Can you learn from rude people?

November 4, 2012 by  
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A reader commented on aish.com about my recent article on projection:

 

I have to disagree with the Rabbi that the traits you see in others, could be that you are projecting what you don’t like about yourself. I don’t like rude, nasty people, who are so self-absorbed that they cannot even listen to one sentence that you are saying. They have no interest in your life, your children, and want to focus only on themselves. Their inquiries about you, are perfunctory at best. I know for sure, that I am not like that. I try to judge all people favorably, until and unless they display any or all of these traits. Then I know for sure that they are not for me as a friend or spouse. I do not behave that way, and while I certainly don’t consider myself to be perfect, I can say for sure that I am sincere, and sense an insincere person, like an animal can sense the coming rain. Personal growth is shedding the bad baggage, and vowing to try not to behave in a negative way.

I think most of do not like rude and nasty people. However, as I read this comment and I felt some strong energy from the commenter, perhaps to the point of contempt for such people. Anytime we experience a lot of energy around a trait we dislike in others, it is a good radar that there is something deeper behind these feelings. His/her impression from my article is that if you hate rude and nasty people, that means that you are really rude or nasty. It is much subtler than that. It is more likely one of two possibilities:

1) There is a part of you that you may fear is rude and nasty or insincere. Although you may be a very sincere person, you can’t stand the possibility that you could have that within you as you have done your best to avoid insincerity. Perhaps you group seeing insincere people and couldn’t stand it. While you cut that out of your life, you may have done so to such an extent that there is unconscious anxiety that remains that you could even have the capacity to be like that. While most people would not label such a behavior as insincere, you may be so sensitive to it that even the slightest act could be suspect. As you have tried to rid it from yourself, you see it in others and you hate it. This reminds you that you may have a miniscule amount of this trait or behavior, according to your exacting standards.

2) You may hate it in others, not because you have it but because you need to reclaim the positive parts of what you have denied. If you grew up witnessing selfless parents who acted as martyrs, you may have developed the message that your needs come last. When you see people who you judge as selfish as they seem to do whatever they want whenever they want and you are constantly working yourself to death, you can’t stand it. You have split off from yourself the ability to be selfish or to have needs. Your spouse will carry that for you and you may hate them for it. Yet, once you reclaim that trait that your spouse has, your feelings of negativity will abate. When you begin to make your needs a priority, not to the point of selfishness, but to the extent that your needs are valid and that you take the time to meet them, you will find the hidden gold in that behavior that you can’t stand in your spouse.

So perhaps the commenter is very sincere. Is there a part of him/her that could grow from seeing these “nasty, rude, and self-absorbed” people. Perhaps he/she was never allowed to be concerned about him/herself, but was only encouraged to focus on others. How could reclaiming that help instead of having contempt for others that possesses these negative traits.

I think projection gets a bad rap as every amateur psychologist can use an negative feeling or complain you have against you. This puts you on the defensive and can be very uncomfortable. Instead of telling others how they are projecting, use it to better understand yourself. By realizing that it is a little more subtle and not so black and white, you may also begin to appreciate the hidden gold that you face in the mirror.

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