Understanding inappropriate behaviour

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

When you see someone behaving inappropriately, what feelings arise in you and how do you approach the situation?

A friend was recently telling me about a party he attended several years ago where there was this one married man in his mid 40s, who was slightly drunk and was chatting up many of the other women in the room. My friend was furious at this guy’s behaviour. This guy appeared sleazy and was tarnishing an otherwise fun night out for everyone else there.

Several months later, my friend had a chance meeting with this ‘sleazy’ man at a community group meeting, and it turned out that the guy had a young daughter with a severe case of autism, where she woud continually bite into furniture, just like a dog. This guy was struggling to look after his daugher and he was simply acting out. He was not himself. His behaviour at the party was clearly inappropriate, which he himself had recognised, but had resorted to drinking his sorrows away and attempting to find an escape from the struggles of his day-to-day reality.

My friend, upon learning the truth of this guy’s situation, felt great sadness. In fact, even while recounting the story to me, he had tears rolling down his eyes. He had vowed that from that day on, he would never again let first impressions count so much for how he viewed the people in the world around him. He resolved to discover the underlying truth of the situation, the struggle, fear or sorrow that somebody is going through, and sought to make sense of their behaviour, nomatter how inappropriate they behaved.

Opening eyes to sorrow

I’m grateful my friend had shared that story with me. It helped to open my eyes to the reality of just how much our family, friends, neighbours and colleagues in the world around us struggle to survive in life and make sense of the situations they face.

It helped me to notice where I lack compassion and understanding, and the work I now need to do to better tolerate and care for those around us who just want acknowledgement that life IS tough.

When they behave inappropriately

It may be that someone is drunk and seemingly uncrontrollable at a party, drowning away their sorrows of a broken relationship or the sudden death of an adored spouse.

Perhaps they have their feet up on a seat in the bus with music blaring out of their earphones, attempting to drown out the troubles of the world around them, yet never really being able to mask the deafening noise of their minds.

It could be that they are a colleague being controlling yet hostile, attempting to take charge of their working environment while a messy divorce is crumbling the stability of family life from under their feet.

Responding to inappropriate behaviour

Step back a moment and just observe how they’re behaving. See it for what it is. Separate their actions from how you feel about it. Start with the assumption that their inappropriate behaviour is not who they are at their core.

But please don’t for one moment think I am suggesting that you just let them continue to behave in this way. We all have a responsibilty to help improve the world around us and give support to those who are silently crying out for it.

You may find that it is your duty to do something about it – perhaps to hear them out and if they ask for guidance, then to suggest something that may help them. It may also be your duty to take care of the people that their actions are affecting.

Life ain’t easy, not for any of us

It’s clearly evident that this life is not easy. Not for any one of us.

We may have health, but be lacking in money. We may have millions in the bank, but no real friends to trust and care for. We may have friends and plenty of money, but be struck with a terminal illness.

We may appear to have it all – health, wealth, friendship – but still the greed of wanting more, or the fear of it all inevitably coming to an end.

Life is certainly not easy, for any one of us.

Less expecting, more understanding

Perhaps with a little more care, compassion and understanding, the way we respond to other people’s behaviour will be based on a deeper appreciation of what they are going through and founded on the truth of the situation, rather than our own expectations and judgements.

Then and only then will we see the world for what it is, our life for what it is.

No more facades. No more hiding from the truth. No more disappointment from expectations not met.

Just more care, more compassion and more understanding.

No-one is anyone’s

Suraj and Sawan, when they were kids

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

As I spend more and more time as a bereavement support visitor, helping those who have lost a loved one to get through their suffering, I would have thought that I’d be pretty good at loosening my own emotional grip on the people I care about.

Yet, as time goes on, I seem to feel more and more heartache at the thought that those closest to me will inevitably one day be no more – in particular, my kid bro.

Sometimes I envision how I might receive the news about his death, or react to finding out about him being hurt in some serious way.

I imagine myself frozen in time, initially standing like a stone cold statue, riddled with shock, and then the next moment collapsing to the floor overcome with the pain of my insides being crushed by the grip of my very own hands.

The grip of my attachement. The pain of my loss.

Nobody is for anybody

In the timeless Jain tradition, there is a reflection titled “anyatva bhavana” which (in Gujarati) states:

“Aa sansaar ma koi koinu nathi.”

This roughly translates to:

“In this worldly life, no-one is anyone’s.”

So why do we feel such strong attachments to our younger siblings, and how can the “anyatva bhavana” reflection help us reduce the torment we relentlessly place on ourselves?

This perplexing attachment toward our siblings

The feeling we have towards our younger siblings, particularly when we grow up after all those initial years of teasing and squabbling, is of care and concern for them, blended with pride of what they have achieved in life so far.

When I look at my brother (he turned thirty this week), I see a confident caring man who has the company of a loving wife, a stable roof over his head, doing work he is committed to and the loyalty of friendships he has been growing and strengthening since childhood.

However, beneath his confident and joyful exterior, I notice his fears and his concerns. Somehow, I can feel his deepest pains that he appears to cover up. The same pains and doubts and fears that we all have – each and every one of us.

The daily discomforts of our body. The financial constraints of hectic western life. The busy-ness and habits of a time-poor society gradually creeping in.

So yes, I notice his incredible strengths, and I notice the depths of his hurt caused by the strain on a typically fractured worldly life.

It makes me want to hold him high above my head and boast about him to the world, while embracing him with a tight grip, to let him know that everything will be ok.

This is my attachment to my kid bro. The very same attachment you may also be having to those you adore.

Understanding that nobody is for anybody

In this world we realise that nomatter how much we try to help take away someone’s suffering or ask others to reduce our pain, we are ultimately truly alone.

If I am deep in debt and someone hands me a bundle of cash, that may temporarily alleviate my financial problems, but it will not cure me of the greed that led me to that state.

That greed is my own that I need to work on and resolve, so that it need not trouble me forever more.

Whatever we currently experience is a result of our past actions. All the trouble, torment and harm we have caused to others in our past has resulted in troublesome situations for us right here, right now.

Someone may run a red light and crash into the back of the car, or your house may get burned down, or business become bankrupt, or get kicked out of your job, or racially abused or anything else under the sun that causes pain, suffering, disease, despair.

But it needn’t cause pain, suffering, disease or despair.

No-one, nomatter how much they may love and care for us, can truly take that situation away from us. We have to endure it ourselves, witness it, and calmly let it pass.

If we don’t stay calm and let it pass, then what will happen? We get consumed by it, wishing that we didn’t have to deal with it, fighting to shift it from our lives, indulging in anger and causing more harm. This inevitably leads to more trouble for us in the future.

What you do now massively impacts the situations that arise for you at a later point in time.

Guaranteed.

So we must understand that everything happening to us right now is completely our own doing, our fault, our responsibility.

It doesn’t mean sit back and do nothing – we need to deal with the situation appropriately.

But while dealing with it, remain calm and let the matter gradually pass.

No-one can truly take away our pain, nor can we truly alleviate anyone’s suffering.

However, our compassionate hearts give us an opportunity to reach out to another.

When you see someone suffering, you can help them out practically and emotionally, all the while knowing that in all honesty, the only true beneficiary… is you.

(picture: Suraj with his younger brother Sawan when they were kids)

Less suffering in silence

Found out today that a friend from uni took his own life in early December (over 6 weeks back). How much must he have been suffering to have resorted to that.

Thoughts are with his family and close friends who may be feeling confused, sad, angry and perhaps guilty for “not seeing the signs”. We never really know how alone those around us feel, how much suffering they go through, what they’re really thinking or feeling at any given moment.

Perhaps right now, for anyone experiencing some kind of loss, lets take a moment to be present, listen to them, listen without judgement, without opinions, without advice. Just be there to listen, for them to know that they are being heard, that they are not suffering in silence.