When I log on to Tumblr or Twitter nowadays, useful, fun and inspiring content is being replaced by venting gone viral. I see responses to people who say things like “You’re cute for a black girl, are you mixed?” or any other example of plain social ineptitude, tinged with colonized non-thinking and poor manners. While the shares and retweets abound, I find myself unable to relate.
I don’t have people around me who say things like that (at least to my face), and this is by design. The vice grip I have over my attention and social life may have downsides I’ve yet to see, but the upsides are clear: In a given day, the amount of stupidity I encounter is minimal. Definitely not enough to make me retreat to the internet for a meme, t-shirt, tweet or Tweetgram that properly sums up my frustration. To an extent, I have created my reality. Brené Brown reminds us that truly open people aren’t people without boundaries. On the contrary, these people know how to set boundaries with others, which allows them to be open and vulnerable.
Since the last time I wrote a post on FreedomReeves.com, I’ve deactivated my personal Facebook profile (I still have a public page for this blog). Removing this one demand on my time and attention has made me more aware of where my attention goes, both on and offline. Before I deactivated my Facebook profile, I was critical of myself. Almost a billion people around the globe are on Facebook. Who am I to set this boundary, and step away from the constant stream of other people’s thoughts, interests and life events? I wondered if I was missing out on anything by not being a social free-for-all, by vetoing 95% of the people who ask for my attention, both on and offline.
We all have this veto power, and should use it more often. When we are children, we don’t have control over who is in our lives, but we gather information. We sense how we feel around certain people. Unfortunately, if we feel bad vibes more than good, we become comfortable with them and visa versa. Good vibes and positivity can feel false, fake and undesirable. In our teens and 20s, we continue to receive tests in the form of people who mirror those who hurt us when we were children. We may still accept them as normal until one day, we can’t take it anymore. Or, we get a glimpse into the life of someone who is not experiencing these struggles. We may not have a template for healthy, nurturing and productive relationships, but we believe they exist. So we begin the work of creating them for ourselves. We start healing our wounds. We forgive others and ourselves for not knowing better.
Then, we are called to practice. We encounter others who represent our still-healing wounds and we are called to respond: Yay or nah? If we say “nah” enough to those who dishonor us, who create disorder and pain in our lives, or those who simply add no value, eventually the Universe will get the message. We have learned the lesson, and these people will stop coming into our awareness.
Some time after we strengthen our ability to lovingly release people based on behaviors that are not in harmony with who we are, we can start practicing this with energy. Vibes. Feelings we often don’t have words for because this form of communication existed before words. Our feelings are the most primitive form of communication. We developed them before sight, speech, hearing and so-called “logical” thinking. All “logic” calls for is something that can be tested against a set of objects, individuals, principles or events. In the context of relationships, logic calls for evidence to support why we feel something. If we feel like someone is unsafe, logic requires that they do something to make us unsafe before we decide. If someone is not honest, logic requires that person to do something dishonest before we can say they are so. While it is unfair to label people without evidence, we don’t need these labels to make decisions about people.
Vibes are different from preconceptions. Preconceptions exists in our heads. Snap judgements that are based on tangibles, like what a person is wearing or where they are from. Vibes, however, are felt, usually in the heart, chest, or stomach area. It’s the sinking feeling we get when someone makes a mean-spirited joke and says they are just kidding. The term “mean-spirited” has the word “spirit” for a reason. Words have energy too. This is why they can be felt by us in a way that is separate from their content.
Systemic disrespect to our personhood demands attention and action. The interpersonal slights, nicks and digs from others, however, should only garner enough attention so we can recognize that our individual work is not over. A great amount of hardship and pain can be avoided by trusting the vibes you get from people. We are all operating on different frequencies.It’s your duty to trust the uniqueness of who you are. You aren’t for everyone and not everyone is for you. Until you learn this lesson, you will be tested on it.