The Unbearable Rightness of BeingAnja van Kralingen
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