Monday, September 23, 2013

What is irritating you?

The recent publicizing of a young woman’s story about ‘becoming the first female Maasai warrior’ got me irritated.  I was even reluctant to write 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, women’s rights, travel, adventure, 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? Or 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, where we focused on leading and communicating in an intercultural context.  We had drawn on Milton Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity,  using none other than Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino to facilitate discussion on the various ways people react to cultural differences: how intercultural sensitivity develops when we move from an ethnocentric perspective (where we see our own culture as central) to an ethnorelative one (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, being mindful of what we pay attention to in others and how we react and respond, can offer us valuable insights and teachings about ourselves.  They 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.


Image:  Classic shot [perhaps one of the classic 'irritated' shots?!] as posted by Vivid Greeting Cards on Facebook 25 March 2013.    Vivid Greeting Cards – celebrating the world's wonders with gems found in cyberspace and Gallery Windows of VGC art - Sign up to Vivid Greeting Cards Facebook Page at   - really Guardian what were you thinking in promoting this book?

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