were symbolic of an academic tower of power that I had resisted for so long. My Father invited me to put the graduation photo on the wall alongside those of him and my sister. I declined. For me the aceivement was to graduate – whilst not sucoming to the seduction of the academic hierarchy. My response was the right one for me at that time. I fully support your sense of achievement in graduating. I can attest to your ability to convey learning and I thank you for it. As I read this back am am not entirely sure what I have conveyed but I hope you receive it well.

    It occurs to me that the ego’s fear of annihilation is a fundamental block to empathy. When the Christian transcends that, then they are able to forgive and are filled with a sense of God’s love.
    Please God, may we all see beyond our fear. Amen.

    Thankyou again for the learning you have facilitated.


    November 30, 2015 at 4:00 pm
  • Buddy Reply

    Hi Anja,

    Please look up the book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion by author Jon Haidt. He’s a moral psychologist with cross cultural case studies (research done in USA, India, Brazil with people of all faiths and socio-economic backgrounds). It’s superb and covers exactly this topic.

    November 30, 2015 at 4:36 pm
  • sheemna Reply

    No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
    imo the gem in the mud here is why u responded the way u did to her post <3

    November 30, 2015 at 7:26 pm
  • Elizabeth Whitney Reply

    I understand the dilemma well. I finally got to the point of being able to make fun of myself as I deflected the “attack,” which resolved it for me. I let the implications be in the mind of the beholder. It was more interesting to craft this kind of reply than being right or righteous or even caring that someone would want to belittle me and my ideas.

    December 1, 2015 at 12:53 am
  • Alex Reply


    I understand this struggle very well. A long time ago, I realized how emptying it feels to try to convince people of things I “know” to be true. In the end I asked to be able to respect others’ free will, even if it is their choice to believe something false; like you said, ‘that paradigm might be exactly what she needs’. Over the years I slowly disconnected from even engaging with others on any ideological level, after all what’s the point, I’m not going to change their minds and they’re not going to change mine. But in order to not feel like I’m holding myself back, being untrue to myself, I have recently begun disagreeing with others just once, a few sentences, nothing long at all, and leaving it at that. It feels better that I’m helping them to expose them to another perspective on reality, and not saying they’re wrong either, just here’s mine, and that’s that. Later if they change and that serves them, that’s their business not mine. In the mean time I’ll continue to work on myself, improve my own constantly growing understanding, and be the change I wish to see in the world.

    December 1, 2015 at 2:30 am
  • Glen Reply

    For me, I have to have a belief system in order to make sense of the world. But I think the point is it’s mine Only! It works for me but only me.
    Accepting this is true for everyone and sharing your opinion appropriately with love has to be accepted as part of the human experience.
    Even conflict is a part of this human experience.
    But conflict engaged in from a position of non-attachment is surely the goal.
    The concept of “the ladder of inference” is an invaluable tool in understanding differences of perspective.
    …loved this conversation! Xx

    December 3, 2015 at 9:57 am
  • Kantha Reply

    Thank you for your wonderful rendition of what happens too often .
    The thing that we have abundant of is Love & the means to be sustained (money)
    The psyche of man seems to think otherwise .
    When another enjoys either of the above & money ..or both , the knee jerk response is often ” I would like that ” . Seldom is it ” Gosh , that must take a lot more work than I’m prepared to do”

    So we live like this day in , day out.
    Hindu philosophy alludes to this realm being one of Maya . Illusion .
    & therein lies our problem as human beings.
    We are mere fledglings in realization . That’s ok .

    I’m an Anaesthesiologist with 21 yrs of experience in the field . I’m in private practice . Recently , I lost my mum . Dubious drs & gullible surgeons led to me losing all my work .
    In a fit of rage I spoke to both parties to get it off my chest . After that , everytime an anger driven thought came up , I sent them love .
    This was veritably , the toughest time of my life .

    I prayed incessantly . Did not lose my faith in the God within me . I had a friend who helped. He told me it was a time if rest & a time to receive love . So I did .

    A few months down the line, it is still a struggle but it gets better.

    When you ‘know ‘ something & you know it to be true , nothing somebody says is going to deter you. Those of us that walk this path have expect criticism. Expect resistance . How else do we know we are changing the world????

    Galileo was killed for his discovery .
    Jesus was killed for his belief
    The lust goes on.

    My advice ?
    When smirked or smited , stand up for yourself without defending yourself .
    Eg “thank you so much for your comment . However , your comment hurts me & I feel judged by it . Perhaps , there was no need to ‘attack’ me in that way? I am simply a human being like everybody else on a journey . Our paths may differ as with all journeys . The destination , however , is the same . ”

    Whatever you do , do not defend your belief system . That’s not important .

    My suggestion is to friend her again .
    She , of all people , need to learn from you.
    You will speak louder by who you are , rather than what you do .

    Hope this helps

    Much love


    December 3, 2015 at 10:18 am
  • Margaret Reply

    Hi Anja

    Congrats on your MSc – well done! (Didn’t know you had done it too!) An excellent post. I, as a Christian, battle every day with the very things you have mentioned. Having God in my life doesn’t seem to make the battle any easier. (I spend much of my time apologizing for my anger, jealousy and judgemental attitude). I think evil stems from fear, greed and the need for power. Why otherwise would anyone want to commit such atrocities on their fellow humans??

    December 3, 2015 at 11:22 am
  • michael Reply

    I journeyed with Jungs work for some time…I came alive in his invitation to a more spacious self reflective….mythlogical..archetypal…orientation…and of course the shadow…I came to see this world as one giant ..pulsating being…that is also myself…Of course there are stages in ones evolution…
    Now the mind and its ideas and beliefs are falling mattar how brilliant..or aware or jungian…or whateverain…Ultimately we have each manufactured a being..a mind driven entity…and the whole of it is falling away into some cauldron of dissolution…that is awareness itself…awareness without a thought or belief..awareness that is not generated by of or in the mind ..awareness that is a return to some collective …deeply interconnected field that represents the subtle framework of a new earth and pneuman..self realized being…What we are witnessing whether it is the terrorism..of some outraged few or the terrorism of wallstreet ..or the terrorism of institutions we call schools or spousal abuse the vast fields of hatred or judgement etc….these are really manifestatons of a dying world..the end point of a un-civilization that is no longer sustainable …that is not capable of housing this pneuman….hummm…Where I am gone ..there i might find myself…….blessings

    December 3, 2015 at 6:12 pm
  • Lourens Reply

    Thanks for sharing. I think we all experience this sort of thing rather more often than we would like. And yes, the “I am right” demon just love to stir it up form both sides! A childhood friend of mine a fundamentalist Christian and his fellow Christians once started to pray for the healing of my severe hearing problem. When nothing happened he decided that it was my fault, that I am a sinner beyond redemption. I “unfriended” him. That was about 20 years ago. Now he wants to be friends again though he is still of the fundamentalist persuasion. I will give it a go. Maybe we are both a little wiser now.
    A harder nut to crack is my daughter and her husband. They are both militant atheists who turns every discussion into an anti religious battle. I can not ‘unfriend’ them, I love my daughter. Maybe you could help me handle this situation better than I do now?

    December 3, 2015 at 6:55 pm
  • Chantelle Reply

    This is a tricky one for me. “Tolerance” has always been part of my self-analysed identity (truthfully, I hope) and I pride myself in always trying to “put myself in another’s shoes” well enough to listen or offer counsel on courses of action far removed from my own inclinations. I also believe in letting everyone be with what they believe and recently had a chat with the kids I teach to explain that nobody has a right to question their beliefs or religions (because one child thought another’s abstention from birthday celebration was “silly” and I know many of their parents would find it a challenge accepting my anti-theism). However, when they’re older perhaps a little challenging of beliefs could be useful? Now they’re little and very accepting so I never answer questions with subjective answers “yes” or “no”, but rather point to clues that suggest answers and tell what people think. So they can decide. But when we’re learning about the water cycle and a child’s parents have told them the rain is god crying, I have a line to walk that isn’t actually necessary. Everything I teach that day says to that little person “Your mother is wrong” and it’s a sacred rule for me that I never diminish a parent’s pedastel. And that’s not even touching on the exciting but potentially contentious matter of the Solar System or dinosaurs. I want them to make their own decisions and follow their chosen belief systems and honestly, I’m notsure how to show integrity as our topics get more challenging in this specific format.

    December 6, 2015 at 11:30 am

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