People love giving unsolicited advice.
Its sometimes very frustrating for me because of all the inner work I do on my own. There is a sense of self-righteousness that comes along with fighting your demons, especially when you go at it alone. I often get this thought thats something like “you don’t even know the half of it” and in worse cases “who the fuck are you to tell me?”
Even though these feelings are real, they are misplaced. They are feelings I have towards myself for not expressing all that goes into my journey. I’ve realized the source my unwillingness to be vulnerable in those moments when someone is actually talking to them self with their advice. They aren’t belittling me or speaking in a condescending way, unless I take it that way. Of course there are times when people are condescending, but for the most part people just want to help. They want to help themselves by helping you. A willingness to work through your problems as they would is an attempt to understand what they would do in your shoes.
So in addition to holding space for my own emotions, and holding space for people in distress, there is another space to be held. Space for people to verbalize advice. Not only is it an attempt to be helpful, it's like reverse engineering the Socratic method. Instead of asking people questions about themselves, I look for myself in their exploration of my mind. I graciously accept their perspective with “yes, and” as opposed to “no, this”. This interaction is positive and at the end of the day, we never have to take the advice of others, but it is presented to us as a message from God. It is something to observe so that we can become who we are at an even deeper level. That can be the pestilent child that rebels against all authority, or that can be the internal authority. The one that knows that all of life is a miracle, including someones desire to give advice when it is not asked for.
We are who we continue to be. When we are frozen with fear of taking action, we are the fear. If we choose to act despite that fear, we are brave. If we are annoyed by someone giving advice then we are annoyed. If we, instead, embrace the person for being so concerned, we are a nurturer. There’s many roles we can play simultaneously. It all comes down to the ideal. We strive for the ideal and when we do, we slowly start to become it. And yet, it is not something we can maintain. We are human. We make mistakes, but we must be sure we don’t become those mistakes by harping on them.
It brings to mind the popular question “What would Jesus do?” We ask ourselves questions like these about other entities, as well. “What would my mom do?” “What would my boss do?” We don’t tend to ask these questions out loud but these questions form the basis of all that we have learned. Everything we know we learned. We learn from our environment, from our inner reflections, but most of all, we learned from our elders and from authority. There have been cases of children that were raised in terrible conditions that could not develop properly. Everything they learned was about survival, because they did not have a good example of authority to develop their own. They couldn’t explore the mind because its dangerous. In order for us to dive deep into the existential questions, we must feel safe in the physical realm, otherwise it is just instincts.
Now let me say, as a biologist, I am not one to diminish instinctual knowledge, but for humans, its not the final stage of mental development. We are social creatures that have to take into consideration “the others”. Scoffing at or even envying others are ways we tell ourselves we are better than everyone else. We deserve more than everyone else. We know more than everyone else. However, we are who we are because of everyone else. In everyone else we see the reflection of our Self. The way we choose to interact defines who we are in the greater Self. Our instincts would have us constantly in fight or flight mode, both methods of self-preservation.
In the communities we choose to interact with, we find our mirrors. We can choose the full-length mirror, the vanity mirror, the dusty ass mirror, the mirror with stickers all over it, but ultimately we are not the mirror. We know that we are not the image we see, but that it is only a reflection of what is on the outside. So when we refuse advice, that is who we are. When we accept the gesture, but continue to do things our own way, that is who we are. If someone is kind enough to take a moment to consider your perspective, even if through the framing of their own lenses, that is who they are. That is a wonderful person to have in your life. We can take those glasses and have a look at ourself in the mirror, but we can always take them off when we realize they aren’t the right prescription.