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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Elder

Mentorship 101 #2 Get Some Friends

This will come as a surprise to most people: Some people aren’t your friends.

I have gradually come to recognize that people see themselves in others. If you are trustworthy, you trust people. You expect other people to be like you. If you think people are out to get you, you are out to get them, ideally, before they get you. The system works as long as like finds like. The problem is people are different. Like doesn’t always find like. A person finds a friend and over time discovers that they are not the same. Conflict arises.

Of course, this is a simplification. Tolstoy said, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Actually, if you haven’t read Anna Karenina, go start there, I will wait.

Much time passes.

Anna Karenina is one of my favorite books but I hate to read it. Once you start the first chapter, everything follows from there like, shall we say, an oncoming train? There is no other ending possible for the characters if they are to remain true to who they are.

Tolstoy understood.

People are true to who they are. People see what they are in others. This leads to conflict and tragedy and hefty amounts of cognitive dissonance as the actions of others do not fit the idea of the world that is held by another person (see all of politics these days).

Another really interesting book, The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr - go ahead and read it, I will wait…

He states that we are living in a hallucination trapped inside a skull. We never know reality because we cannot directly experience reality. It is all filtered through our brain and confabulated by our inner narrator who likes to make coherent stories, in other words, who lies. “Everyone who is psychologically normal thinks they’re the hero.” Their inner narrator tells them so. The narrator is not you, it is a chatty thing in your brain and it is not reality. It is trying to impose control and coherence on a vast and confusing, amorphous world with very limited input.

Once you recover from the dizziness that concept causes, things make a bit more sense. People are creating a world where they are the hero. Everyone is. And people see themselves in others. Thus, the person who runs other down and is out for herself is always going to see herself as in the right and others in the wrong. They are out to get her. They are jealous of her. They seek to see her fail – because that is what she sees, what she feels, what she seeks but she is the hero so good luck getting her to see any error in her ways, to see that others are not all the same, that maybe they aren’t out to get her, that maybe she has caused harm to them without cause. In the reality she lives in, she hasn’t. She has protected herself and exposed someone who deserved it.

Let’s make it more concrete with an example. Mary Smith breeds dogs. She is an upstanding breeder who believes dogs should be fully tested and worthy of being bred before breeding. She also sometimes breeds dogs without checking hip radiographs. That is ok though because it isn’t that she is a hypocrite, it is that she knows exactly how wonderful her dogs are and knows they will pass. If they later fail, well, it is ok because they really are great dogs and the system is flawed and everyone knows OFA is subjective, also the positioning was terrible. She is still a virtuous and wonderful upstanding breeder and anyone who sees her as a hypocrite is just jealous because she is a hero in her story. We all are heroes in our stories.

If Jane Doe does the exact same thing, however, Mary thinks Jane is the very worst sort of bad breeder and her dogs will be and deserve to be all crippled from the bad hips that Jane did not screen before breeding.

You would think this is a story and not real but it happens over and over. If you pay attention, your head will spin madly from watching what people criticize others for and what they do – exactly the same thing they just trashed the other for doing. Mary doesn’t see Jane as a hero. Mary sees Mary as a hero. Mary did no wrong because Mary had good reasons. Jane did wrong because no matter what Jane’s reasons, they aren’t good like Mary’s are. Simple.

If only we could recognize that we are all trying to make sense and feel in control of senseless and uncontrollable universe, maybe we could cut each other some slack.

What is the point of all this reading? I have sent you off to read two books and, really, Anna Karenina is quite long and it was a lot. It didn’t have anything to do with breeding dogs. Is there even a point?

Point one: Not everyone is your friend, but that doesn’t make them your enemy either. It is probably just a misunderstanding. Try not to escalate things.

Point two: That doesn’t mean you should go on to trust them again: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” (Maya Angelou, go read her too). You can still be friendly to someone you don’t trust, just be careful when you deal with them.

Point three: You will get so much more done if you have a team. Why does everyone have to invent their own wheel? We are all breeding the same breed of dogs, let’s help each other out. They aren’t out to get you, they aren’t jealous. They are just being true to who they are. Know who they are. Accept their limitations and let them accept yours. Believe me, your limitations in understanding are just as big (maybe bigger, depending on how different they are from mine which are small <tic>).

If you can find one other person, or a few other people, or a team of people, who share your vision of breeding for a thing, then do what you can to work with them. I can’t stress this enough. A single breeder will not accomplish as much as quickly as a team. Put aside your ego and appreciate what others have that can help you. Help them with what you have. It is such a simple concept yet so rare to find. “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (that’s the Bible, you can read that too if you like).

Here is the thing, Anna is always going to throw herself in front of that train (spoiler, sorry, you were supposed to have read it already, I did tell you to). It is who she is. It doesn’t mean we don’t love her. It doesn’t mean what else she has done is worthless. It just means she is trapped in who she is, with how she sees the world. It is our tragedy to all be Anna. We will all be consistent to who we are, to our inner story. That doesn’t take away our shared humanity, though, our shared goals.

Stop being so judgey (or at least try, or at least recognize you are no better, ok, maybe only a little better), find others that have a similar vision and work with them. Build a community that supports each other and share. Start now, reach out to someone, progress towards your goals.

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