About the painful perks of being observant and the game of right & wrong

I consider myself to be an observant person. For a while now I have done my best to be observant in a sustainably ignorant way.

Being a person who sees tiny details all around him is fantastic. It is also terribly tiring. Once you start seeing some patterns in the movement of those approximately 30 facial muscles in each person you meet, hearing the nuances of the voice transitions, and having a basic understanding of gestures, body proximity, eye movements and so on, life becomes noisy. Especially if you think that you know what all those muscle movements, nuances, and expressions mean. Are you an observant person? How is it to bear this “gift”?

There was a time when I didn’t feel enough safe in the world so I started to learn more about expressions and all that to be able to navigate better in the swampy world of human communication. I learned a lot and, since back then, as a teenager, there was nobody to gently guide me in this process, I was quite quick in believing that I know and I understand what the people around me think, and with what purpose. This is a scary ability to have as a teenager, especially if it is not necessarily true.

So I found myself in this crazy complicated (and quite dramatic) entanglement with my classmates, friends and generally with the world, which caused a lot of confusion and pain for everyone, and a considerable amount of loneliness for me. I felt misunderstood, and I guess this was true for my surrounding as well. I wanted to feel important by having the upper hand in a conversation, argument or conflict, not knowing that if I always get that (usually I did) this phenomenon alone will isolate me from my surrounding and then I will be right (reading certain behavioural patterns) and alone.

I was frustrated because I did many things out of care, loyalty, and love even, yet most of my actions were not really appreciated, and I found myself alienated. And, as teenagers sometimes do, I felt the victim of my circumstances, so for a long time I was busy with being hurt and not doing too much to honour my relationships, to be brave enough to be just me, another vulnerable human being lost at times and being found at times. Throughout my teens, I felt quite alone, in most of my relationships.

Despite the previous paragraphs, this story is not about me. As many do, I felt hurt, because I was right – at least to a certain extent. I was right because what the body language of others told me is quite factual. I was right because some of the behavioural patterns of the people around me were usually triggered by the same discomfort, awkwardness, happiness, state of excitement, curiosity, and so on, that we all feel. What took me a long time is to understand that it doesn’t matter, if I am right. Because I can be right, but the other person has the right not to express their thoughts, to choose to postpone expressing anger, frustration or joy for any reason. He has the right to feel uncomfortable around me and exposed. I was hurt and I was right, but I couldn’t see how I am hurting others by me sticking to the game of being right. By wanting to constantly be right, I lost my freedom of being me, and being right became part of my image. And together with losing my image, I lost the connection with the world, because if somebody is right, the other person is wrong, and who wants to be wrong all the time? Who wants to hang out with somebody who makes you feel inferior? Has it happened to you to play the game of right & wrong? What was the outcome? And what was the real outcome?

When (many years later) I discovered, that being right doesn’t matter that much, I felt liberated. I felt that finally there is space to connect and to work on a solution, cutting the right & wrong game short. I also felt that I can relax the thorough observation of people because it doesn’t matter that much what I see, what matters more is to create a safe place where people have the chance to express themselves how are they feeling and what they need to feel good again. Suddenly, when I stopped “hunting people” based on their habits, and wanting to be right all the time: there was an air around me, and there was space around me, where others could step in. They could help me realize: I often was wrong, and often misjudged the world around me. This felt good: to be safe enough, to feel safe enough to just simply be human, perfect in my imperfections. When was the last time you felt vulnerable enough to acknowledge your humanity in your surrounding?

I chose to share this story because during the last 10 years or so I can not tell you how many times I have seen the game of right&wrong being played in my surrounding, often by me as well. Many of my clients, of my participants out of care, out of love are involved in the process of right & wrong. I write out of love and care because the source of it is that these people, want to serve, to be useful, to be acknowledged, to be seen. They want to make themselves somebody important, ignoring the fact that they already are. Usually, these were the people who were also very observant, because they felt that they have to navigate the challenging world of human connections with alertness, and readiness to read, assess, and reassess quickly people and situations. If you played the right & wrong game or you are an observant person: is the aforementioned true for you?

What I have also seen is something beautiful, something which always gives me the chills, when I have the chance to observe it: once somebody feels seen enough and safe enough – they become less observant and less keen on being right. This takes time, I usually see this on long-term training courses, but when this happens transcends the person’s understanding of the world and of themselves. I call it transcendence because it is beyond understanding something with the mind: it is understanding our whole existence. The eyes of these transcended persons are wide open, curious and playful, rather than closed, analytic and strategising. The whole body language becomes open and more outgoing, the shoulders drop, the smiles widen and there is a generally good atmosphere around that person. His joy and playfulness are infectious. Have you experienced this sort of transcendence before? How can you describe your experience?

Rejecting your pattern (in my case the analytic behaviour and wanting to be right all the time) is not sustainable. You can reject it temporarily, but it will come back because there is no reason to leave you. Behavioural patterns are usually just symptoms of how we perceive the world. Understanding a pattern is what is needed. Once you understand it (really, not just with your logical brain, but with your whole existence), you will have the chance to change it, if you feel, that it is needed. However, I often see, that people’s weaknesses become their strengths once they have accepted them.

I still do the right & wrong game and I still am observant. I am happy that I can tune the latter, and I am working on the first one. State management helped me a lot to be able to understand where these patterns are coming from and what I need to do, in order to be able to manage my patterns, among others these two. What do you do in order to manage your state? And what do you need to manage it even more?

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