The stress is created when we say “But this is the rule and it’s meant to be this way.” If the world doesn’t act according to the rule we get bent out of shape because things “should” be a certain way. It’s when we get all hung up about the “should’s,” “ought’s,” “musts,” and the “meant to be’s” in life that rules become unhelpful and unproductive.
When I was a teacher I wasn’t very good at teaching within the “rules” of the education system. I passionately believed that education was the BIG equaliser of society. It didn’t matter where you came from, school was a place where you could learn anything and become everything you wanted to be. I often got growled at for stepping outside the boundaries of conservative education. It wasn’t uncommon for me to have my classroom removed of desks or to be outside giving students an experience to help them learn concepts. My classrooms were frequently noisy and I made the most noise.
In fact, on one occasion when teaching Year 7 students about different styles of newspaper writing I had the Year 12 Drama and Media students come in and kidnap me and interview the students about the events that took place. I had spent months creating a safe and nurturing space and respecting their background I knew that if I just taught it theoretically I was setting them up to fail. This way they all had something to write about and they “felt” deeply about what they had observed. What they ALL created was amazing and for many it gave them faith in themselves for the very first time. Just writing about an experience that is twenty-three years old fills my heart with joy and passion.
In the 1990’s we taught the ‘writing process’ and the final stage was publishing. I went to the Principal and asked if we could include the student’s articles in the school newsletter. Sounded like a wonderful idea to him until the stories were read and my teaching method didn’t conform to “normal” standards and therefore could imply the school condoned them. It’s these kinds of ‘rules’ that frustrate the best of us. My inability to conform to the rules of the education system is why I left teaching. Mostly I was teaching students who were the exception and therefore the ‘rules’ didn’t and couldn’t apply.
The other aspect of this idea of rules and exceptions is applied when we experience our ideas or beliefs about life and others pass judgements on them. Kelly Clarkson sings all about this in ‘You Can’t Win.’ When our beliefs, rules or ideas become rigidified, set in stone, as the ONLY way we do things through the judgements of others, life gets really messy. It seems that whatever choice we have made to do something there is someone who will come along and say “Well, why didn’t you do this?”
For example, let’s say you have a set of skills but you play them down when talking to someone but they respond with “You should feel more confident about yourself!” But then you talk to someone else and confidently talk about your skills and they reply with “You’re full of yourself. You might not be as clever as you think!’ You can’t win.
This is how we begin to feel that whatever we say will be used against us. Because we just can’t win. We can’t just be who we are without judgement or comment. This is why we get stubborn and defensive. It’s why we don’t want to share who we are with others because there feels like there is a constant judgement on our ability to get it right.
Based on my approach of empowered realism, I would suggest, that by accepting the reality that we will never win, we are free to make choices, grow how we choose and take responsibility for who we want to be. The 4 C Steps of Consciousness, Context, Choice and Change can be applied for us to find our place of peace and harmony with life.
Step 1 Consciousness: becoming aware of this reality of what people do, that includes us too; that to every rule there is an exception; and that those rules are there to provide some kind of guide but they are not absolute.
Step 2 Context: whatever you are doing in your life someone will have a different reality or option because for them their perception reflects their reality. Place their perception in the context of the conditioning that influences that perception. The conditioning stems from the beliefs and expectations of the society, generation, religion, culture, socio-economic status, family and their gender.
Step 3 Choice: make a choice about how much power you give to the perception, judgement, or projection you are experiencing regarding your choices. Don’t personalise it. People often only upset us because we already doubt ourselves. But also don’t become rigidified by the choices you have made. Once you begin to defend and justify your choices you can become stuck in them. Then you give your power away.
Step 4 Change: it’s now time to let go of the stress you feel by the interaction. But it’s also an opportunity to maintain your flexibility by committing yourself to the power of choice. When you decide for yourself that you will do a ‘specific something’ for now because it works, it meets your needs and it is creating healthy and productive results, knowing that when applicable you will change your approach if it no longer works, you have chosen the empowered realism of growth, choice and responsibility.
What are the rules you have that there are exceptions to?