At the mindfulness and recovery community in northern Thailand where I recently spent some time, each afternoon all the residents participate in a workshop. One in particular sticks in my mind. The theme is ‘community’, and the activity goes like this:
You stand in a circle while the workshop leader reads out a series of increasingly personal statements. If the statement is true for you, you move to the middle of the circle. Everyone in the middle takes a few moments to acknowledge one another with a friendly smile, then returns to the outer circle to wait for the next statement.
‘I like spicy food’
‘I am an only child’
‘I like the way I look’
‘I don’t like the way I look’
‘I get anxious in social situations’
‘I was bullied at school’
‘I have cheated on a partner’
‘I bullied someone at school’
‘I feel resentful of members of my family’
‘I have had suicidal thoughts before’
…and so on.
The idea is that in sharing some of our demons we might be surprised by the unexpected ‘me too!’ responses of people around us. This can not only bring people a little closer together through finding common ground, but also diminish the power of some of those skeletons that we carry that weigh us down.
So I’d like to add a few of mine to the public domain:
– I once locked a friend in my parents’ garage
– I have cheated on romantic partners
– I shoplifted a book of Beat Generation poetry from a bookshop when I was at university because I thought it was edgy
– I have had obsessive crushes on people and acted out in less-than-dignified ways
– I wasn’t upset when my family pet cat got run over when I was about seven and I felt guilty for years after
– I was a total bitch to one of my nicest school friends and I still feel bad about it
That’s kinda the PG-rated version, by the way.
The point is that many people think they’re shit, or at least shitter than other people. But we compare what we know of ourselves on the inside with the outside façade that other people display to the world.
It’s not a fair comparison.