Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Taking Lack Of Respect Too Seriously... AKA Oversensitivity

      I recently wrote an article on lack of respect (which you can find at "" I'll try to remember to post a link elsewhere on the page.) and I wanted to follow up by talking a bit about oversensitivity.
     While I know that there are some people out there who are just mean, or who just don't give a damn if they are stepping on someone else's toes... aka... they really don't respect anyone, I feel sure that most of the time lack of respect is caused by a combination of the human ego being lost in it's own little world and ignorance of what is going on around them. For example, people in traffic who are in a hurry seem to often loose sight of the fact that the people in other cars have places to be too that may be just as (or more) important than what they have to do. Being so narrowly focused they don't stop to consider how negatively they can effect the lives of someone that they cut off (or how seriously they can hurt themselves for that matter if they cut us off without giving us enough time to stop). We all tend to think that our problem, our need, our desire is the most important thing in the world. That's the ego. We may have been raised to think differently but, when we are narrowly focused on a task, it's easy to start doing things automatically rather than thoughtfully and when that happens, the ego gains more control and with that control comes an overblown sense of the importance of ourselves and blind spots that block out the needs of others. But... this is the topic of the article mentioned above.
       I did however want to point out that being upset when someone disrespects you can often be just as egotistical. Okay, so you're at the grocery store, you've had a tough day, you just want to get home and you see someone, who shouldn't, park in a handicapped space, or, who cuts you off and pulls into the parking space you were angling into, or cuts in front of you in the check out line... and of course the check out line is for people with seven items or less and they've got eight, well, I don't know about you... but I can have a whole lot of reactions. I can get angry. I can get depressed. With anger comes fuming and fussing and an internal dialogue about how that other person doesn't respect me, about how they think that they are more important than me, about how they somehow took something that was rightfully mine. With depression comes self pity about being invisible. My favorite is disgust, looking down on the person like he's been caught with child pornography because he's got one to many items in the express line. Several events like this during the course of a day can be responsible for me having a really bad day. Then of course, when I go home to my wife or out with my friends, or to work... I have to stuff that hostility or sadness or what have you, down deep inside somewhere because they shouldn't have to deal with it. Of course... at that point that negative emotion is only waiting for one small spark to set me off... again, with anger or sadness, but with more force because it had been repressed and the chances are, I'm going to be responsible for someone else having a bad day. This is of course assuming that I don't go off on the person who disrespected me right there in the parking lot or the store. I've done that. I've seen it done by others a lot more than I've done it. It always makes everyone more uncomfortable than they already are and I've never seen it actually solve anything. Sometimes it looks like it could lead to violence. On very rare occasions I've seen someone apologize for disrespecting the other person. They were wrapped up in their own little world, they admit it and are sincerely sorry but 99.9% of the time they deny that they did anything wrong and go on to express there own anger at the person whose toes they stepped on.
       The problem with all of the above is... I don't own or have a right to any of those parking spaces, or that spot in line. Even if someone cuts me off in traffic when I have a legal right of way, I don't know what that persons situation is. Sure he's probably just in a hurry to do something work related, or to get home, or to get someplace where he's going to relax... like me... but.. for all I know his mother could be dieing in the hospital or his wife could be having a baby. My own perceptions are sometimes off... I've been furious at someone for cutting me off only to have my buddy in the seat next to me tell me that it didn't look to him like I was cut off. We can't trust our perceptions... we are wrong a lot. I saw a piece on criminal court cases a few months ago that proved (to me anyway) that eye witnesses to actual crimes are often completely wrong about what and who they think they saw. Some fear that they are wrong more often than they are right.
       The powerful negative emotions that we feel when we think that we have been disrespected are every bit as much a product of our ego as disrespecting others is. The anger is because that fool thinks he's the end all and be all of existence and somehow missed the memo that I'm the end all and be all of existence. The sadness comes from "oh look at me.... did you see what she did to me." Of course the central part of that phrase is "look at ME... did to ME." My favorite, again, is disgust which sounds something like "Ha, look at that jerk breaking the rules, not me, I obey the rules, that makes me a much superior human being." And, lets not forget that, when we are focused and set on automatic, we are completely unreceptive to the idea that we might be perceiving the situation incorrectly... that we might be :::gasp!::: wrong! Hell, I can think of two people who I've only seen admit that they were wrong twice in the last forty years... and... everyone is wrong more often than that.
      In any event, I said in the article on being disrespected that the world would be a better place if people tried to be more aware of what was going on around them and more aware of how their behavior effected others. I also want to say that our little individual worlds would be better if we didn't take ourselves so seriously. No one will want to be around us if they have to tip toe around us like and egg basket. We often get lost in our own little worlds and we need to cut others a bit of slack when they do. Most of the times we are slighted it wasn't intentional and most of the times we dis someone else it isn't intentional. We need to look at our egos and laugh at them for taking it all so personally, and, once we can do that, we can laugh at others who are oblivious. That laughter disperses the anger and sadness.. and that makes the world better.
      P.S. I would have a word with the person parking in the handicapped space though. Thoughtlessness to someone with limited mobility may be as forgivable as any other thoughtlessness but a gentle word at the moment of the error in judgment might just help someone who really needs the help.

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