Everything happens for a reason…it’s just that the reason is not always easy to see.
“Everything happens for a reason” is not just a saying or platitude. It is true. And it is true not just for those uncontrollable life events like job loss or death of a loved one, but also for your behaviour, my behaviour, his behaviour, and her behaviour.
Milton Erickson, a psychologist and hypnotherapist, believed that behind every behaviour, there is a positive intention for that particular individual. In other words, the person’s behaviour, no matter how bizarre or seemingly destructive, has a positive reason for existing for that person.
Let’s look at a relevant and charged example of a behaviour: refusing to wear a mask in public. (Now, I’m not asking whether or not you are in support of this behaviour. That is not the point of this.) Let’s just examine the possible reasons for this behaviour.
To some, this may seem like a rebellious, irresponsible, and dangerous negative behaviour that puts people’s lives at risk. But endangering people’s lives is not his intention. His intention might possibly be to stand for freedom. To stand for his rights while living in a free country. He may feel that it is his responsibility. By not wear a mask, he remains true to what he values most- freedom. For him, not wearing a mask supports his positive value of freedom, therefore the behaviour of not wearing a mask has a positive reason.
Now, let’s address the behaviour of wearing a mask in public. To some, this may seem like an irresponsible, ignorant, “spineless”, or “lemming” behaviour. But for the one wearing a mask, there is a positive intention. Her intention may be to do everything she can to keep everyone, including herself, as safe as possible. She may feel it is her responsibility. Or her intention may be to keep harmony and peace and not make a scene. For her, wearing a mask supports her positive values of safety and peace, therefore the behaviour of wearing a mask has a positive reason.
No matter what you believe about masks, I think we can agree that responsibility, freedom and rights, and safety and peace are desirable values and valid positive intentions that we all can support and champion.
Seeing the positive intention behind ANY behaviour allows for more compassionate latitude. “Compassionate latitude increases our care and flexibility with others’ shortcomings or missteps…compassion helps us connect with our higher reasoning capacity to make smarter choices while managing the infectious waves of stress and insecurity that are on the rise. Latitude is an attitude that includes qualities such as being less critical and more patient and tolerant with each other yet not having to agree with or condone another’s views or actions. This can help us treat each other in ways we would desire for ourselves.”1
Especially in a time when there is so much separation and disparity, a little compassion and understanding can go a long way in bringing us back together.
What possible positive intention could be behind your loved one’s behaviour? What about your least favourite person's behaviour?
Is it possible that you and your loved one share the same value but display it differently?
Can you have more compassionate latitude?
Here’s to conquering stress.
The Stress Experts
1- Compassionate Latitude: The Need of the Times. The HeartMath Institute. https://www.heartmath.com/blog/spirituality/compassionate-latitude-the-need-of-the-times/
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