What about the 'Othering'?
“The supporters of that football team are a rowdy bunch, they’re not like us.”
“I’m not going to that gym, they’re all miserable. My gym buddies are always welcoming. Not like them.”
“The team that works in the Derby office are so ‘cliquey’, I’m so glad we’re not like that lot.”
The Othering. We identify with a group of people, our friends, our family, peers, colleagues and we place ourselves into a box that labelled We Are Alright. Anybody not in our comfortable, safe box is placed suspiciously on the shelf labelled 'The Others'.
The Others aren’t to be trusted, they’re unkind, they are not nice people, strangers and heck, everyone knows that Stranger = Danger, right?! Wrong! Stop right there, folks. Can I get a rewind? I'm going to just put myself out there and say that I think a lot of this Othering comes from the media because let's face it, the happy stories don't sell quite so many stories as the shocking or scary ones. But how would it be if we started noticing the nice things and praising the positive?
When a baby is born, regardless of the circumstances of conception, it is born with love and joy. Fear and hatred and all that bad stuff is learned through experience. That's right, we teach ourselves to be fearful. We make all our decisions based on our emotional response to experiences. (It's also thought that when we remember important events in our lives, we're also remembering how we felt that last time we thought about it. Kind of a Russian Doll effect, I suppose, but if this is true, it's easy to see why we can pick up irrational fears or phobias. But it's not all doom and gloom because surely, that's how nostalgia works too, right?)
Aren't we just all the same? Obviously, each person is shaped by their unique experience of life but doesn't this individuality make us all the same?
Try a simple game; you can play it whenever you're nearby another human being. Make eye contact. Acknowledge their presence. One of my favourite things when I visit London is to notice the life that happens all around. Sure, I understand that people don't make eye contact on the tube, but I love to notice the lady who's enjoying her journey talking with her friend, the small child in the pushchair who doesn't get that you don't smile at people on public transport, the old man who returns my smile despite feeling tired from his busy day (ok, I'm not 2 years old but I like that game, too). I find it so warm.
Maybe we shouldn't be rushing up to hug strangers in the street but perhaps we can remember that everybody has their own schizz to deal with. Their own story. Everyone has struggles in life, everyone has joy and love and perhaps, just maybe, that stranger is simply a friend you haven't met yet. And maybe we can slowly begin to climb out of these silly boxes we put everyone into.