Remember, a chip on the shoulder is a sure sign of wood higher up. – Brigham Young
In my last post I looked at the kinds of things that were stopping you from getting started – the forces that held you back.
I want to explore this a little more today but it’s a tricky thing to talk about without stepping on landmines but let’s have a go anyway.
There is a proper way to do this and one place to start is an anthropology course by Professor Mike Wesch, in which he writes about three important concepts that you should keep in mind when trying to understand people.
The first thing to recognise is that you’re trapped in a prison – with bars made of your existing beliefs – things you believe to be obviously true.
The thing is – you may only believe nthey’re obvious because that’s all you know.
What you’ve got to do is learn how to see things the way the people you want to understand see things – without judging on the basis of how you see things.
That’s called empathy.
Not sympathising with them – but empathising, seeing what they see in the way they see.
You don’t have to agree with them, it’s ok to be shocked – but the job is to see.
And you do that by getting involved – not looking from a distance like birdwatching but getting into the picture yourself and wandering around the scene touching and feeling things.
So, with that preamble how would you go around empathising with yourself?
What is that weight you’re carrying around with you?
It’s quite likely that whatever situation you’re in you feel that something is missing – that you have been disadvantaged in some way.
You might have been brought up in luxury but with uncaring parents or in a slum with no parents at all.
Your story is yours, and it’s the weight you carry around with you.
It’s very hard to condense any one person’s experience into a short burst of analysis – I’m hesitant to even try.
It’s so easy to bring up stories of horror, atrocities committed against other people – a documented narrative of what human beings can do when they exercise power without fear of retribution.
So, consider this in your own situation – do you have a chip on your shoulder – and how large is it?
How much of it is history?
Now, when you look at that weight, how much of it is made up of your lived experience and how much is history?
If history holds you back it’s probably because you lament the loss of what you once had.
Power, money, freedom – once it’s taken away you are left with anger and resentment and a sense of loss.
And I suppose you want it back.
If your lived experience has created that chip, nurtured and grown it, then life has not been kind to you.
For example, if you were an immigrant in the UK between the fifties and the nineties, you probably experienced systematic racism.
That’s something that’s only changed over generations.
How many generations will it take to become free?
When you look at this weight then, the weight made up of history and experience, how long do you plan to keep carrying it?
Are you going to hand it over to future generations, to your children?
If you’re lucky enough to have a good background, the right passport, an education and access to opportunities, then none of this really matters for you.
But if you don’t, the decisions you make will matter for your children and their children.
The decisions you make now are the ones that will shape the opportunities they have in the future.
And you should probably think of what you’re going to do for those future generations – will they be given a rock or will they be able to live a life free of burden?
What are you going to do now?
I think this section is not about forgetting pain or erasing the past.
That is always going to be there.
But it’s about trying to figure out if you’re in a place where the burden you’re carrying is still holding you back.
If that is the case then how can you start to separate the past from your future.
I feel like this section is in danger of being vague or weak because it’s so hard to generalise when your experience is so specific to you.
For example, from one point of view a person might be lucky – have benefitted from a good education and access to opportunities.
From another point of view they may have been much less successful than someone else with the same background but of a different gender or race.
And you can’t understand that unless you know the details of their situation – enough to empathise with them.
The point I’m making here is that despite all that what you should do is focus on the process, not on the outcome.
You may not do as well as someone else.
But that doesn’t matter.
What matters is what you do.
We have a few things to explore next time.