Have you ever listened to something a friend or loved one said to you and thought: “They have to be insane!  That makes no sense at all!”

And what about things they do? Aren’t you flabbergasted when a friend or loved one doesn’t do something they promised to do or not returned a call for days?

So much of what people do and say make little or no sense to us.  Why?

Things people say and do don’t make sense to us because we assume that they are giving events the same meaning we do.  If we realized that most of what people do and say make perfect sense given the meanings they have assigned events, we’d stop being so puzzled.

Let me give you a few examples.

A relationship example

Imagine you ask your partner to pick up something at the store and he (or she) doesn’t.  You are likely to give it the meaning that he doesn’t care about you because if he did, he wouldn’t have forgotten.  That meaning is likely to make you upset or even angry.

And the more your partner doesn’t acknowledge that you have a right to be upset or angry, the more upset and angry you get.  In the end you just can’t understand why your partner didn’t do what you asked and why he isn’t apologizing for being so thoughtless.

Your partner on the other hand, gives the same event a different meaning: What you want is important to me, I just forgot.  People forget things.  My forgetting has nothing to do with how much I care about you.  Why are you so upset or angry?

What does the event—failing to pick up the item you requested at the store—really mean?  You give it one meaning and your partner gives it another.  Neither is “the truth.”  Both meanings are merely the way the event occurs for you.  Can you get that the event doesn’t have any inherent meaning?

If each of you could recognize that how the event occurs for you is not reality—it is merely the meaning each of you has attributed to reality—there would be nothing to get upset or angry about.  And the other’s reaction would not be so incomprehensible.  In fact, given the other’s “occurring,” the reaction would make perfect sense.

Are they really inconsiderate jerks?

Imagine that your neighbors are having a party that lasts until the wee hours of the morning and they are making noise that is keeping you awake.  Clearly they are inconsiderate jerks who have no respect for anyone else.  And that meaning makes you angry.  You just can’t imagine why people would do what they are doing.

Do your neighbors agree they are “inconsiderate jerks”?  No, they don’t.  From their point of view, they were just having fun, not realizing that they were making so much noise that you were being kept from sleep.

Whose point of view—whose meaning—is correct?  Can you get that both are and both are not.  In other words, the event as such has no inherent meaning and both meanings are just different ways of interpreting what happened.

Understanding people’s meaning makes sense of what they do and say

I’m not asking you to give up the meaning you assign to events, although if you did you would be able to dissolve your fears and anger, in fact, virtually all the negative emotions you experience.  Because almost all of our emotions are the result of the meaning we assign events—in other words, how the events occur for us—dissolving the meaning simultaneously dissolves the emotions.

I’m only suggesting that people’s actions and statements make perfect sense once you understanding that what people do and say will always be consistent with how events occur for them.  Understand people’s occurring and you will understand them.

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