Are you aware of all the perceptual distortions, cognitive biases and privileges you operate from? Of course you aren't. By definition, none of us know any of our blindspots. The best we can hope for is to learn from our collisions with others on the path, accept their feedback with some grace and reflect on how we might improve ourselves, knowing full well that we will not make the kind of progress we are fully capable of.
My mother raised my brother and me largely by herself after she asked my father to leave the family. I was 11 and my brother 7. We both got jobs to help take the strain off of her. She taught us how to knit, bake bread, hold doors open for people and always behave in such a way as to get invited back. Raised by a single mom, I've often assumed that I have and display a reasonably high sensitivity to the needs and perspectives of other genders, other age groups, other ethnicities, until every once in a while I discover that I don't always. And when I miss, I can miss big.
Most people are not aware of their biases and their affects on others.
Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Laureate and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, contends that we are blind and deaf to the source of a great deal of our behavior, that we act naturally and automatically from unconscious bias. He is not optimistic that this is likely to change. Fish don't see the water they swim in. Attention is a very limited resource and we are often not aware of the choices we make and the impacts they have on those around us. Even as we become more aware, learning to make more conscious choices and take more conscious action is a difficult process.
One such kind of unconscious bias is privilege. I spent a pleasant dinner at an event with a woman who had put a lot of thought into gender bias and schooled me on some of my deficiencies in that area. Men created most of the institutions that everyone else works, lives and plays in, and the creations naturally cannot help but be an expression of the values and perspectives of the creators. Until that dinner, I was not really aware of the concept of male privilege. I was frankly shocked at how deep it ran.
I am a member of perhaps the most reviled sub group in society. I am an affluent, healthy, well-educated, middle-aged white man born and earning my living in a spacious, resource-rich province and nation with a moderate political democracy and a free-market economy. I have almost every privilege there is, so it makes little sense to take pride in capitalizing on the opportunities such privilege affords. I wonder how I'd do as a single mother in rural India fighting to keep her children alive. I don't think I've squandered my opportunities, but I suspect I would not survive well without them. I don't think a support group for my kind would garner much pity from the rest of the world. Retribution, reconciliation and a painful reckoning are coming my way, and some much needed redemption.
No one has the same set of biases that I do or you do.
I'm extroverted more than I am introverted, abstract more than concrete, and more prone to recursive processing than working backwards from a desired end result. I prefer the solutions I think up and build myself even if the very thing I would instinctively think up and build is already on a shelf at a fraction of the price I'm about to pay for thinking it up and building it myself. I am more likely to take action than reflect first. I prefer speaking to listening, even though I understand that the latter is a key part of my job as a coach. I think direct communication is better than it's diplomatic counterpart. I am a "cognitive emoter" and moody as fuck. I feel for people but rarely cry. I favor wisdom over knowledge and self-expression over generous deference to the views of others. I am fiercely loyal and will go to the mat for my people and hate not being included as much as I recoil from clingy people. I like premium craft brands while remaining a mystery to the people I'd like to meet who will likely never discover my value as a result. This is my list. You have yours. Put us together and the sparks'll fly.
Life is a sometimes painful journey of awareness, of self and others.
I don't have a Nobel prize, and as a coach I'm most definitely not as fatalistic and deterministic as Mr. Kahneman is. I do believe that people can get an inside view of their code and learn to "hack the Matrix". I have to. And while I've seen people fall back down the Sisyphusian slope and revert back to their uglier, older and less evolved ways of being and doing, I've also seen them get their heads out of their asses just long enough to transcend their own little world of bullshit and do something great. I think that's what we are here for. Temet Nosce (know thyself). It's what you don't know about yourself that holds you back and what you think is true that just isn't.
We collide constantly with other Pilgrims on the path, whose behavior and tone we disapprove of. In that moment, these people are searching for the same light we are, but are just stuck in the dark. I hope you and I are strong enough to share some of ours.