Dastardly Devils

Having learnt to emulate our heroes what do we do with our villains?
By the time we get to mid-life we have encountered endless numbers of people some who have drifted in and out quickly others who have taken a more permanent place in our lives.
And some of those people can be dastardly devils. The villains who seem to thwart our paths forward, the rogues who seem to be out to get us, the scoundrels who seem to demand money and time from us. Many self-help books will tell you that we should eliminate toxic people from our lives but the reality is we still have to go to work and we still have to socialise.
And the thing is, not all of those people are actually bad!
Obviously there are really nasty people out there in the world who are out to manipulate or step on others, those who seek to take whatever they can from the world not matter how much damage they inflict on others and those who knowingly abuse the trust of others.
However not everybody who we cast as villains in our world actually is. We tend to feel anyone who is different from us, who thinks differently from us or who does not conform to our world view is a bad person.
I am sure we all have had bad bosses in the past who we have cast as villains in our lives but were they really bad people or was it their circumstances and beliefs that made us dislike them? What was their motivation behind making demands of you that seemed, to you, pretty pointless? Perhaps the boss isn’t too bad but it is other work colleagues that you avoid if at all possible because spending even a little time with them seems to be an eternity.
We have all had those acquaintances, those friends of friends, who we try to avoid because we just don’t like them, maybe it’s their views and opinions, or perhaps just something we can’t quite put our fingers on that makes us slink away in the opposite direction when they appear.
How do we deal with these dastardly devils?

Firstly we need to take a look at ourselves and ask why don’t I like this person? Are they actually bad or is just that we don’t have the same view of the world. A bad boss may still be a bad boss, not though, because of the demands they make but because they fail to understand the importance of leadership when they are making those demands.
Then we need to see beyond a couple of those cognitive biases that plague our thinking. Not everything is about you! When someone is demanding or in a bad mood, it may not actually be directed toward you. It is more likely to be something else going on in their lives which is causing the way they behave. We also tend you view people because of the worst (or best) trait we see. So ask yourself is this person bad in all aspects of their behaviour or is just one behaviour that is distorting your view of them overall?

Try to step into their view of the world, but you can only really do this by talking to them first. Be polite and attentive, if it someone you work with enquire why it is they do things in a particular way or how the business benefits from what needs to be done. You will probably find that if you do this that your attitude toward them will change as will theirs toward you.
The real villains in life, however, will probably sneak up on you unawares. The real manipulators will, to start off with, be the most charming people around. They will be attentive and pleasant. Then they will start by asking you to do one little thing, then something else, then something a bit more significant. Eventually you will find yourselves tangled in the web they have spun around you. Breaking free becomes especially difficult, if that is, you have even realised that you have been trapped.
There are ways to stop yourself being trapped in the first place.
Always stay true to yourself and your beliefs. One of the tricks manipulators use is our desire to conform, so they ask for small favours, trapping people into a cycle of conformity before making bolder moves. Never be afraid to say no or at least question the reasoning behind what is being asked of you.
Seek out a second opinion. Talk to those you trust about anyone new in your life and listen to what they say and think, particularly if you have been asked to do anything that you are not sure about.
There are real villains out there and there are villains we have created in our minds. Defeating these dastardly devils, both types, helps us free negativity from our lives and create a better world for us.

Yes We Are All Individuals

Have you ever felt slightly at odds with the world? As if you can’t really see where you fit in the world at the moment? When we feel like this, especially at mid-life, we begin to think the problem is with us and this causes worry or stress.

Actually, it is perfectly normal to think like this, because it is a quirk in the way our minds work.

The first thing to understand is that how we each see the world is as individual as our fingerprints.

Each of us filters the world based on our beliefs, our values, our education, our upbringing which means we experience every experience we have differently from those around us. Even family members sharing the same experience will mentally interpret it differently. Take, for example, two children on a family holiday. They will experience the holiday differently, their age difference will have an impact because of their understanding of the world at their age and one will probably get more enjoyment out of the holiday than the other depending on the activities they do. The result is they will have slightly different memories of the holiday adding to their individual view of the world as they progress through life.

As we experience more experiences it makes us even more individual in the way we see the world.

Obviously we are not always so wildly different from everyone else.

As we encounter other people in life there will be those we get on with and those we do not. If you take time to think about it, it is those whose world view is closer to ours that we get on with and those whose view is at odds with our own that we will avoid. All those times you have taken an instant like, or dislike, to someone new, it is our filters subconsciously working and assessing how this person will fit in to our life.

It is our unique view of the world that makes us who we are and who we relate too.

So YES we are all individual.

BUT

While we are all unique we are also all hard-wired to conform.

Conformity is a natural part of human evolution. The survival of the pack, tribe, community is dependent on those within it working together and coming together for the benefit of the community. It is the conformity within society that sets the rules and boundaries of acceptable behaviour (in a given time and place!). It is a powerful force used (and abused) by politicians, advertisers and anyone seeking to gain an advantage over others.

So deeply ingrained is the need to conform that even those who rebel against conformity usual find some way to conform themselves – for example think about “rebellious youth” over time, Teddy Boys, Mods, Rockers, Punks, Goths, each developed their own way to conform, the clothes they wear, their music etc.

Those who truly don’t conform in society are usually labelled as insane or as criminals.

Naturally the degree to which the need for conformity affects us is dependent on our individuality but because of our individuality and our need to conform, every so often there are inevitably going to be clashes within us. Sometimes our individuality dominates and we feel at odds with the world other times we can be consumed by the roles we conform to and we feel that we are losing our identity, our individuality.

As long as we understand that this is normal, because that is how human brains work, then we also know that there is no need to get to worried or stressed when it happens and we can work out why it is we are feeling the way we are at those times.

The better we can develop our self awareness in all aspects of our lives the better we can move forward in life.

Individuality and Conformity, and the relationship between them, is obviously a complex subject and I have only skimmed the surface here – for now