This story of a retired German schoolteacher/psychotherapist living money free is quite something and was doing the rounds on Facebook. She also encourages people to swap goods and services to help each other. On the surface one can easily jump to the conclusion that, ‘it’s all very well but in the real world…. My opinion is that it is great that she is living how she wants to and that is something we should all strive for, whilst allowing others to do the same.
Watching the video made me think of something else as I saw her having to defend her choices. Some of my counselling clients have sought help because they have, one way or another, decided to make choices that are not considered, ‘normal’. The issue hasn’t so much been their way of life, on the contrary they have felt liberated as this Grandmother seems to feel. The issue they have experienced has been other people’s negative reactions in an almost pack-like mentality against them.
It really is easy to stay in with the crowd and certainly hassle free. In many ways we should consider others when we make choices. But if it prevents you from being who you want to be, you’ll begin a behaviour pattern of making excuses to yourself as to why you shouldn’t do what you want to do. As time passes I do really think this builds up and in one way or another, reveals itself as a negative consequence. As somebody once said, “What’s an ice-cube today becomes an iceberg tomorrow”.
Many of us have felt this in a part of our lives whether it’s from discrimination or a choice you have made. The reaction is still the same, you’re different.
So what do you do? Do you really want to feel like you’re justifying your differences and choices all the time? Should we study the psychology of why people insist on almost bullying those that are different (through choice or not)? We could try, but I don’t like the look of that road as I think it has no end and it certainly doesn’t lead anywhere. Or do you just forget the whole thing and join the flock? One thing you can do is remember the power of categories. People categorise you just as you do them. Both are usually inaccurate but one thing we know about categories is that they are involuntary and subjective. After all, one person asking may actually want to make a big life choice themselves and may be seeking advice.
The point is that it isn’t so much other people’s reactions, but how you respond to these reactions. The answer is to somehow let go. Letting go does not mean ignore by any means. If you try to ignore you’ll still have that ice-cube, though by now it may resemble a snow ball. One way of letting go is to remember that life is a journey and everybody’s path is different. The likelihood is that some of your critics may very well one day be in a similar position of wanting to break free from the crowd themselves. Keeping this in mind you can begin to change your perspective. These people aren’t attacking you, they don’t understand and often when this happens they feel threatened. Once you see these people as just passers-by on their own journey you’ll begin to feel differently about what they are saying, the feelings behind their words and this can empower you.
Being individual and making real personal choices is extremely liberating. Once you feel strong inside yourself and at ease with who you are you may even begin to have sympathy for those that haven’t yet obtained the strength you have. Do all this and your ice-cubes will remain where they should be, in the freezer.