|Sent on:||Sunday, April 6, 2008 11:00 PM|
Mothers tolerate their children's naughty behaviour, referees tolerate abuse on the field, politicians tolerate criticism, millions of people tolerate the noise of planes over their homes, owners tolerate uncontrollable pets, and many wives and husbands tolerate the violence of their partner. For sure there is probably a lot of tolerating going on in the average day for the average person in our now small world. What are you tolerating? Is their something or someone you feel you have to tolerate? Or have you given up and descended into anger and despair. Sometimes it's called 'learned helplessness'. Whatever it is you can turn it around.
Tolerance is one of those interesting ideas or concepts that is seldom fully explored and understood. Often it is confused with 'suffering in silence' and while we say we are tolerating someone presence we are really suffering in their presence. We are really tolerating our own suffering. Hard to see in a world that tends to teach us that it's 'them' and not me that is making me feel this way.
Tolerance is necessary, until you see it is unnecessary, at which point you have either risen above or gone beyond what you thought you had to tolerate. A simple example might be 'racial tolerance'. In most societies the tolerance of the other races is rightly encouraged. But for many it simply means we have to put up with 'them'. The need to tolerate and the effort to tolerate is only required as long as you identify 'them' and yourself with colour of skin. As soon as you realise and accept that people are not their skin, therefore not their race (the opposite of what we have been taught to believe), you rise above race, you go beyond race. You go beyond what was in effect an illusory identity and start to see the reality (real identity) of all 'others' which is as human beings, beings of consciousness in a human form, at which point the effort to tolerate is unnecessary. Some refer to this as 'spiritual vision' where we see and relate to the spirit of the person, which is who they are, and cease to identify them with their form and its colour. It's an easy theory but challenging to practice because the next level at which we may find some personal 'intolerables' will likely be the 'others' beliefs, culture and behaviours. And if we do not understand the others beliefs/culture/behaviours we have a tendency to either fear them or resent them. And what we fear or resent calls on our tolerance, hence we seem to be tolerating 'them', but in reality we are really just tolerating our own emotions towards them.
So lets take a step back for a moment and see what is really happening when we become intolerant. Whenever we experience any emotional disturbance it means we have been separated from the core of our being which is always stable, strong and calm. But it's not the external event or the other persons behaviour or beliefs that have separated us, it is entirely our own doing. Not so easy to see but it is evidenced by the fact that in one house on the street one person is not emotionally disturbed when the aircraft flies overhead, whereas the person next door is always angry and resentful whenever an aircraft passes. Similarly, while the teenager can stand in the noisiest disco and talk calmly and coherently, the parent looking for their child in the noisy melee of the disco just cannot wait to get out! In the workplace the perpetually late arriving member of the team seems to drive some of his team members crazy while others are just not bothered by it, they do not lose the emotional plot because they do not lose their connection with their inner stable, strong and calm core, from where the power to remain unfazed and in a state of equilibrium comes.
Each of the above examples illustrates that whatever is our emotional disturbance when we become 'intolerant' is always our own creation, our own responsibility. It is not caused by the external situation or person. This means freedom is in sight ��� freedom from our emotional suffering. But it also means we have a 'need' that needs to be met. It is our need to reconnect and restore our inner strength and stability. It's a need to dissolve our emotional disturbance so that we may 'feel' calm and able to face the person or the situation that is 'challenging' us. In fact any time we find ourself thinking, feeling and acting out some form of intolerance, it always means that we have an unmet inner need. And while we may illicit others help to co-operate with the fulfillment of that need, ultimately only we are capable of fulfilling it for ourselves.
In the meantime here are five steps that may help you towards meeting your inner needs in situations that you feel you have to tolerate.
ACKNOWLEDGE to yourself that you are responsible for your emotional discomfort. Your emotional disturbance is entirely self created regardless of what or who you face.
ACCEPT the other person as they are, or situation as it is, or the event as it was. Watch how you want to say, "But that is just not acceptable", usually after 'the event'. At which point, in reality, you don't have a choice, you have to accept what has happened because���. it's happened! It's in the past. If you don't move into acceptance you are always stuck in the frustration of trying to change the past or the other person, which of course is impossible.
AQUIRE understanding. This is the moment you reach out towards the other seeking to understand why they did what they did and what their needs were behind their action.
APPRECIATE their openness. In sharing their thoughts and feelings, their perceptions and reasons, they have been open and 'given'. To reciprocate with appreciation is to replace what was previously the silent resentment of intolerance with the energy of love. (not Holywood love!)
ASK for your need to be met, without dependency or condition. Ask, "How can we both have our needs be met in this situation?" This is the moment of creativity where solutions or ways forward are co-created.
In the example of the late arriver for the morning meeting it's obvious that our emotional reaction is our own (Acknowledge) because the other members of the team are responding to the same event differently. Trying to 'force' the other to change either by threat or further emotional targeting or some other 'consequence' will only illicit resistance and probably even later arrival times (Accept). A conversation with the intention to understand why lateness is a habit (Acquire) reveals a need to get a sick partner to hospital every day for treatment, or a need for more sleep because the earlier train time is just too early, or it's just a way to get others attention. Gratitude for their openness (Appreciation) ensures the quality of energy exchanged is positive and harmonious. This sets the ground for the final stage which is a conversation that invites solutions (Ask) that may result in meeting both needs by either agreeing to accommodate late arrival by delaying the meeting, or changing the agenda to accommodate late arrival, or coming in earlier and leaving earlier etc. etc.
It's just an example and it is of course impossible to predict how such a strategy may arrive at an outcome that satisfies the requirements of both parties. Life is ultimately unpredictable and messy and so 'relationships', which is another word for 'life', are also unpredictable and messy. The alternative is tolerance in the form of a silent suffering, possible resentment and a relationship that always throws up a background of tension verging on conflict.
Next week we explore the three things that can easily sabotage and even derail the journey beyond tolerance ��� judgment, assumptions and expectations.
Question: Who or what do you feel you are currently having to tolerate?
Reflection: Rehearse in your mind how you might apply the above five steps in an interaction with that person. Visualise the process.
Action: Sit down with that person while being flexible enough to allow unexpected responses to arise from them or from your self.