Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves

Carl JUng

In the past, I have not responded well to what I perceive as arrogance in others. Seriously, if you want to play a fun game, walk into a domain where I feel as though I have some knowledge, experience and authority, act in a way that I will perceive as arrogant, and refuse to seek to understand any of the history that anyone else has about that particular domain. Then, sit back and watch as I tie myself in knots trying to come to terms with what I have assessed as arrogance. I like to think that I am better at handling perceived arrogance in others than I used to be; I am probably not, however I think that I have more of an understanding of my response to it than I used to.

What I have learnt is that arrogance tends to happen when we want to hold ourselves as superior. And, when another person appears to be trying to take care of a need to feel superior, I respond by starting to feel inferior. Then, from that point of inferiority, I start to try to gain back my superiority. From there, my behaviours have a tendency to become defensive and self-protective and, if that happens, it just doesn’t end well for anyone, including myself. Once upon a time, I would have said that this response was because I don’t like arrogant people who refuse to seek to understand. However, I like to think that my understanding of myself and others has matured beyond that slightly. For a start, emotional spaces are arrogant; people aren’t arrogant. Also, my reactions are not about liking and disliking others. Rather, they are about what is going on within me at that point in time to cause whatever reaction I choose to have.

The thing is – and this is a mind blowing moment – even my assessment of someone else’s emotional space is only my opinion. If I have said that Person X is arrogant, then I am creating that through my own language. In Person X’s life, arrogance may not even exist for them! This means that my response to Person X’s arrogance is potentially a response to an emotion that I have assessed in Person X that they may not even feel exists, and that has purely been created through my language rather than being an actual physical thing inside Person X! Wow!

If Person X’s arrogance exists because of my own opinions, then this is interesting because it suddenly hands over some responsibility for the interaction to me. I don’t get to simply blame Person X for being arrogant and walk away. My responsibility becomes one of understandign why the interaction is happening in the way in which it is happening: If I am assessing that Person X is arrogant, why am I doing that? We take action to take care of things that are important to us. What thing that is important to me am I taking care of by taking the action of assessing that Person X is arrogant? What thing that is important to me am I taking care of by taking the action of responding to my assessment of Person X’s arrogance in my default manner?

For me, this quote by Carl Jung is saying that when we have interactions with others that may cause us to respond in a way that doesn’t serve us, there will be learning that can be taken away from that experience. Why did I respond by feeling irritated? What was happening for me? This, to me, is incredibly powerful, because it suggests that each and every one of us is responsible for our part in the conversations and interactions in which we participate. Just as I have a responsibility for understanding why I have assessed Person X as arrogant and why I respond to that assessment in the way that I do, Person X has a responsibility for their assessments of me – perhaps they think I am obnoxious, for example – and how they react to those assessments.

And so, I think that I agree with Carl Jung. However, I would probably be inclined to extend it slightly, because I don’t think that we need to limit our learning to only those interactions that feel “negative” or don’t serve us: “Everything that we think and react to about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves

Points to Ponder…

  • Think of an interaction that has not gone so well for you recently. What might that interaction be able to teach you about yourself?

As a leadership and life coach, these points are all points that I am able to help people to explore. If you feel that it would be useful to HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH ME, please feel free to view my services on the Leading and Being website.

Featured Image Source: flickr on pexels

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