You, my friend, are in a box. Did you know that? When I meet you, I may see your hair color, your job, your preferred style of clothing, your eating preferences, and perchance where you live. Those things place you in a particular box through which I see you. This is the brain’s natural categorizing response that helps humans efficiently determine how to interact and communicate. But there’s a catch – this categorizing is incomplete and hastily formed. It’s only meant to be a first impression, initial data to form a basic safety response. Problem with this “initial response” is that it often hangs on much longer than it should. Sometimes the initial box is used to extrapolate across a culture, race, ethnicity, demographic.
How do you get out of the box into which I put you? How do I get out of yours?
Easy – and not so easy at all. These are where the baby steps I talked about last week come into play.
There is very little one can do to crawl out of the box located in someone else’s mind. Ultimately, it’s present only in the minds of others and doesn’t truly define you. You can decide to join them in boxing you up, or you can focus on who you really are, and act accordingly. Being as true to your beliefs, values, desires, and dislikes, will present an opportunity for others to recognize their very limited box.
I want to take an aside to specifically mention how difficult this is to exemplify as a minority trying to navigate a discriminatory majority society. While I have seen so many people live true to who they are amid discrimination, the toll of systemic gaslighting, betrayal, and isolation presents a complexity of traumatic situations that make it extremely difficult to be authentic.
So, the bulk of the action required is on those of us putting others in boxes (FYI – As mentioned above, every human on this earth creates boxes. So yes, I’m talking to you too). Here comes the baby steps. Step one: Recognize the box. Pay attention to how you’ve categorized, and ask the question, “What am I not seeing?” Step two: Let the authenticity of the other person inform ways in which you’ve shoved them into a box. Actively invite the other person to refine your thinking through questions, observations, and generally getting to know their true selves. Step Three: Recognize your new, larger, slightly different shaped box. Continue to ask, “Who is this person, really? How might who I am be affecting my perception of them?” Step Four: Let their friendship continue to inform your thinking and your perceptions, accepting their experiences as valid, in their own right.
I think you’ve probably caught on to the cyclical nature of this kind of action. Our brains will categorize (Long tail, furry mane, big teeth = RUN!). But if it’s not a lion about to eat you, you can take some time to get to know them and let them out of the box.
Photo Credit: Ante Hamersmit, https://unsplash.com/@ante_kante
We are aware of the magnitude of this subject matter and the inadequate brevity of this post. For more, please reference our podcasts, our 1Community groups, or feel free to email us at Uniquelythesame@mission1race.org.
We also wish to address our inability to consider issues of sexual, physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse in our discussions on developing understanding and oneness. If you are in an abusive situation of any kind, we encourage you to seek professional and other help; and to realize that this content does not necessarily apply to your circumstances.