A while back I read an open question from a friend on social media: “how do you see other people?” I guess possible answers could include: as spiritual beings having a human experience (hear me retch); as friends; as scary things; as something I cannot control; as something I must control; as obstacles; as reflections of my disowned weaknesses (my dark shadow); as reflections of my disowned strengths (my light shadow); as my mother (our relationship with the world is our relationship with our primary caregiver).
But my immediate and automatic response was, “I see other people as animals.” It seemed very weird that this came out of my fingertips so effortlessly.
My response shocked me because it sounds so terrible, so belittling. It reminds me of my stepfather making me eat off the floor as a child: “If you’re going to behave like an animal then I’ll treat you like one.”
But the thing is that I’m not a psychopath, so I don’t see animals as something that I can control, abuse, and take advantage of. Being called an animal is not an insult for me. Animals are beautiful things, the wilder the better. They move naturally and effortlessly. The more wild they are, the more anti-neurotic they seem. Animals are just what they are, and I hope I treat them with respect. Personally, I’m no better than an animal.
If you put me into an enclosure with a tiger then it will probably kill me and possibly eat me. So please don’t put me into an enclosure with a tiger. This doesn’t mean that I hate tigers, that I despise them, that I wish them all dead. No. I love tigers. Tigers are amazing. There is a place in the world for tigers, or, at least, there should be; and the freer they are the better.
Other humans are what they are; some are cruel. We don’t see an abused dog that snarls and snaps and say, “What an asshole of a dog!” No, we have compassion for wounded animals, at least I hope we do.
The problem is that we have this bad habit of projecting our own wounding onto other humans. So instead of seeing them as the beautiful, natural, and potentially wounded animals that they are, we sometimes see them as conniving, malicious, and intentionally evil villains. We sometimes strive to make ourselves feel better by placing the parts of ourselves that we cannot abide “over…