Throughout our experience over the past month (yes details will come soon-ish), I have come to understand the human condition a little bit more. I must say that it is not a positive understanding….
We all have a fight or flight instinct about us in times of crisis.
We also have different ways of responding to crises moments.
Ultimately, our true characters come out when these crises hit us directly or to those around us. I am sure that there is some psychological or sociological study already done somewhere explaining the nature of people in these moments; however, my own recent experiences allow me deductions about those in my world.
Let me digress slightly first –
It is not an unknown or surprising fact, if you know me even a little bit, that I generally dislike people. It is not that I am anti-social nor is it that my introverted nature makes me feel this way. It is more my early upbringing and exposure to a world of interactions that has proven to me that in general people are a**holes. That is, of course, a huge generalization and I leave room for the exceptions. However, for me, it is easier to work myself towards liking someone knowing that disappointment is inevitable rather than being optimistic that everyone lacks the capacity to be disappointing. I am cynically optimistic towards my fellow humans.
With that lens in mind, when it came to needing support and help during our recent crisis, I should not have been as deeply affected by the lack of compassion, empathy and unconditional reaction towards my requests, questions or unspoken needs.
In the end, I have found that my tolerance for others who cannot or do not step up with honesty, integrity, compassion, empathy and positive reactions has pretty much dropped to zero. What do I mean by this?
*I no longer put myself out or forward when someone asks me “When are we getting together?” If you want to get together, then you should provide some specific days and times in which you are available and follow through with the scheduling without making it my responsibility to respond or follow up. I would do the same if I wanted to hang out. The fact that I haven’t followed up to that kind of question should inform you of the amount of effort I am willing to make in response to the lack of effort involved in the question.
*While I might appreciate intended emotion behind “Let me know if I can do anything” or “I would if I could, but…”, I lack the capacity to be responsive to such statements. If you want to help, tell me exactly what you are willing and able to do. Or, better yet, just do it. By putting the onus on me, it just adds more thought (stress) to an already stressful situation that is unnecessary to me. It also requires me to make you a priority even though the situation is not about you at all. Instead, I would just prefer to know your thoughts and love are with me or know what specifically you have to offer to me in the situation.
*Never again, will I ever say to someone, “Keep me posted.” What a line of BS. Again, this puts the responsibility on the person in need to keep you informed of a situation that may or may not actually involve you nor require you to know about. If I am not updating you, then there is probably a reason for it. Either, I do not have the time or energy to do so or you simply are not a priority at the moment to be deemed worthy of being updated. I know that sounds harsh, but crisis situations are not normal ones and adding more to someone going through the situation does not help. If you want information, then ask for it regularly by checking in. Do not leave the responsibility up to the person who is actively going through it all and probably needs to know s/he is supported more than being the giver of information.
*The art of asking questions is a fine one. Providing unsolicited advice in question form such has “Have you…?” “Is so-so helping?” “What about…?” etc. is not helpful. Allow the person to provide the information s/he has and believe that they are doing everything already known to be done. If you truly believe that there is something being missed, then you can ask by offering to do it yourself…. In this way, you are stepping up to take a real action but also putting it out there as an option to be done.
My litmus test for people I allow into my inner circle are people who fulfill a “Yes” to my question of “Would I want this person on my lifeboat?” It may seem rather strange, but the truth is that if survival is our basic instinct in life, then this is a fair question. Crises show us who we really are. Falling apart or running away solves nothing. Putting off responsibility, getting angry or waiting for someone else to take action serves no purpose. Everyone has something different to offer based on their character and skills. I do not expect everyone to be like me by any means.
Still, I do expect those upon whom I put my trust and unconditional consideration to fulfill certain expectations. Although I may not cut off everyone who does not, I do start to question their value to my life ultimately. The world is both large and small, but life is short. I want my life to be full and fulfilled by those whom I surround myself with so that we all help each other to live in a way that gives maximum joy to ourselves and the world around us.