Ugh, That Man!
I’m going to be honest, Jeremy Corbyn really annoys me. I find myself crawling with irritation when the thought of him crosses my mind.
He sees to value his principles above flexibility, which might seem honourable to some but looks plain selfish to me.
Valuing himself and what (he thinks) is right above what’s actually right for me, you and everyone else. Ugh. Has the man no awareness of his incompetence.
It Isn’t Personal…
Not to malign Corbyn; I’m sure we all have our own version of this person, at least sometimes. Bosses, boyfriends and bureaucrats being particularly susceptible. Oh, and reality TV celebrities of course.
I don’t know the real Jeremy Corbyn. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, and I’m sure he does what he thinks is in the best interests of the country. Well, no I don’t think that, I think he does what is in the best interests of himself first, his position in the party second, and the country coming, well, most likely a poor tenth. Even knowing there is a high road, still I find it hard to think anything other than wishing he would weasel away, back into whatever hole he crawled out of.
Of course, there’s also a part of me that hates myself for thinking this; for judging rather than rising above. I should be a compassionate person — I AM a compassionate person — so it’s also annoying to me that I get wound up like this.
Solution One: The Person in Front of Me Needs to Change (or I Do)…
The first thing we reach for when we have this experience is either to change the ‘thing’ (if only Corbyn would be different!) or to change our experience (I shouldn’t allow myself to get so frustrated!)
Neither of these is a solution to the circumstances, or our own state of mind.
And, mostly, we all know this.
It’s Me; Not Him…
The truth is that the Jeremy Corbyn who annoys me has no solidity in the real world.
He is a cartoon character bouncing around inside my head, mocking my frustration and thumbing his nose, laughing at my lack of control over his impact on me.
He is an illusion. A mirage. A modern-day spitting image caricature with my sub-conscious self pulling on strings of my own creation.
When I have perspective, I know this. I also know that he only bothers me when I think about him. Whatever I might think, and sometimes say out loud, there is nothing real or right about my opinions of the man or what meaning I am giving to those opinions.
It’s me, not him…
Which relieves me of the need to do anything, other than to laugh at myself.
This is true for all of us who hold opinions about other people: we live in the illusion of our own consciousness and that can change in an instant.
Like flicking between channels on the TV or loading a random playlist on Spotify.
Solution Two: (My) Thinking Needs to Change…
The second level solution is when we know that our experience is being created from consciousness — our experience of life is what we see, rather than what is.
Lots of coaches and teachers will show you this road, telling you that changing what you think will change the way the world appears to you,
Change your thoughts to change your life. If you don’t like Fox news, flick over to the BBC. Create your own reality.
And there’s truth in that, of course there is. The way we see the world is how the world appears to us.
Again, I find most people know this at some level, even if they don’t know that they know, which is why we’re able to function without feeling the need to rail and shout and throw eggs at our personal Corbyn-like bogey-man.
We know our experience has no solidity, and expressing our frustration is unproductive and potentially harmful to ourselves and others.
We Can Know This and it Still Doesn’t Help…
…if I truly saw Corbyn as a puppet in a reincarnated 1980s TV programme, I could watch and laugh, and then flick over to something else when I’d had enough.
I could change my thought channel!
But that isn’t what happens.
My metaphorical TV sometimes get stuck on the judgement channel; judgement of myself for my lack of compassion, and judgement of him for being an arse. And when I’m on the judgement channel, it looks blinkin’ real.
I get sucked into believing that my feelings mean something beyond being an interesting diversion, and a small part of me, deep down, thinks badly of him.
And so I make up stories to support my hidden conviction.
I blame my imaginary Corbyn for his ineffective campaigning on Brexit; I blame him for his inability to effect positive (in my opinion) change; I blame him for his infantile approach to collaboration and the schoolyard tactics he employs when talking to the press and / or other politicians.
When I choose to look, I can also find evidence to support these stories, and so they become reinforced and appear more true.
Of course, he must be a fool — look at the evidence!
This is where most of us live a lot of the time.
We’re smart people and have awareness that not everything we think is real; but telling ourselves to “change my thinking!” doesn’t cut the mustard and we’re never quite free of the subliminal sense that there is a problem with X, Y, or Z.
What seems to kink the hose, and snag us in that frustration, grief, anger, or helplessness, is thinking we need to manage our feelings, or, when we feel ourselves reacting to them as if there was some underlying truth in the circumstance, the changing of which will make us feel better.
The stories I tell myself about Corbyn that appear to justify my feelings are manufactured. Of course they are, I know this.
But I don’t know it. There is something underneath my story that looks true to me, that is even harder for me to see in this moment.
And it’s damn hard work to convince ourselves of something that doesn’t look true.
It’s ALL an Illusion…
The deeper part of me knows, though, that it’s all an illusion. My experience of life in any moment is no more real than loving or hating the latest Netflix production.
It’s all a fabrication, filtered through my awareness, so it’s OK to feel whatever I feel, it’s OK to let it out when I feel overcome with grief, it’s OK to feel excitement for a new project or ecstasy for a new romance. It’s OK to lose myself in whatever channel’s playing right now because, simultaneously, I know that it’s all entertainment — none of the channels is real.
And, so, I don’t have to change my experience.
Solution Three: Don’t Look to the Illusion, Look to What’s Universally True…
The third level solution, the level of true transformation, is to see when I want something to be different, I’ve lost my sense of self, my sense of safety, my sense of agency, and I’m living in a story, and that no one story is better than another — because none is real.
This is where we become truly free.
It’s what people mean when they say, “getting out of our own way.”
There is no ‘way’ to get out of and, when we see this, then there is nothing to do; no ‘work’, no steps, no motivation required. We’re good, always.
Ah, Finally, Enlightenment…
When I look again to what’s true, when I really look, I can see all my thoughts about him come from the complex interplay of flickering lights on my own consciousness and my desperate search to explain (and avoid) my discomfort.
The truth is that, no matter how much argument and ‘evidence’ I pile onto it, all my discomfort, and the stories I create to explain it, come from the notion that I want something to be different in the present moment.
But things cannot ever be other than they are, therefore, my need for something to be different is like a dog chasing its tail; I can chase until I am worn to the ground, but I will never get catch it.
No matter my feelings in the moment, it’s all an illusion.
Corbyn or no Corbyn. He’s only ever background noise from a TV channel for which I’ve temporarily mislaid the controls. I have no reason to listen if I have something more important or interesting to do.
When I see this, it’s easier to allow myself to experience what is happening, without judgement or need to change anything, and to transcend the discomfort, to enjoy it even, because I can see that my feelings have no meaning whatsoever.
Sure, you and I can trade stories and agree or disagree on points of opinion about our respective fictional Corbyn cartoons. It might or might not be fun to debate, but we are only ever debating our own creations, there is no ‘truth’, no freedom or lasting fulfilment at the bottom of making-up meaning or trying to resolve who’s right and who’s wrong.
When I see this, when I can see through all my stories that things should be different, I have both a sense of peace and joy, a sense of safety and aliveness, and the power to act boldly where and when I feel inspired.
And that’s when my experience of life takes on a magical quality. I become brilliant in my creativity and my wisdom — not my personal, Cathy, creativity — but the human capacity for creativity, for new ideas, for stepping into the realm of unlimited possibilities.
In this space, I am always in my wisdom, because that’s what it is to be human.
About the author
Cathy Presland is an expert in human-centred leadership and transformative change. She has more than two decades of experience in government and international organisations and her focus as a coach is to support impact-driven individuals and organisations to improve their performance, leadership and peace of mind to enable them to make more of a difference with the work they do.