It was a sleepy start to the working day. The kind of atmosphere where you nod good morning toward your also semi sleep-walking ‘who just drove the car in’ colleague. In slow silence, we shuffled about preparing for the day to come, when oh my goodness, in walked the bellows of the entire universe. Colleague number 2 never spoke, she shouted. Absolutely everything. Piercing painfully through our delicate eardrums, she slammed her bag on the table and began, without invitation or acknowledgement of the quiet environment we had already set, to retell her events of the previous evening. ‘I couldn’t believe it’, she yelled, ‘I was with this woman last night and all she did was shout, it’s so annoying, why do people do that?’ I smiled back at her, stifling a full-blown grin and turned to my quiet colleague who, also stifling a smirk, looked at me and said, ‘that’s incredible’. I replied, ‘spectacular really’. We grinned at each other. The colleague with only shout in her mouth joined in, ‘yeah, I thought that as well’!
Why do people shout when they are long past the age of the playground? Because either they modelled the behaviour of the adults around them, or they were never listened to. Subsequently, no-one had ever reflected back to them that their behaviour was socially inept.
There are levels of oblivion. Being oblivious to our own behaviour can happen – lots. The only way to avoid blundering into adulthood, carrying the unlearned lessons from childhood and projecting them out onto everyone else, is to raise our own level of self-awareness. It is the goal of Psychoanalysis to help people to project less. Or at least, reflect on their projections. But as Freud said, ‘people just don’t want to do the work’.
The concept of mirrors is big in Psychoanalysis and other self-development arenas, with the idea being that other people are our mirrors. In them, we may glimpse aspects of ourselves – particularly the parts of our shadow selves that we have disowned. It’s not that all people represent parts of us, it’s that the people we dislike the most give us the greatest opportunity to check-in with ourselves if we unconsciously do that also. It’s a sobering moment when we see that level of reflection.
Should we bail each other out gently? Well, that would be a kind thing to do, but know that the risk of you being shot or suffering attempts to ‘obliviate’ you are high. Such is the speed of air that is released from a puncture in a pressurised ego! Expect indignation, personal attack, you becoming their new hated project, sour lips, snarky smirks, tight jaws, narrowing eyes, chin-snaking. Judgement.
Choose Wisely. Choose Well.