A new curiosity…what is right about me, you, it, them, Life?

Esther napping on a rainy day
Esther on her new chair yesterday afternoon…. the perfect spot for rainy day nap

The desire to psychoanalyze people; to figure out why they are the way that they are, why they do or say, or don’t do or say, certain things, is quite possibly one of the most destructive habits that I’ve engaged in….and it used to be one of my favorite things to do. I cannot even bear to think of the untold hours I’ve spent in this useless activity of the little mind.

And of all of the hours, days, and years that I spent in this frivolous mind-activity, very few were spent thinking, “I wonder why that person is so kind, happy, considerate, honest, helpful, generous, thoughtful, giving, non-defensive, open, lovely….!?”

No. Most of my psychoanalysis was trying to figure out why they were not the kind of person that I thought they “should” be.

I saw one day, that even though this way of thinking made my egoic mind happy for a little while (“We’ve figured that one out”! it would say, feeling so smart and smug) it wasn’t a lasting thing…since it wasn’t the Truth. It was just a little box that made my little, fear-filled, mind feel secure for a few minutes. If I imagined that someone didn’t treat me well, or didn’t act in a way that I found acceptable, then I could separate them from myself by putting them in a little box, labeled, “Messed Up”, and if I couldn’t figure out what was specifically wrong with them (in that moment) then the generic label was fine…. I’d come back to them later, possibly at 2 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep and was feeling desperate and needed to search for the cause of my misery.

This approach to life never leads to more happiness. Looking for what is wrong with others only leads to seeing more of what is wrong with them, and with ourselves….then we think we need to find new people who won’t hurt, offend, or take advantage, of us. We think we’ll be happy when we find “them”….but we never find them, since we are searching for their opposites.

I can’t say that I have turned this old habit of mine (habit of mind!) completely around, but I’m much quicker at catching it and saying, “I don’t go there anymore”, to my mind when it wants to dissect someone’s life or some situation that I’m unhappy about. It is my intention to get so good, at never looking for the bad, that I will someday be amazed that I ever did it….and I love this thought.

“The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people“.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

19 thoughts on “A new curiosity…what is right about me, you, it, them, Life?”

  1. You always seem to know exactly what I need to hear – your post came at the perfect time. I had just received an email from a friend that disappointed me, and was going down that “everything that’s wrong with her” road. Thank you for helping me short-circuit my destructive thinking, and instead remind myself what I love about this friend.

    1. That is really beautiful Ingrid! Thank you for sharing this with us…have a wonderful day (we will be looking for the good together!)

  2. Dear Mary, thank you for this reminder to be on the watch for those ‘habits of mind” which are destructive and self-defeating. I love Emerson’s quote and will keep it in my thoughts today.

    1. I loved that quote too Debra and if, like I believe, “there is no death” , then our minds have just joined with Emerson’s in looking for the Good!

  3. Mary – How I needed to read this post today! It is so true that “looking for what is wrong with others only leads to seeing more of what is wrong with them, and with ourselves.” Thank you for steering my thoughts on a positive course today (and every day)!

  4. Wow! I spend WAY too much time doing this, and then I feel so smug for figuring out the other person (usually a relative). But after reading this, I realize now that the miserable feelings I then have are not because of the other person, but rather my own thoughts. I’m going to have to work hard on this one. Thank you, Mary, for helping me see myself more clearly. I printed this post out and will put it by my bed and read it every night before I go to sleep until I get the hang of defeating this destructive habit!

  5. Thank you, Mary, for a valuable rea ding. How much time do we waste and how much misery do we create for ourselves, when we focus on the words or behavior of others?! This is a form of attachment and attachment causes our suffering, whether it is to people, places, things, or thoughts. Someone shared with me that we should bless those people who upset us and release them to the universe.

  6. A wonderful post and quote — and how often have I been guilty of “analysis paralysis.” And Mary, you — and Emerson — are helping me to explore what’s good and hopeful and steer away from the late-night ruminating.

  7. “Accentuate the positives, eliminate the negatives , and don’t mess with Mr. In between!!!! ” a simple quote that helps me stop the “stinking thinking” XXO Mary!

  8. Thank you for today’s words. I can’t tell you how much I deeply needed and appreciated them. You enhance my life on a regular basis but today I needed to let you know that.

  9. Your post relates to the work I am doing: Ego verses Authentic Self, so I thought I would take the opportunity to write about where I am in my understanding. When my ego gets attached to someone else, to justify my actions and thinking, I now understand this is an opportunity to turn to my Authentic Self (where I am loving/verses ego which is Judging) to find connection and understanding of this human experience we are all experiencing. I am embracing my ego, as it guides me towards the work I want to do in this lifetime.

  10. Well, I think it is helpful to TRY to understand where someone is coming from – like trying to walk in their shoes. It helps me to understand them. However, I like the idea of looking for the positive traits in others and making that the most important view of them. I like the idea of trying to emulate the positive traits in someone I don’t particularly like. Almost all people have some good traits we can appreciate and emulate. Thanks for the positive thoughts, Mary! Going to try this approach on my in-laws!!!

  11. Mary,
    Your post made me think that I’d been found out! Someone has learned about my secret self. Thank you for your post. Now I don’t feel so alone. It’s a hard habit to break, but I’m determined to rid myself of as much of this wasted effort as possible. Like you, oh if I had all that time back that I’ve spent in my analysis of others, there’s no telling what wonderful and constructive things I could have done with my life. I’ve prayed for forgiveness and am attempting to move on and not be tripped up by this destructive and meaningless mental analysis that only hurts me. Thank you again.

  12. What a wonderful message today Mary, and I love all the comments – you struck a bullseye! Paralysis of analysis, great one, Charlotte. I also like the thought of ‘short-circuiting’ ourselves the moment we find ourselves in judgment mode – and to visualize it as a form of attachment – we wouldn’t invite a tick to stay on our beloved dog would we? Last week this was offered on the website The Daily Om under 365 Days of Inspired Living

    Lesson 98: See the Beauty in Others

    See the beauty in others
 even if they are not currently behaving in a way you would prefer
Believe in them
Don’t give up
    Treat people the way you would like them to be
And they may indeed become that one day

  13. I love this post Mary. Yes…all the wasted time and all the small thinking. I think I used to do this to attribute ‘blame’ somewhere…for something negative I was feeling. I know now that trying to ‘blame’ another just closes me right up, keeps me stuck and keeps me from my true self…time to look in the mirror again and open my heart! Thank you!

  14. Mary, you’ve snuck into my mind when I wasn’t looking…!!
    Like others here, I’m guilty of this particularly when hurt by a family member…friends, it doesn’t bother me but family and I’m out with my mental magnifying glass looking for clues. Better I’d retire my Nancy Drew tendencies of searching for clues in other people’s minds and get my own redirected in a mentally healthier way.
    SandyP in Canada

  15. Thanks for this Mary. I get caught in this “psychological enema” often. That’s when I need to take a walk to the mirror and have a good look. 🙂

  16. Hi Mary. I just wanted to say that, while I know what you mean about nasty psychoanalyzing (a la Dr. Gregory House!), there are times when clues as to why people do things come into my mind in a way that inspires compassion. For example, a long time employee at my organization retired, and later it was found that she had embezzled a huge amount of money. Her grandson had been murdered (I know, terrible!) right before she started doing this. When my boss told me this, my first response was, “When something terrible like that happens to you, I think it can shake your faith in a just world. And if the world isn’t just, then perhaps you feel you don’t have to live by any moral paradigm.” We weren’t judging this lady. We were trying to understand. And at the end of this discussion, I felt sympathy for her, not smugness. Just a different perspective on this.

  17. I’ve found it helps to accept that people do things for a good reason (good as in positive, like self-protection, not good as in logical). I may not know the reason, but I can trust that there is one. When I tell myself that, I find it easier to let go whatever it is that is bothering me…

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