It wasn’t the last time I got irritated, but I remember it.
The publicizing of a young woman’s story about ‘becoming the first female Maasai warrior’ got me irritated. I was even reluctant to write publically about it. Knowing I would be adding, however minimally, to the coverage.
Carl Jung wrote, “everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”.
It seems what we see externally is what we may recognise internally. What we like or don’t like about others may tell us what we like or don’t like about ourselves. Our own unconscious behaviour can project or transfer what is going on for us onto the other person. So it appears to us that these qualities actually exist in the other. However as the saying goes, “it takes one to know one”.
I could understand why this article had moved me. It was about topics that I hold important. Multiculturalism and women’s rights. Travel and adventure. And significantly, personal development. But deeper, why did it continue to annoy me so?.
It was obviously time to turn within.
Had it stirred my own clumsiness integrating into Italy? Or accessed a guilt of being a privileged travelling white westerner? Perhaps questioned my own legitimacy in helping others explore cross cultural working?
Just that week, I had been delivering a 3 day programme for an international group. We had focused on leading and communicating in an intercultural context. And had drawn on Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. We used none other than Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino to facilitate a discussion. We explored the various ways people react to cultural differences. Particularly, how intercultural sensitivity develops when we move from an ethnocentric perspective, where we see our own culture as central, to an ethnorelative one. That is, where we experience our culture in the context of other cultures.
Reading about this woman’s experience had surfaced some key questions about my own cultural sensitivity, beliefs and behaviours.
Whether it is in regard to a stranger or a loved one, the gift is to be mindful of what we pay attention to in others. And how we react and respond. The experience can offer us valuable insights and teachings about ourselves. These people are our mirrors to help us see clearly who we are and what we need to address for our own transformation.
You are my mirror. I am yours.
Photo by Егор Камелев on Unsplash