FIGHT YOUR OWN FORM
By Roland Watson
This article is a bit shorter, but its subject is as important as any of the others.
I've been reviewing in this series how you can deflect the messages that come at you from other people, and social institutions. Now, I want to turn it around and give some advice for how you can get better control over yourself. This will help you to stop imposing your own form, your own simplifications and expectations, on other people. Also, and just as importantly, it will help you avoid being the unthinking conduit of negative social messages.
One way to understand this is from the use of what are called "botnets" on the Internet. To create a botnet, hackers get computer users to click on links that contain viruses, which, after they are downloaded, allow the hackers to take over the users' computers. They then connect all of the computers that they have commandeered into a group - a botnet - and use it to send out massive amounts of spam email, or to attack a specific website through a denial of service attack.
When you unwittingly accept and pass on negative social influences, you are participating in something analogous to a botnet. This is one of the most powerful ways that broad, and in many cases extremely destructive influences, are spread. For example, if you listen to someone, say on talk radio, who is angry, and you get angry, too, and you then pass on this anger to other people, in conversations and through email, you are being used in this way.
Again, some anger is legitimate, when it is the product of reason, such as being angry at dictators, sexual predators, and other types of criminals. However, a lot of the anger that we hear from social leaders is not a call for reason. Instead, it is a purposeful, violent appeal to our emotions, to get us agitated, to get us to be followers, and to do what they want.
Your efforts to stop shaping other people, both consciously and unconsciously - and this is another point that I am repeating in a number of articles - begin with self-examination. You need to work to increase your self-awareness, including to understand, and eliminate, any biases and prejudices that you have.
For example, studies in the United States have found that many people hold views that are racist, without even realizing it. These types of attitudes are so common - and ingrained - that people accept them without even thinking about it.
The fight against your own form therefore starts with this: your tendency to type people, to jump to negative conclusions about them. Instead, you need to reserve your judgment. You want to learn to see people as individuals, and for this you need to be patient. You need to give them the time that they need to reveal themselves.
Don't share your worries
What this illustrates is that the greatest challenge with confronting your own form is in fact ending this unconscious action - imposing it without even thinking about it. And, it applies to a lot more than just helping to spread terrible social messages.
As another example, a common way that we unconsciously transmit our form in our personal circle, to family and friends, is through "sharing our worries." This is when you can't stop thinking about something that you are worried about. It might be the state of a personal relationship, or what is happening at your job, or a money problem. So, you share it, with the people you can most easily get to listen to you, your family and friends.
Now, while it isn't a bad idea to ask for advice, the habitual sharing of worries - this is also known as nagging - is a dreadful thing to do. In effect, you are forcing your targets to join your own little circle of fear, guilt and stress.
Not only that, it is completely counter-productive. Sharing your worries rarely does anything to make the underlying problem disappear. Instead, it creates a new problem. It interferes with your relationships with your closest friends.
The basic or overall idea that I am driving at is to be self-effacing. You want to minimize your direct personal impact. But, this is where the need to discriminate comes in again. You can still be wild and crazy, if that's who you really are. You can still be yourself. I'm not asking you to be null and void.
You can be the person that you want to be, and in a way where you don't force yourself and your ideas down other peoples' throats. Being yourself, and manipulating other people to think that you are great, are two different things. Obviously, if you have to manipulate people to like you, then down deep maybe you're not so likable.
Finally, if you are in a situation where you feel compelled to simplify someone, you should make your simplification positive. Focus on what you sense is good in the other person. Indeed, most people, even bad people, will respond positively to someone who treats them with respect.
To be this way, then, you need to control the reflex to be negative. And, as an aside, I want to comment that this is actually another arcane social form, to be negative. It arises from the overwhelming importance that is given in society to competition. We are led to believe that we are competing with literally everyone else, and that there is nothing to be gained in being positive with other people. Life is a competition - between everyone - a fight to the death.
Also, another part of being positive is learning to limit your predisposition to complain, about anything. And, if you must criticize someone, your should try to be discreet and indirect.
Conversely, if you are criticized, you should fight your tendency to become defensive. Instead, listen to the criticism, acknowledge it, and then present your own views.
Lastly, and this is essential, you must resist the tendency to engage in what is called projection, or transference. This occurs when you redirect a negative emotion to someone who was in no way involved with what led you to have the emotion.
For example, if someone makes you angry, but you have no recourse with them, don't transfer your anger to other people who are weaker than you or over whom you have power. Not only is this a terrible way to treat other people - including your partner and children - it will lead everyone to think that you are a jerk.
So, and not to end on a negative note myself, if you follow the advice in this article, it's quite likely that other people will find you to be a wonderful and engaging person.
In the next article, the last in this series, I will review two special cases, of people in situations where the need to fight behavioral form is even more difficult than normal. I will also directly examine the idea of rebellion.