I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the movie "10 things I hate about you" which happens near the beginning. "I've heard of people being overwhelmed, and people being underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?" (Her friend responds "I think you can in Europe.") So here I re-formulate it: I know people can play defense, and offense, but do we ever just fense?
This lead to me looking up the etymology of both offense and defense in hopes of learning the Latin root or something fancy, linguistic, and nerdy and fun...but I have to do some deeper digging to satisfy those urges, but since my reboot on this blog I am making an effort not to let red pens and research stop me from airing my thoughts. (PS, I think offence is a legit alternate spelling...just sayin'.)
So I plunge onward sharing my unedited thoughts:
In order for me to get offended about something someone says or does, there has to be a receptor in me for that. This was one of the teachings I received from Michael Barnett during my meditation immersion. When I was in a state of being offended, it was easy to blame the other person, the circumstances, the "other," so it came to me almost like ice cold water in the face while still trying to wake up to be told that I had something to do with my own offended-ness. It was not a welcome message at all. But upon reflection it is true that there are times when offensive things are said or done and they do not touch me, rattle me, enrage me, engage me.
So two questions arise in me; is it possible to choose which things trigger or do not trigger these defenses in me, and if so how will I accomplish this? I know that a series of such 'offenses' triggered a large response in me recently, inspiring me to write the piece about uptalk & vocal fry. Which rattled something loose in me, and felt good to express. Which raises a third question, having to do with whether offenses are undesirable in the first place, as
But I feel like I'm jumping around. Let me go back to the first question. Can I choose the triggers to which I respond? I think there are two realities. First I want to acknowledge that responses that have become automatic will not disappear from wishing them to, or overnight. So in that sense I think no, I cannot choose when it is still automatic. What I can do is observe, reflect, and begin to recognize that those automatic responses happen in me. And then my awareness can grow, perhaps large enough to recognize them from further away, or closer up. And someday my former unconscious reflexes can become conscious ones, and ultimately perhaps even in the hot-trigger moment I can become a chooser rather than a reactor. So in that sense, yes, I can eventually choose to become conscious, grow my awareness, and begin to celebrate the possibility. What this leads to is not the kind of detachment that dis-engages me, but an inner wisdom about engagement in general. And it allows me to engage in a way that my core self has no need to refract segments of shame, guilt, or regret over. I don't aspire to be un-triggerable. I do aspire to engage in meaningful ways, and in ways that foster healthy open communication, a free exchange of ideas, and the opportunity to learn even more.
There is an interesting worrisome phenomenon in the online world. With the advent of google and twitter, facebook and instagram, like-minded people are finding each other. Is that a bad thing? On the one hand, no, not at all! We gravitate toward things that resonate in us in a positive way. Who would seek out opposing viewpoints? They offend! But there is an 'on the other hand,' to be wary of.
Fight the urge to flock together! Fight the urge to follow along with the visible trends! Buck the system. Friend an enemy on social media, and then actually try to understand their point of view. Engage and enrage, watch and observe. I am not suggesting that we go around trolling our enemies, blasting and shouting opposing views. I am suggesting an online expansion, and inner expansion, and a true courage...the courage to let our convictions be tested, tried, and demolished when necessary, fortified when appropriate.
And so I guess I landed on yes...offenses are desirable. Funny, not the conclusion I would have expected myself to come to - but there you have it. Leave room to surprise yourself in this funny life!