By Lian Brook-Tyler
I read a couple of studies recently about the dark side of being seen to be “doing the right thing”.
They showed that displays of excellence can turn off or provoke the very people they might otherwise inspire.
One study showed that “Principled deviants who take the high road threaten others’ moral self-worth”. Research subjects were asked to complete a racist task by an experimenter, and the people who refused to obey were disparaged by the other participants who had themselves gone through with it… the rebel’s stance felt like an indictment of their own behaviour.
I’ve heard many times that how I am seems too extreme, perfect or unobtainable.
Who is *that* devoted, no matter what it requires?
This kind of feedback isn’t new though, decades before I had this conscious devotion, right from childhood I was always on the edge of whatever group I was in, doing whatever seemed like the right thing to me at the time, regardless of what others thought about it.
Whether that was making it clear that I wasn’t going along with the whole office laughing at a racist joke, being the only vegetarian I knew as a child and then the only vegan – 26 years ago when it was seen as a weird extreme, the vegan who is friends with hunters – I appreciate their deep, reverent connection to the natural world, the only one of my circle of 20-something club-inhabiting friends who didn’t drink or take drugs, the only woman in a men’s boxing club, the only person talking about spirituality in the corporate world, the person going on about unique souls in a spiritual community where it was all about oneness, the rare person embarking on shamanism without ever having taken plant medicine before… I could go on.
Whilst I know I have a specific role as an edgewalker and taboo breaker, I know many of our students have similar experiences whilst devoting to their soul path… from feeling like they’re alone as the only person they know who is on that path to actually being accused of being in a cult.
The thing is, unlike the study which showed participants attacking the person who was seen to be doing the right thing, I’ve rarely been openly attacked for any of the choices I’ve made, instead people tend to feel silently judged by me and my choices.
Ironically, I’m not particularly wired for judgement, by nature and nurture… autistically, shamanically, Devil’s advocating, transcendentally Libranesque… it’s actually a challenge for me not to seek to understand and appreciate all perspectives.
So I’m simultaneously extremely clear about what’s right for me or the person in front of me (if I have their permission for that), whilst being extremely open to and unopinionated about almost anything else.
I am devoted to you being and doing whatever is aligned for your unique soul, which by its very nature will be night and day different to what’s aligned for mine.
And that’s the only kind of “doing the right thing” I care about.
Photo: me happy to be reunited with my other tree, as I begin another four days in the woods
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