I recently spotted someone accidentally use the word “incite” when they meant “insight.”
That same day, I saw someone else mention that he wrote in his journal to deal with experiencing anxiety — and called it “fighting back” against his demons.
Funny how we default to that “me vs. you” mindset — even when the “me” and the “you” are both us.
It becomes less surprising when we consider the messages we’ve been receiving in this culture since childhood (and which have their roots going back much farther). Rugged individualism; competition and comparison; who’s winning and who’s losing.
There was a time when this wasn’t the worst thing. When our ancestors were trying to survive on the African savannah, sometimes the best strategy was to shoot first and ask questions later. That’s the part of our human heritage, baked deep in our DNA, that’s being activated every time human interaction is being framed as some kind of cage match.
Most of us don’t face the danger of an attacking saber-tooth tiger anymore, but ironically, these messages have only become stronger and more pervasive in recent decades. Debates are now “showdowns,” political elections have become “battles,” and we have “wars” on drugs and disease. When some form of problem or disagreement arises, a violent motif often follows. It’s an easy way to generate emotional turmoil (and profit).
So when discomfort inevitably arises WITHIN us, our conditioning kicks in, and we draw battle lines — against ourselves.
The very first insight I ever had when I started my practice was “if you fight yourself, you’ve already lost.” Inner civil wars are neither sustainable nor winnable. Beating an unwanted inner voice into submission today only drains the energy needed to do it all over again tomorrow.
To the person who “fought back” against his anxiety with his journal, I offered a reframing of “listening” to what it had to share. It resonated; he said that it was much more accurate to say that he had paid attention to what was there, processed it as needed, and moved on.
That’s insight. Not incite.