We had been traveling around the world and came back to visit with Ed’s family. We told them a scary story of when we were on a train in India. It was very crowded and Ed had to put his arm around Deb so we could sit closer together and make more space. In India, traditionally, men are not meant to touch a woman in public, and this move triggered a negative reaction in one of the men on the train. He started getting quite abusive and angry, even violent towards Deb, as he saw her as behaving like a prostitute.
We were sharing this story to our extended family as an example of the misunderstandings that can occur when traveling in different cultures, but it triggered Ed’s cousin to fall into an old family pattern of making Ed wrong, even though it wasn’t his fault. Many of you might have that with your family. She started shouting that he should have known better than to put his arm around Deb and got quite upset at what she perceived as his bad behavior. When asked to stop shouting, she replied, “I can’t. This is just the way I am!”
Ed’s cousin is no different than the way many of us are. It is very natural to have the tendency to see ourselves as fixed or unchangeable. Perhaps you have heard this story about a frog and a scorpion:
One day a frog was sitting happily by the side of the river when a scorpion came along.
“Oh Mr. Frog,” said the scorpion, “I need to get to the other side of the river to be with my family. Will you please carry me across?”
“But Mr. Scorpion, if I do that, then you will sting me!” replied the frog, somewhat aghast at the request.
“No, I won’t,” said the scorpion.
“Do you promise?” asked a rather doubtful frog.
“I really promise! I will not sting you,” said the scorpion.
“Do you really, really promise?” asked a still-dubious frog.
“Yes, I really promise,” replied the scorpion, very sincerely.
“Okay,” the frog said reluctantly. “Hop on.”