Sunday, November 6, 2011

Purely Conditional

This week I've been thinking about how our responses and perceptions are largely determined by our past experiences. I had this wonderful epiphany at my day job as I suddenly realized why one of my bosses is periodically asking me how I'm doing with my new assignment. It's not because she thinks I'm incompetent or can't handle it, but because she doesn't want me to get burnt out or hate what I'm doing. As silly as it seems, this kind of consideration from an employer is kind of foreign territory for me after the past five and a half years.

I love the fact that I can actually call in sick and not get raked over the coals for it and come in late with no consequences and guilty looks if the roads are bad or the power goes out at my house. I appreciate the fact that I'm not expected to work more than 40 hours, have a set schedule, and can take comp time if I ever get into a situation where I go over those 40 hours. The 100 percent employer paid insurance plan is nice too and I certainly appreciate the fact that I'm not treated like a complete idiot if I need to go to a co-worker or a boss for assistance. And just about every week there's free brownies, zucchini bread, donuts, pizza or some type of treat for everyone in the office.

Every month there's staff engagement meetings and the Director of Technology actually took the time to have a private meeting with me as a new employee. He thinks it's important to find out what his employees think about the organization and the department. To top it off he sincerely listened to my suggestions and put one of them into practice. It was a simple request to help introverts like me come up with things to say in those meetings. I was kind of caught off guard and flabbergasted. Something like that would have been completely ignored and discounted with my former employer. I would have been made to feel like an outsider and alien for even bringing it up.

They tell me that they think I have "so much" to offer and that I was hired for my communication skills and confidence in dealing with people. When I hear this, I automatically think huh? Wasn't it my former boss who used to say that my weakness was communication and that I didn't do this at all? It was assumed that because I was "quiet," came to work and didn't get involved in office politics that I was "very unapproachable" and "extremely sensitive." Intellectually I realize my former boss wasn't very adept at understanding people different from herself. Or perhaps she was criticizing parts of herself that she was told she shouldn't be. It still stung at the time. It still does. No one had ever told me things like that or been so mean. I asked a few friends and former co-workers to make sure. They all said "no" and I still had a hard time believing it wasn't true. But then again this is the company that likes to point out and focus on any little weakness rather than what's being done right. They would also rather ignore the fact that their own culture and structure creates the situation rather than find some way to make it better.

I've figured out that it's going to take some time to get reconditioned and retrain my internal responses. Rather than assuming I'm the target of someone's dislike of my personality or inability to achieve perfection, I'm going to have to learn to realize that some people want to be supportive and I can depend on them. But this lens isn't just from my former employer. I'm not trying to blame them or point the finger away from myself. There's a reason why I was drawn to that pit to begin with. I was conditioned to think that kind of treatment was okay, normal even. I didn't want to take the time to see that another reality was possible.

We make choices and then we wake up and stare blankly at our surroundings, wondering how we got here and why our lives are a certain way. Sure, we can change it but then we would have to consider the possibility that our responses are triggered by something that isn't really there. It's automatic, it's robotic, it's programmed, it's not real. But we only see what we think we know as truth and then we end up re-creating the past nightmare we weren't even in to begin with.

The universe is funny. We think. We wish. We hope. And somehow we get these lessons and these external fulfillments that end up revealing that we've been asleep and struggling because we've let our conditioning poison our eyes. It's true that the bad exists. But it's also true that it only continues to if we allow it to become real.

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