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Us and Them - why are we at odds?

I volunteered at Agile2017 this month, and the overall experience was amazing, but as an observer of people, I noticed quite a few trends that aligned with the topic that has been on my mind in the last few months. The "Google Manifesto" was leaked the weekend before and very much an informal topic on Day 2 of the conference. The mention by the Keynote Speaker on Day 3 led to several male participants walking out, but the women applauded and praised the speaker for his courageous support. It led to a divide between the male and female agilists, as each held firm to their position, and in my opinion, weakened our overall power. Thankfully, I know several awesome Agile coaches, both male and female, so I think we'll get past it.

Add the events that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia just 90 minutes from the small town of Nokesville where I spent my formative years - and have been staying in between the trips I've taken this summer - I thought this might be the right time for this discussion. After all, a healthy person can discuss anything, even sensitive topics.

Why is it Us vs Them?

I get Us. Every human has a need to belong, it's part of many research studies, and level three of

Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs, just above the need for safety. If we belong to a group, those groups tend to become "My Peeps", and those outside the group aren't.

So that explains Them too.

But why VERSUS? Is it basic self-protection against those who might harm us, as this Blog on Psychology Today asks? Is it a lack of trust? A lack of self-esteem? Is it fear of the unknown? Perhaps it's all of the above, plus a little bit more. Perhaps, whether we realize it or not, we've all been trained to follow specific patterns.

Think about this: Your parents brought you up with certain customs and beliefs, formed at least in part by their parents, and their parents, and so on. This is why, when you form a new family with your life partner, you might find yourself fighting about how you want to spend Christmas. His parents or yours? In your home or theirs? Green tree or blue?

Please lawd no, ANYTHING but the blue tree!

What about the parents that come from unhealthy or abusive homes? Some of them follow the same patterns. Others, realizing they wanted a different type of life, decide to learn new ones. I was one of them.

When I had children, I wanted to be the best mother I could be. I took classes, read books and magazines, found a group of people who wanted to be healthy, and sought out great parents to learn how they handled tough situations. I called this "breaking the cycle".

It wasn't easy to learn new patterns, and there were times when, despite all my efforts, I found myself following the old one, and felt the shame and self-loathing that followed. I soon realized that hating myself didn't help anyone, especially me, so I learned another pattern, the one of self-love. Once I loved myself, I was able to let go of my need for perfection, and eventually accept imperfection in myself.

All of that extended to my career, and I found myself accepting the people I worked with, despite those annoying things they do, which helped me to listen to them, and LEARN from them. I've also traveled a lot, and learned that no matter where you go, people are people, with all of their good and their bad, and they're all doing the best they can, given the circumstances in their lives.

This doesn't mean I accept their bad behavior. I simply acknowledge that the source might be deeper rooted than anyone knows, and that I cannot change it. I can't control it, and I sure as heck can't cure it.

I can however, contribute to it, especially if I have an unhealthy reaction to their behavior, or start using another old pattern of blaming, shaming and punishing. That's another topic though, and I'll talk on patterns to overcome it later.

So perhaps, US VS THEM is a combination of everything the experts say, plus the inability to accept people as they are.

What do you think?

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