Human relationships are always more complex than we often give them credit to be. Our preconceived notions often lead us to believe that we know someone inside out, but what if an unseen potential awaits? Do we sometimes hold others back because we offer resistance to something we “think” they would not adhere to or try? Do we allow people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their inner transformations or are we, potentially, more rigid than they are in our ways of thinking?
This is a bold statement but we can never truly know anyone. We can spend our entire lifetime with them and still not know them. Why?
Well, for starters people will only ever allow us to know what they want us to know. We can get a general idea of what is going on in their inner world by looking at the manifestations of their outer world. However, we need to remember that, just as we are in a perpetual state of learning and growth, so are they.
While it is true that a person with less mental plasticity might attach themselves completely to the beliefs they hold, it is also true that with the right framing, scientific evidence or interest, they may be open to new possibilities.
Let me give you an example, I recently suggested someone pass my book: “Mastering Anxiety” along to a relative of theirs. In response, they claimed that knowing their relative the way they do, the relative would not be receptive to it. This reaction made me reflect on rigid minds and the importance of not stripping individuals of their choices and opportunities just because we think we know them. In doing so, we are putting up blocks between them and potentially helping them.
Just as we can surprise ourselves when we embrace something new and/or behave out of character, so too can other people surprise us at any given moment. However, for that to happen, we have to allow them the freedom to do so and that means not denying them opportunities or taking for granted how mentally rigid we think they are.
Yes, people can be set in their ways and put up walls, but every day we are all presented with new opportunities for change. Who knows when we might change our minds, let alone when they may change theirs? We cannot possibly know when a transformation may take place in someone else. We cannot even begin to predict when it might happen within ourselves, let alone someone else.
The Paradox of Rigid Minds:
Rigid minds are like fortified castles. They resist the intrusion of new ideas and alternative perspectives. It is a paradoxical scenario where familiarity breeds the illusion of certainty, making it easy to believe that we comprehend someone’s preferences, beliefs, and choices completely.
However, this illusion may hinder growth, both for the rigid-minded individual and the person trying to offer alternatives. As mentioned above, when we deny someone of opportunities, because we consider them mentally inflexible, we are acting more rigid than they are.
I recently quoted an age-old saying to a friend. “We can take a horse to water but we cannot force it to drink.” Fair enough, but now we have two choices:
- We remove the water because we know the horse is not thirsty, or
- We provide several drinking alternatives, by leaving an array of full buckets lying around so that the horse has a plentiful supply to choose from, if and when it gets thirsty.
Any humane person would never allow the horse to dehydrate. So the natural choice would be to leave a plentiful supply of water available to the horse. Yet, when we apply this philosophy to human beings, we all too readily deny others possibilities and opportunities because we cling rigidly to our belief of their disinterest. By denying them these possibilities and opportunities, we are essentially taking away their power to choose. Technically, we are disempowering them.
Yes, they may well be disinterested at this very moment, but none of us are in a position to predict how long their disinterest will last. By denying them alternative possibilities and opportunities, we are blocking their path to learning something new and denying them their freedom of choice.
Every time we say: “No, they would not be interested” or “No, they are not into that” or “They are very set in their ways” we are putting up walls, denying them the freedom of choice and blocking their possibility for transformation.
In the pursuit of fostering personal growth and expanding horizons, the art of offering alternatives plays a pivotal role. Even when faced with someone steadfast in their convictions, providing alternatives is an act of respect, acknowledging the autonomy of choice. By doing so, we open the door to unforeseen possibilities and allow others the possibility of personal evolution and transformation.
The Importance of Autonomy:
Autonomy is a fundamental aspect of human dignity, and by offering alternatives, we respect an individual’s right to make decisions aligned with their beliefs and values. It is about recognising that even the most rigid minds have the capacity to surprise us when given the freedom to choose. Autonomy is the key that unlocks the door to unexplored territories within one’s own mind.
None of us have the right to take away another person’s freedoms and if we really want to help them, we need to offer them all the possibilities; even if they are not currently receptive to them.
A few years ago, nobody would have envisaged just how popular the use of CBD oil would be with the advent of the legalisation of cannabis in many countries. Even die-hard adversaries and sceptics have jumped on the consumer bandwagon. However, without someone taking the initiative to fight for the legalisation of cannabis and marketing it to the world, it would not be a choice for anyone.
By allowing individuals the space to consider alternatives, we create an environment conducive to unexpected transformations. The rejection of alternative healing methods may not be permanent; rather, it may be a momentary stance based on the current state of beliefs. Over time, circumstances change, and so do perspectives. The unexpected can unfold when we least anticipate it and only if we are willing to light and leave the path to it unobstructed.
It is important to understand that beliefs are not static. They evolve and adapt to new information and experiences. What may seem implausible now, may become a viable option when presented in the right context. This evolution is not a sign of weakness but a testament to the dynamic nature of the human mind. The more we expose ourselves to diverse possibilities, the more resilient and adaptable our beliefs become.
Remember – People can surprise us!!!