Anything in the world is a mirror for ourselves.
What stories do I have about Putin? If I turn these stories around, can I find specific examples of how these stories are true about me? Now and in the past?
HE IS UNHINGED
I see him as unhinged from reality.
When I am unhinged from reality? When I go into reactivity in how I see him and the war, my views inevitably get more one-sided and polarized. They may not be wrong, but I may miss out on the bigger picture. For instance, I may miss out on remembering that many or most Russians may not want this war, and many or most of the Russian soldiers may not want it.
HE IS HEARTLESS
I see him as heartless and prioritizing his own ambitions over the suffering of others.
How do I do that now? When I go into reactivity in how I see Putin and the invasion of Ukraine, I tend to lose my compassion and empathy. I may indulge in my own anger and reactivity, and forget about the suffering of the many impacted by this war – the Ukrainians and also the Russian soldiers and their families. I distance myself from this suffering. I don’t allow my empathy for their suffering to work on me and transform me. (To open my heart and mind.)
HE IS REACTIVE
I see him as reacting to his own pain in ways that creates pain for others.
When do I do the same? Again, when I go into reactivity in how I see the Ukrainian invasion, I get more rigid in my views and more heartless. My mind and heart close. And that inevitably creates some pain and suffering for me and those around me. It may just be that I am a bit more cold, distant, and distracted in my interactions, and that impacts me and others.
Whenever I react to my own pain instead of meeting it and examining it, I tend to create more pain for myself and others. My views get more rigid. I act from that rigidity. I am less receptive. I have less empathy and compassion for myself and others. I am less wise. I am less kind.
WHAT THIS EXAMINATION DOES AND DOESN’T DO
Finding in me what I see in Putin does not in any way make what he does any more right. It’s still a crime. It’s still deeply immoral. It’s still deeply unnecessary. It’s still profoundly reckless and puts the whole world at risk. It’s something I will act to prevent or change, to the small extent I can.
Also, finding in myself what I see in him doesn’t mean it’s not also there in him, and sometimes expressed in a more extreme way. In a conventional sense, he does seem unhinged from reality. (Judging from his justifications for invading Ukraine, and as most authoritarian leaders after years in power.) He does seem heartless. (Prioritizing his personal pet plans over the suffering of millions.) And he does seem reactive. (Looking at how he describes a world opposing his actions, and footage showing how he treats his subordinates.)
And this examination may help me respond and act a bit more from clarity and kindness, and less from reactivity. And that’s more than worth it.
Note: This is a very simplified version of The Work of Byron Katie, and doing it more thoroughly – with the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet and the four questions and turnarounds, allows the process to work on us far more deeply.
Why did I choose this picture of Putin? Because Putin seems to – for whatever reason – hate what he sees as weakness which for him includes feminine men and gays. So why not depict him as a drag queen? It’s a reminder that he has those sides too, as we all do. If he felt freer and embraced more of himself, perhaps that’s what he would do instead of waging war?