When it’s raining, do you get mad at the rain or take out an umbrella?
How do we interact with others?
We have logical thinking and we have emotions and feelings. Our emotions are pre-programmed by evolution to ensure survival – animals have emotions too. Each person is born with a different emotional makeup as diversity is crucial for survival. Even identical twins develop different emotional patterns.
The ability to cooperate and work for the success of the group vs individual success is a major part of this program. Generally, people who are driven by cooperation come across as nice. Whereas those who value personal success so much that they are prepared to get there at the expense of others may come across as not so nice. But in the end, all emotions can be traced to survival, one way or the other.
What about free choice?
A ‘normal’ person chooses with a feeling. It’s very hard to go against what you feel. Know the saying “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” by Albert Einstein? This saying wouldn’t be so popular if its only use was clinical diagnostics. Sadly, a lot of people live like that. Emotions buried deeper than the logical thought level will push us to do things, even if we do not logically want to do them. And being smart is no help. Unless you direct your thoughts, logical thinking will simply justify what your emotions are telling you to do.
Between our emotional pre-set and cultural background (where you were born, who your parents were, what you have seen growing up) we are left with very little choice as to how we react to things.
Well, a simple consequence is that you are in an environment surrounded by characters with pre-defined reactions. These characters can either reward you or cause you harm. It’s up to you how you deal with them, as you have a choice which they don’t (you think about thinking, they don’t). And the types of responses you will get from people are randomly distributed.
Think about this next time you get frustrated with someone. This person is just trying to survive the only way he knows how. We live in a world surrounded by people driven by emotions which evolution programmed thousands of years ago. Instead of getting angry, steer this person in a way that causes no harm to either of you.
If you truly accept the fact that people around you are driven by factors they have no control over, you will find that a lot of things will become easier. Just understanding this fact is going to suddenly make you less irritating to most irritable people and less antagonizing to people who look for enemies. You will acquire a calm demeanor that will keep you away from situations you normally find distressing. You will stop falling into emotional traps (anger, fear, vengeance, grudges).
You won’t be more upset with people who you think do you wrong than you’d be upset with a rainy day. And you already have an umbrella.