How we interpret the behavior of others

I have a covid patient in my life, and a nurse told her: “you may be OK now but you can get worse and die at any moment”. In that vulnerable situation, this was understandably experienced as unnecessary and frightening by the patient.

How do we interpret the nurse’s behavior? Do we assume the nurse scared the patient intentionally? And if so, that she is cruel, sadistic, stupid, or something else?

Or do we acknowledge that we don’t know? We don’t know much about her or her intention. Nor do we know much about her life or the situation she is in. She may have had the best of intentions and not realized how it could be received. It may be that she is frightened and stressed, and said it in a way she wouldn’t if she was in a different situation and state. Even if this is a pattern for her behavior, it’s very likely a response to her own fear, stress, frightening stories, and perhaps trauma.

Whenever we are drawn to judging someone, it’s good to remember that we know very little about the person and their situation and history. It’s good to remember that situations often play a bigger role in people’s behavior than “who they are” as a person. (If we broaden the definition of “situation” to their history, culture, biology, evolution, and so on, it explains most or all of our behavior.) And it’s good to remember that even what many would judge as heartless or cruel is people’s reaction to their own pain, fear, and trauma.

The more we get to know ourselves and how we respond to our pain fear, stress, and trauma, the more we find empathy and understanding for others and how they behave. We relate to others as we relate to ourselves.

Of course, none of this is an excuse for inappropriate, unprofessional, or unkind behavior. It’s important to point it out when this behavior happens and take steps to make it less likely to happen in the future. But if we keep this in mind, we can do it with a little more kindness and perhaps wisdom.

And if we can’t find that empathy and understanding in the moment, that’s a reason for finding empathy with ourselves. We may be caught up in our reactions to our own fear and pain.

The mind trying to make sense of what’s happening

The mind is a sweetheart, as one of my teachers (Todd C.) likes to say.

It tries to make sense of what’s going on. It tries to help out the best it can.

This happens when an old trauma is triggered by a current situation.

An old trauma is triggered by the current situation. A strong emotion or reaction comes up, the mind thinks it must be about the current situation, and makes up a story that makes it seem as if the current situation justifies the situation. To others, it may seem that the reaction is way out of proportion to the situation, but to the mind it seems justified because of the story it made up. (Afterwards, we may recognize this and feel perplexed or even a bit ashamed Or we may take it as an opportunity to look at the trauma and the initial situation creating it.)

And we also see it just about all the time in everyday life. Something happens, and the mind tries to make sense of it. It interprets. Makes a story out of it. Tries to make it coherent as best as it can. It may make a story out of it that either deflates or enhances the imagined self, depending on its inclination.

The mind is a story maker and we need it to function. We do need basic stories to navigate and orient in the world. And yet, it’s really helpful when we can recognize this as it happens. Recognize the stories as stories. Recognize velcro as velcro. (The charge we experience when the mind associates sensations with the stories.)

Evil, pain, confused love

When we see actions that seem less than loving in ourselves and others, we interpret it in different ways. And these interpretations are based on our experience, understanding, and assumptions about people and life.

Behavior: Theft, lying, killing etc.

Surface psychology: Greed, anger, jealousy.

Moralistic, metaphysical: Evil.

Evolutionary: Behavior that, in some situations, helps us survive and bring up children.

Cultural and social perspective: Learned patterns. Learned ways of dealing with pain, fear, being a human in the world.

Family dynamics: A natural and understandable reaction to certain family dynamics.

Ordinary psychology: Coming from pain, wounds, trauma, reactivity.

Fear perspective: Reaction to unloved and unquestioned fear. Or, more precisely, unloved fear and reaction to the fear, and unquestioned assumptions behind the fear and the reaction to the fear.

Love and inquiry perspective: How we sometimes live when parts of us and our experience are unloved and unquestioned.

Living Inquiries: Deficient self, trying to protect an identity and/or fill a perceived hole.

The Work: The natural consequences of beliefs and identifications.

Satsang inquiry: Worried love, confused love, misguided love. An expression of love for the imagined self, trying to protect the imagined self.

Self-inquiry: Unquestioned assumption of being a separate self. Unexamined experience of (a) this seamless field of experience (b) being split, and (c) identifying with one part (me, I), and seeing the rest as “other” (others, the wider world).

Awareness: The play of awareness/awakeness.

Spirit: Divine play, lila.

Cherry-picking from the Bible

I cherry-pick from the Bible as everyone else, but am at least honest about it. I take the parts I find interesting, and interpret them in a way that makes sense to me and supports my current worldview.

Here is a quote from a discussion I came across on Facebook:

I will re-iterate the fact that my point is very simple- I disagree. I do not wish to be “right” I wish to follow only he who created all of us. Now less of my words & more of his; Jesus the Son of God our maker & creator ofheaven & earth. “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:12-30 “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion & every evil thing are there.” James 3:16 “I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statues and judgements, which if man does, he shall live by them; I am the Lord. You shall not lie with a man as with a woman. (Speaking to Moses) It is an abomination. It is perversion. Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you.” Leviticus 18:17 Lastly, God most certainly is love. Through His forever-trustworthy words, God will keep for you His promise for the days when you can’t see where you’re going. You can stake everything on this promise: Isaiah 42:16 – “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

And here is some additional advice from that wise book:

All who curse their father or mother must be put to death. They are guilty of a capital offense. (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife, both the man and the woman must be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10 NLT)

If a man lies in sexual intercourse with a woman during her menstrual period, both of them shall be cut off from their people, because they have laid bare the flowing fountain of her blood. (Leviticus 20:18NAB)

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