The word “other” is commonly used in English as both an adjective and a pronoun. As an adjective: “born on the other side of the tracks.” As a pronoun: “if it’s not one thing, it’s the other.” Today I’d like to submit for your consideration the word “other” as a verb. Examples? “Dude, don’t other me,” and “she was in a terrible mood, othering everybody the whole evening.”
Here is my proposed dictionary entry for the next Merriam Webster:
1. to attribute qualities onto another person, often a celebrity in the news, so as to avoid acknowledging these same qualities within oneself:
[as verb. ] hey, don’t other Clinton, most married men have done stuff like that | I went to a meeting with the Dalai Lama. It was great but people tend to other him by putting him above them.
For the last ten days, our latest “otherfest” has focused on Rep. Anthony Weiner, whose name made him a larger-than-life-Disney-cartoon disaster waiting to happen. Republicans are having a field day, of course, and even the members of his own party are calling for his resignation. Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not advocating sending snaps of your private parts to women you hardly know. I don’t condone lying, or emotionally abandoning your recently pregnant wife. Probably everyone, including Rep. Weiner himself, agrees that these actions were stupid, immature, and hurtful to other people.
We can learn from this and many other current events, however, by shifting our attention from “what that terrible, despicable, lying rotten good for nothing over there did,” to “why are we getting so upset about this, and giving it so much attention?”
Why do we use the news so frequently for collective ‘othering?” One important reason is that there are weaknesses from which we all suffer: you and me and everyone we know. For example, pretty much every married man suffers from a case, mild or strong, of the wandering eye. His attention is caught by a pretty face, or a shapely curve, before he even has time to think about it. He might sometimes gaze at the thousands of naked women available on the web. He might even go all out, and have an affair. Generally, he feels bad about all of the above, he frequently lies about them, and he hopes to not get found out, neither for his actions, nor for his secret thoughts or dreams. He knows that all this distracts him from true intimacy with his wife, and she knows it too. But he does not know what to do about it. It is a dangerous weakness we all have. If we act on these impulses and get caught, they can destroy our marriage or career. So when a man conveniently called Weiner makes the mistake of following the impulses of his weiner, it is not just his issue. It is every man’s secret nightmare, and his wife’s as well, written large for all to see.
Similarly, every mother I have ever known, however devoted and loving and patient, at some time or other feels overwhelmed. She needs a break. She may sometimes lose it with the kids, or wish she had not become a mother so young. She might even, in her most private moments of deep despair, wish she could go back to the carefree life she lived before they were born. Then she catches herself, and blocks such thoughts from her mind. She becomes afraid that she is a bad mother for ever thinking that way. If questioned, she would never, ever, ever, admit to resenting her own kids. “I love them, I am a good mother.” Hence the Casey Anthony trial does not pass in obscurity in a remote Florida court house, it is international news day after day after day. Every small and sordid detail is guzzled up, in real time, by millions of people, as if it were their own family member in the dock. Why? Because this is our own secret nightmare on display for everyone to see.
The simple antidote for othering, which turns every news story into an opportunity for evolution and maturity are three simple words: Just like me. What did Weiner do? His attention wandered, and he acted on it. Most men, at least the honest ones, could easily say, “Just like me.” (And yes, things that happened in college do count.) Then he lied, for a week, before fessing up. C’mon guys, we can also offer another “Just like me.”
In order for “just like me” to work, you’ve got to let go of the facts a little bit, and tune into the energy underneath. Most men have not tweeted pics of their package to virtual strangers. They may not even have flirted. And certainly most women have never actually harmed their own children. The question is whether you can locate and be honest about the same impulses in the locked basement of your own thoughts. You may not have acted on them, but the important question is, have you ever taken such a wild ride in your mind?
Two or three months ago, Dr. Gay Hendricks and I released a YouTube video called “Dear Woman.” With a ramshackle assortment of buddies, we created a chorus of “just like me,” about how we can ‘fess up to weaknesses in our own masculine psyche. Men from all over the world were outraged that we would voice a collective apology for things that we, and they, didn’t do.
People object to letting go of “othering” because they think that by acknowledging those same traits in themselves, it is creating guilt and shame. They are also concerned that they may be abandoning their moral compass all together, reducing themselves to a left coast mush where everything is ok.
I suggest that you can maintain a well-tuned sense right and wrong, without having to project the “wrong” onto political figures, and claim the “right” things for yourself. Releasing “othering” doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you a more honest, deeper and compassionate person.
What are the benefits of integrating “just like me” into your life?
* One, you can instantaneously replace heavy feelings of separation and judgment with compassion and empathy, thereby improving your health.
* Two, you can bring undesirable qualities out of the shadow, own them, and become a more engaging, and multidimensional person.
* Three, when checking in to Google News every day, instead of getting depressed, it can become an endless, fascinating journey of self-discovery. “Wow, we did that too?”
You can use “just like me” not only on things that you condemn as bad, but also on qualities you admire, and wish to emulate, “The Dalai Lama is so wise and calm… just like me.” “Mark Wahlberg is so smart, just like me.” “Barack Obama is so eloquent. He has such a knack with words… just like me.”
If you’d like to know more about “just like me” and other similar tools, go register at thedeeperlove.com, and we’ll send you a useful practice every few days. Yup, all for F-R-E-E !!!!