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  • Melissa Sims

Let Go of the"Right Way"

After attending the recent peer to peer, which I hope you had the privilege of enjoying, I had my a-ha moment for this week’s blog. The topic of the workshop was Sensory Processing in Early Childhood: Identifying Differences and Strategies for Participation. I have a family member with sensory processing differences so this was of particular interest to me. It was a very informative session and I walked away with some new insights and tips for my family. But that wasn’t my A-HA moment. To put it into context, it was when Dr. Jennifer Jones, the presenter, was speaking about early childhood milestones, and how every child is different…yet most practitioners have a standard to gage development. The right way and the wrong way to do certain things. 

The whole day centered on accepting and supporting differences in the way people process sensory stimuli, and it really was eye opening for a lot of us - that even though many of us never considered our “quirks” as more than just that, the majority of us have some sort of processing difference, just not likely enough to be diagnosed as such. I have a few, but my main processing difference is auditory. I can hear everything, to the point of it being too much. I don’t panic in large crowds, but I definitely get overwhelmed when there’s too much noise. I can’t pinpoint a particular noise, even a song in a restaurant. It all blends together to make it enough for me to want to sit in a padded room of silence. But I can also hear the tiniest sounds from two doors down, often driving my family crazy with “did you hear that? What was that?!?” It did make me feel better to know that there were quite a few in the room that also had the same experience.

But on a more serious note, let’s dig into this idea of the right way. Sensory processing aside, we live in a world where the entire foundation of the way we live has been built on concepts of right and wrong. Likely stemming from the religious nature of our early societies, we have been conditioned to see things in a very black and white backdrop, with very little room for a gray area. Having a belief that there is right and wrong is really our moral compass, and that isn’t something to push aside. However, when our ideas of right and wrong conflict with another’s, there has to be a way to still live in harmony with one another and not resort to the ways that we typically do. This is where bias stems from, where prejudice lies, and where conflict arises. Think of how confidently you believe in your right and wrong…now consider just how passionately the opposite person feels as well.

Consider that most of the current conflict in the world is revolving around this very fact. The conflict in Gaza is really about the fact that both sides believe they have the right to land, and that they are correct in their assumption. Someone is right and someone is wrong. It doesn’t matter what we believe, as we aren’t directly involved in the conflict…yet every single one of us (I am pretty sure) has an opinion on the matter, and many take those opinions online. “Israel is committing genocide” or “Palestinians are complicit” and many more statements of finality, with no room for interpretation or reasoning. The problem with opinions is that they are largely based in our belief system, which is often saturated with emotion, and we forget that our opinions are simply that. 

United States politics is another great example. And I am not talking about the hyper local politics that directly affect each of us, I am talking about the two parties that have been completely polarized by each’s idea of right and wrong. Think about it: our country is teeming with tension because two sides can’t seem to agree on this. One side is right and one side is wrong, end of story. But is that really all there is to it? No, and I am sure you can find millions of opinions online quite easily. You can apply this reasoning to really all conflict going on in the world. 

Part of the reason all of this has struck a chord with me recently is that I am confronted with very differing ideas and beliefs in the social settings I find myself in, even in friend groups. It can be difficult a lot of the time to keep my opinions to myself, and to not judge those around me. Instead of labeling the people I don’t agree with as crazy, it is a constant lesson for me to remain mindful and try to see different perspectives. I have a friend who recently came to me with some pretty alarming theories that she completely believes as facts. I love this friend almost like a sister, and she is an incredibly smart and driven woman. When I first heard her theories, I went straight to judgment: “she’s losing it…she’s drinking the kool-aid…she can’t be that crazy?!?” Then my thoughts went even further to “how can I be friends with someone that is so completely different than me?!?” After I had a few days to really consider what she told me I began to be more curious. Do I think the theories are bananas? Absolutely. But is the person? Not at all.

I truly want to understand the why. Why people are drawn to the ideas and beliefs they promote and what it is that got them to that point. And I hope that they do the same for me, though I don’t really share my beliefs and opinions too often. I don’t do that for a few reasons: I do still believe that parts of my life are private and do not concern anyone else. I also do that because people see me as a safe space to share things - and I don’t want to violate that. 

I am not sure what has shifted with society as a whole, but I feel like we’ve gone backwards. When did we stop trying to understand each other’s opinions? When did it bubble over to “win at all costs” and "make sure everyone believes the same things I do” mentality? I think there’s this hostility right now that people are scared to dig in and find the why…sentiments are volatile, and the world isn’t listening to one another.

In our workshops, you’ve likely heard us talk about the word “should” and how much judgement it carries. This is exactly what’s happening all around us. (BLANK) should/shouldn’t (BLANK) because it is wrong! And you’ve probably also heard us say that using words like “should” carry the assertion that you know better than the other person. You don’t, simply because you are not the other person. You do not carry the experiences, the joys, the loss, the challenges that they have. And vice versa. As much as you think they are in the wrong, they also likely think you are. 

Don’t mistake my point here. I have my own ideas of what is right and wrong and that is my personal moral compass. There are many things that I would like to change about the world, and a lot of it is not in my control. I will do my part to bring joy and happiness into this world, and to try to help those in need.  I admire being passionate about what you believe in, and standing up for it in a way that doesn’t harm others. But for any of us to think that someone else has to share in those beliefs is where we are veering off course. I do think that some things are probably better left to staying private, but I am glad that we are at a point where we can have open dialogue; I just don’t think that as a species we are quite there yet. We still impose our beliefs on others and unfortunately resort to harm (physical and mental) when our strategy doesn't work. We still have our egos running the show for the most part, and until that isn’t the strongest part of us, we are likely in for little change.

Our core beliefs, our map of right and wrong, are a very personal tenet of who we are. Free will is what makes us human. We have the ability to do whatever we want, whenever we want. My right and my wrong are only mine, even if they are the same as many other people. We tend to forget that while we are all connected, we are still singular. And trying to force people in any direction on your moral compass is only going to make everyone get lost. So let go of the "right" way. Embrace your own way, and don’t impose it on anyone else. 

Ok, stepping off the soap box. Thanks for entertaining my a-ha moments. Have a great weekend.


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