One of my clients sent me one of those ‘inspiring quote’ pics the other day.
It was beautiful.
Well to be honest, only half beautiful.
The half that was missing was devastatingly absent.
Here are some extracts.
I know that to help heal others, I must first heal myself.
I replace guilt with acceptance.
I exchange fear for love.
I know that in every situation, love and kindness is the answer.
Putting it quite simply, love and kindness are not the answer in “every situation.”
I met an incredible Zen master named Soen Sa Niem many years ago.
There is a wonderful story in one of his books written by one of his students, where they describe how on one of his retreats there was an adolescent who was behaving really badly and disrupting the experience for everyone.
They tried all of the compassionate and kind and loving strategies they knew to help this kid to calm down and be more reasonable.
So they kicked him out.
It was tough and it was brutal, but it was the only way to get the required result.
A few days after the kid was kicked out, everyone was having lunch and they saw him walking down the road toward the dining hall. They all froze, except Soen Sa Nim.
He got up quietly and in a very relaxed way, walked up the road toward the kid and started yelling and screaming and doing karate kicks directly in the kids face – without actually touching him. The kid panicked and fled. (From my work with SSN I know that he was just pretending to be angry – the subject of another blog perhaps.)
Soen Sa Nim came back, sat down and casually continued eating. Finally one of the students plucked up the courage to say to him, “Soen Sa Nim, surely a monk shouldn’t behave in such a manner?”
He smiled and said, “Sometimes demons only understand demons!”
The assumption that a monk – or anyone else for that matter – should always behave in a loving and kind and gentle way and that this is a good thing, is quite simply…nuts.
This assumption is a disaster because it’s creating a false ideal.
Brutality and harshness can be very skillful, wise and self and ‘other’ protective.
In kicking out the anti-social adolescant, Soen Sa Nim was loving the other retreatants!
When I discussed this with the client who sent me the inspirational quote, she agreed with me. She quoted the prophet Muhammed as saying that sometimes war is necessary to protect one’s people and one’s faith.
In the Bhagavad Gita – the Hindu bible – the prince Arjuna, does not want to go to war against his relations. His teacher Krishna says,
“You have to understand my friend that sometimes you have to fight against even your loved ones for what is right.”
In many situations it is absolutely necessary to be brutal and cruel in order for us to prevent others from abusing, manipulating or controlling us.
My understanding of this concept comes from Dr John Demartini. I know of no philosopher or psychologist who comes close to saying this.
He says, that when looking at our so-called negative traits such as anger and aggression and brutality, the reason that these traits are still inside of us, is because they are necessary for our survival and here’s the kicker, if they weren’t necessary they would be extinct!
I just love that, because it neutralizes the bad press that these negative traits get.
It has been very popular for centuries to speak against war and I support these efforts wholeheartedly, but since Cain slew Able, human kind has had a somewhat strong predilection toward it and it is often the wisest thing to do.
If you are dealing with a 2 * persecutor then you need a 2.1 * boundary to not be overpowered them.
If you are dealing with a 5***** persecutor you need a 5.1***** boundary to not be overpowered by them.
If you don’t want to be overpowered in life, best you love your toughness and brutality so that you can be appropriately boundaried.
There is that beautiful quote from an 8 year old girl named Lara, “People will never stop fighting wars, they can’t even get on in blocks of flats.”
Jidduh Krishnamurti says, “War is the spectacular and bloody projection of our everyday life.”
The point is, that being unskillfully kind when one needs to be brutally tough is a serious mistake.
Brutality Without Aggression
What is really important here is that being brutal does not mean you have to be aggressive, in fact I am not recommending aggression at all. You can be brutal and very, very calm, without judgement, though doing so is not easy.
I have a client whose mother keeps phoning her at work, disrupting her day. She keeps asking her mother not to do this. Her only option is to get brutally tough by not taking her calls and then texting her to say she has asked her to call her outside of office hours and so she is not going to take her calls at work in the future.
The point is that this client resisted being this tough for a long time, raising her anger and frustration to boiling point.
Why did she wait so long?
Because she felt guilty about being this tough.
Why did she feel so guilty?
Because she thought that being this tough and brutally harsh, was a bad thing.
Over and over and over again I see managers in business being too soft on difficult employees. The said employees, arrive at work disengaged, they don’t work according to their job descriptions, they are disruptive and cause immense problems in their teams and management pussyfoots around them.
In essence, managers are too kind to these people.
Ultimately they are forced to get tough and they then go to the extreme of aggression and undignified criticism of these problem staff members.
In summary, I’m not recommending brutality, in a general sense.
I’m also not recommending kindness in a general sense.
I’m recommending the skillful use of kindness and toughness, when appropriate.
It takes great wisdom to do this.
There are deep implications to resenting and rejecting our brutal traits.
Firstly, it makes us too nice. This ‘niceness’ means that our anger and resentment gets repressed, bottled up and then it explodes into unskilful anger or it creates immense internal anxiety and ultimately depression.
So we swing from one extreme to the other.
Secondly, it’s bad for our Self-Esteem. Everyone has the capacity to be hard and tough. If you judge and repress this trait, you are rejecting a part of you.
I decided at a very young age – that’s me at 4 years old in the pic – to be a nice guy. I spent decades thinking I needed to be nicer and realized that all I was doing was trying to be something I am not.
Of course I can be kind and gentle and empathic, but I also have a very strong tendency to be pedantic and pushy and driving and brutal. This isn’t a bad thing, but I was behaving as though it was.
Realizing this has enabled me to be more relaxed about being tough with people and because of this I can do it more skillfully, with less aggression.
Ironically, I still feel sensitive some of the time in the face of others’ brutality. Perhaps I haven’t fully owned it in myself.
To love your brutality frees you up to protect yourself and get what you want, respectfully.
Of course there is a serious hidden danger in this last statement. You might think that if you don’t do it respectfully, that’s bad.
We are human. We can’t expect to get it ‘right’ all the time.
If you would like to meet face to face or via Skype to discuss any issues raised in this blog, drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org