Part 36: The path least travelled (part 14)
2007-07-26 15:06:24 -

Metro Eireann presents the latest weekly column by the entrepreneur coach and business growth specialist, designed to help you overcome any obstacles and reach your dreams

Previously: The second night after all of the drama of saving the fox from the trap passes peacefully. In the morning, a lively discussion ensues after Preteritus gets a bout of feeling sorry for himself. The resolution seems to be that one must love one’s self before we can start to love others, because we cannot give what we don’t already possess. This having been accepted, the next dilemma is how to remain positive in the light of criticism from others…

“Ah, therein lies the rub,” said Nunco provocatively. “What I feel you need to realise first is that when someone starts to criticise you, you must first try to understand where they are coming from.

“Let me tell you a story to illustrate this. While everybody has their own viewpoint and I cannot tell if you will get the same meaning in relation to how you observe people and what they mean, everybody has a purpose and intent in what they say or do.

“A young boy called Adam was brought up in the mountains with his parents. Adam, an only child, was bright and happy, and played on his own with his imaginary friends, never bored but also unaware of how to interact with other children. Because of their lifestyle, his mother elected to teach him the basics of schooling in his early years.

“Adam was seven before he first went to school and started to interact with other children his own age. School was a turbulent time for this little chap who, while he meant no harm to others, was unable to interact positively with his peers due to being alone for his formative years.

“But the greatest tragedy of all for young Adam was the fact that all he wanted to do was to please other people, yet this came across to others as exhibitionism and attention-seeking. What started in Adam’s life as other people’s lack of understanding or acceptance to the way he was, led to him feeling outcast and ostracised. The more he tried to please people, based on the way he viewed the world, the more it backfired on him.

“A kind, giving child grew up into a young man seen by others on the outside as highly successful, confident and happy, yet deeply troubled inside – and he did not know why. Adam’s way of handling criticism was to take it personally, yet he always attempted to respond in what seemed to him a positive way, by changing and adapting to what he believed people wanted. This caused him to never really admit to himself his own feelings, needs and wants.

“The irony of this whole story of one person’s quest for happiness is the fact that he was completely focused on trying to understand what people wanted from him and to be the eternal giver. In doing this, he missed finding two vital clues to his own peace and happiness. 

“Firstly, Adam had not clearly identified what it was that he really wanted out of life for himself. This is a symptom of so much frustration, especially when it appears that the person in question seems from the outside to have it all.

“Adam was basing his actions on what he thought other people wanted, which in effect meant that he was disregarding his own needs and desires in order to please others. And without having that deep belief in himself, he was trying to give something that he did not have, since it is impossible to give joy without first having joy to give!”

“This is all pretty confusing for me,” said Prostremo. “And besides you have only given us one of the two vital clues.”

“I think I get it,” said Electra, “But then again, I can only speak from my own experience. I suppose it comes back to the saying: ‘Love thy neighbour as you love thyself.’”

“As in, love yourself first, which is what Nunco was talking about yesterday,” said Preteritus, anxious to get in on the conversation. In truth, however, he was quite overwhelmed as he had started to realise the impact behind Adam’s story.

Preteritus – like so many people who, maybe like you, struggle with what appears to be the unfairness in life – had always resented what he believed to be the lack of gratitude from others for all that he did. Some people find it very difficult to receive, as they feel that it beholds them to the person giving, so their response to kindness is often disbelief, and at best can be devoid of appreciation.

“This is so true,” said Nunco. “You may not even realise how often you find yourself in this vicious circle, do you? However in knowing where you currently view the world from, you at least can start on the journey to set yourself free.”

“But then again, as Pro asked, what is the second clue Adam missed that could have saved him so much heartache?” asked Electra.

“Adam took what people said literally. By this I mean he assumed that their intent was directed at him,” said Nunco

“If someone is talking to you or giving you either advice or criticism, where else could their intent be, if it is not directed at you?” said Electra.

“Did you ever have a really bad day, Electra, and someone asked you a simple question, and you ended up biting their head off?” replied Nunco as he looked intently at her, to see her answer.

Electra paused; you could almost see her brain turning over as she remembered countless occasions when she had projected her own feelings in her reaction to someone else. “Yes,” she said hesitatingly.

“And in any of those situations, do you feel that maybe that other person may have ended up taking your reaction to them personally?” Nunco asked.

“When in fact the reality was that Electra had allowed her internal thoughts and emotions dictate the way she had reacted,” interjected Prostremo, “which led to the other person allowing Electra’s feelings affect their own state. 

“Hey – I have often done that myself. I can be going on perfectly happy, minding my own business and I mention something in passing to a friend, who offers me advice based on their own state of mind and their own set of beliefs. And indeed this has led me to then change my outlook, which in effect had been perfectly fine, based on something that made no sense – Oh my goodness, I see how easy it is to do this!” 

“Yes, that is so true,” said Electra, “and that can lead people into going one of two ways – they either do what they think everyone else wants them to do, or they do the exact opposite of what they think others want them to do.”

“And all of this is based on bulls***,” Electra added, much to Prostremo’s shock. “We end up letting other people’s projected image of what they want for themselves interfere with the way we view or deal with our own thoughts and emotions.”

“And in both cases, they are avoiding looking deep inside themselves to actually follow their dreams and do what they actually need to do to be fulfilled,” concluded Nunco. “Okay, I know I started this off with our little story, which I will finish by telling you how Adam learnt to integrate these two clues into his life. But first, let’s get packed up, the sun is shining and we have a treasure to find!”

The group finished off their tea and started taking down the tents. Electra and Prostremo decided to split their belongings between their two packs, to have a more even and balanced load.
“How’s your back, Pre?” enquired Electra as she finished her packing.

“Good thanks, Electra,” Preteritus replied. “I was kinda worried last night that it would be all stiff when I woke up, but it’s fine. My head is a little bit sore, but I am sure Nunco will come up with some wisecrack about how it probably knocked some sense into me!”

“Would I ever? But now you mention it!” grinned Nunco, ducking as Preteritus threw a pine cone his way, missing his ear by a whisker. “Okay, is everyone ready?”

“I can’t find my pen-knife,” said Preteritus. “It was a present from my mother – in fact it had a mother-of-pearl handle.”

“Had a mother-of-pearl handle?” asked Electra. “So that means this one that I found in the corner of our tent that has a mother-of-pearl handle isn’t yours?”

“Okay, smarty-pants – thanks for that,” said Preteritus wryly. “I’m ready – can we go now?”
“Yes,” replied Nunco,  “and I suppose I’d better tell you how Adam learnt to cope and get a better understanding of what it was he really wanted…”

To be continued next week

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