“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
— Carl Jung
I’ve been living and breathing this quote lately. I get irritated very easily. Slow walkers drive me mental. Men who grunt loudly at yoga. Talk-back listeners who get righteous about stuff they know little about…. What’s worse (for me) is that these days I’m 100% aware of it as it happens. I’m at That Brink where I’m aware of my faults, but, like an old reptile, can’t stop acting out the bad behaviour. It’s like watching a movie where we know what calamity is about to befall the protaganist. DON’T DO IT, we scream. But we – the protaganist in our lives – do it anyway, robotically. Or reptilianally.
It’s all so goddamn painful and tedious.
But, I ask you, what are other people other than a mirror to ourselves? Without other people we would have no idea who we were. Nothing to reflect off, to ricochet off. Have you noticed that at certain times in your life you’ve attracted certain kinds of people into your life? I went through a phase of attracting very materialistic, ego-driven men. Men who owned Mustangs. Men who owned 36 pairs of designer jeans. It was during a time that I was exploring my own attachment to money. The period lasted four years. It took me that long to get to the bottom of my issues with money – my overall disdain for it. I needed these men in my life, to play out before me my own prejudices and hangups. U.G.L.Y. But helpful.
I’ve just got off the phone chatting to Laura Munson, whose book This is Not The Story You Think It Is is about to be published here. It’s a friggen amazing book. With a great title, yeah? Buy it using my little dinkus thing to the right, if you like. The book is fresh and astute. And it quotes Rumi and Rilke.
I won’t give too much away (because I’m writing my Sunday Life column about our chat). But she gave me a wonderful insight into the role of others in our lives. The book is about how her husband woke up one day and said he didn’t love her. She didn’t buy his line. But went through hell sorting through the issues and steering the two of them back on track.
We chatted this morning about the gift of pain. She said she was grateful for her experience because she grew from it. It was the forum for incredible growth. And for her finding her own brand of happiness for the first time. She’d learned all the philosophies and mantras over the years – from self-help books and CDs – but it wasn’t until she was forced to play them out with her husband that it finally set in.
“I had the map,” she said. “He gave me the territory.”
Other people are our territory for finding ourselves. Too true.