Sometimes type liberates me to do…. nothing….

By the title of this blog, you might imagine I mean that knowing type gives me permission to give myself a vacation. In a way that may be true.  Specifically, what I mean is that knowing type gives me a little bit of psychic “wiggle room” to breathe where I can see a part of my mind engaging in assumptions and judgments about other peoples’ behaviors. Or thinking I know what other peoples’ intentions are based on their behaviors. Or that I know what their behavior means to them.

Here’s what I’m saying.  My type – among other things – influences assumptions I have about what’s good and bad, right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate behavior.  It influences how I interpret others’ behavior.

Once, at a conference, I was on a panel on type and careers. An audience member had a burning question that went something like this, “Well this isn’t a question about careers, but this is really bothering me.  I see SP parents not taking responsibility for their kids. How can I get them to be more responsible?” You see the assumptions hidden in this question, right? By the way, insert anything into this sentence to make it relevant for you, for example: How can I get those _____ types to just do _______ or to see _______ this way? 

My response to the question was something like this, “Well, I don’t know your type preferences or theirs, but maybe what’s going on is that what they see as responsible, you don’t.  Or vice versa.   Maybe you have an idea of the best way to raise kids, you’ve called it being responsible, and you want to know why someone you believe is an SP doesn’t raise kids the way you do.”

This person looked at me, politely paused a second and said, “Yes, but how can I get them to be more responsible?” To which I said, “OK, assume they really are an SP; maybe they see being responsible as having the option to flex with what’s happening. And they believe that’s a good quality for both them and their kids to have. But you see responsible as something different.”  This person’s pause was shorter this time as they asked, “Yes, but how can I get them to behave more responsibly?” They really emphasized the word "responsibly” – probably to help me hear it better.

These days, when I find myself evaluating someone else’s behavior - when a family member, friend  or colleague says or does something that I find offensive, irresponsible, tactless, immature, stupid, uncaring, irrational, or curmudgeonly (the list goes on), I try to remember what I said to that audience member. And sometimes I remember to say it to myself.  Which gives me a little psychic space to hold both my view and theirs – whatever it might be.  To hold my preferred behavior and theirs.  I can pause - just pause. And do nothing.  It’s amazing how much energy I burn contemplating how others should be different, or behave differently, or be different. Wow. 

It’s really rather exhilarating and liberating to realize that I don’t know what other peoples’ behavior means to them. And when I get that, really get that, somehow, it frees me to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because more often than not, nothing needs to be done!

 

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  1. Wynn

    #1 by Wynn - December 6, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    Spot on!
    More doing nothing!

    I once worked in a place where we got a new whiteboard. (Remember when whiteboards were new?). I was in a type innocent, but reading religious tracts phase of life. Wrote a Thomas Merton quote on it "There are more important things than getting things done." Which looked pretty and I felt smug.
    About a week later, another person wrote "Like what?"
    I realise now that the second made the first work.
  2. Charles

    #2 by Charles - December 14, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    Wynn,

    Nice. Your story made me go "ahhhh." Refreshed. It's interesting - I read your last line two ways. One - the second quote turned the first quote back into a new kind of work - i.e., getting things done. Two - the second quote was what made the first "workable" - i.e., what do I do - if anything - with that liberated attention and energy?

    It "works" either way!
  3. Erica Donnison

    #3 by Erica Donnison - February 2, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    What you are describing, Charles, is what we in the Alexander Technique world call "inhibition". This basically means stopping yourself from undertaking a habitual reaction, leaving the way open for something new to happen. There is a moment of not knowing or un-knowing when your habitual reaction doesn't happen (is "inhibited") and you have the opportunity to experience something in a different way.
  4. Charles

    #4 by Charles - February 4, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    Very cool Erica - thanks for that very interesting observation! As you well know, habits show up in our bodies AND our minds. We're mind-bodies after all. So it seems we could talk about personality type being a habit that works for some things but is maladaptive for other things - "Inhibit your first response." In some warrior traditions, we might also talk about "not doing" as a way of dismantling our world... so this might be a "not doing" for our personality, so something different can emerge.... Thanks again!
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