the Platinum rule

I recently discovered that a very common principle I have known all my life is referred to as the golden rule. I also learned that it is coming under scrutiny and modern times are asking for it to be updated.

Golden Rule

The golden rule is a principle we all must have heard at some point during our upbringing. It comes in different forms. You may have heard one of the following varieties:

  • Do unto others as you would want done to you
  • Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated
  • What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself

The golden rule is pretty simple. You only need to embark on a quick soulsearch and pinpoint how you like to be treated and then apply this to others.

Unless you’re dealing with some psychological turmoil, the answer should be available pretty much immediately, as you probably already know what makes you happy (and what does not).

Until recently, I would have told you the golden rule has great merit and that the world would be a better place if we lived by it more strictly.

Platinum rule

The golden rule stands on the assumption that every other person you interact with wants what you want. There are many ways you can miss the mark on that one, which is why the golden rule is in need of an update.

The upgraded version of the golden rule is referred to by some as “the platinum rule”. It boils down to something like this:

Treat others as they would want to be treated

Its a simple idea and the underlying sentiment is still the same; be nice.

Its practical implementation does require a bit more effort than the golden variety, which is what I will dive into a bit more, below.

Ask and check

When putting the platinum rule into practice you would have to figure out what it is that the person on the receiving end of your actions wants.

Asking is one way to go about it.

A direct question, especially directed at someone you may not know very well, may not get you the answers you need. When you put someone on the spot like that, the person in front of you might say something like “Nothing” or “I don’t know”.

If you truly want to be the person the other person needs (or at the very least the person that doesn’t hurt the other’s feelings) then getting an answer like “nothing” does not mean you’re off the hook.

The pitfall with this approach is that by asking the question you make your problem their problem. You put the spotlight and the other and achieve the absolute opposite of what you were trying to do.

In the end, the fact that you don’t know how to behave is YOUR problem, not THEIRS.

However, I am convinced that you can solve almost anything with a drop of empathy and a whole lot of communication. Keep asking questions. Keep listening. And back off when appropriate or requested.

Titanium rule

Contrary to the golden rule, the platinum rule leaves room for interpretation and error. Because:

  • What do you do if the other lets you know they want you to treat them in a way that (you believe) is harmful for them?
  • What if the way the other wants to be treated is something you are not willing to do (for example because it goes against your own values or because it is harmful to you)?
  • How do you avoid becoming that annoying person that asks a million questions at every turn?

These questions have come up when dealing with people I hold dear, that struggle with addiction or tendencies to self harm. The platinum rule would not help me or them, if I followed it strictly. The golden rule would also fall short.

An opinion piece written by Kris Williams on Medium that I bumped into just now, struggles with similar dilemmas. Ms Williams describes a third stance, the Titanium rule, and it goes likes this:

“Treat others as it is in the highest and best good to treat them.”

This might be a bit much for every day life, but it sounds like a sane way to deal with more complicated interactions.

At the end of the day I think it’s not even necessary to choose between the three. I think all have their merits and make sense in different situations.

What do you think?

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Getting rid of the rooster

According to the Chinese calendar, we are currently wrapping up the year of the rooster.

Chinese zodiac rooster

I think following the Chinese calendar might be just what I need, considering the first few weeks of 2018 have been a little un-fun for me.

The first week was actually pretty OK. 2017 ended on a hopeful note, with my father recovering well from a stroke he had suffered in the late summer and my brother taking back control over his life by deciding to move back to where he grew up, in Ireland.

The idea was that he would re-connect with his younger self and the values he had been instilled with by his mother (we are step-siblings). It sounded like a good idea at the time and I was especially happy he was choosing where he wanted to go himself and going through all the motions (and paperwork) to make the move abroad possible.

Sadly, his addiction got the better of him quite quickly and quite heavily, causing him to be involved in an accident, probably caused by him (all though I’m not sure he sees it that way just yet). Any progress he had made in recent months was destroyed, and more, he has to face all sorts of financial, social and legal consequences. In short: stressful.

My brother called me a week or so after all this happened and confessed most of the story to me. He sounded angry, sad, disappointed and confused. Making excuses and simultaneously admitting and denying the one thing I have been waiting for him to say: I need help.

He asked me to not tell my parents about what had happened, but added “all though they expect me to fuck up anyway…”.

Drowning

Then, after not having heard from him for several days (and me not reaching out) an uncle of his called me and asked me how much I knew about my brother’s situation. After I told him what I knew, he asked when I had last heard from him, which turned out to be about the last time he had been in contact as well.

The additional info I got from his uncle: My brother had bought a crappy old car and told people around him he was heading back to the Netherlands to get professional help. The fact that he had not told anyone here that he was coming and the fact that nobody had heard from him in several days made all the alarms go off.

For the first time in my life I felt my heart quiver out of control, while sitting motionless on a chair. I sent him a message and went through every possible scenario. For about two hours, I thought my brother was probably dead….

brain puzzle

Even when he texted me back, my mind raced on. The reality of his re-existence suddenly felt more complicated than the momentary possibility that he might be gone forever. Needless to say, that realization made me feel horrible…

I felt guilty (which is one of my talents, I must admit).

  1. I felt guilty for feeling that nano-sliver of disappointment when he turned up.
  2. I felt guilty for not being able to run to his aid, but not really wanting to either.
  3. I felt guilty for forcing other (extremely sweet and good hearted) people to deal with him.
  4. I felt guilty for keeping it a secret from my parents.
  5. I felt guilty for telling my mother anyway, forcing her to lie to my dad and adding more things onto her list of things to lie awake over at night.
  6. I felt guilty for not offering up my house to my brother as a landing spot, when he let me know he might be coming back to the Netherlands.
  7. I felt guilty for implicitly asking my boyfriend to carry the load of my family drama.
  8. I felt guilty for hardly having the head space to listen to the answer to my “how was your day?”; especially when the answer was more complicated than “fine”.
  9. I felt guilty for emptying out my brain sewage on the laps of my favorite people in this world; people with so much empathy in their beautiful hearts that it is almost inevitable that my state of mind also affected them negatively.
  10. I felt guilty for losing control and not being able to fake it.

So, forget the Gregorian calendar. Enter Chinese year 4715! And the year of the dog is coming up. I like dogs. Dogs like me. I understand dogs. Dogs are fun. Dogs are goofy and bring out my inner clown (in a non psycho kind of way). This is good!

chinese zodiac dog 1

So, I’m gearing up my backpack for the adventures the year of the dog might throw at me and filling it with:

  • A compass, that points towards what is good for me.
  • My journal,
    • to be filled with small and frequent brain dumps, as to not fill up the brain buffer and empty out the cache.
    • to plan my life better and have (the possibility to create) more order in the chaos.
    • to keep the blog-juices flowing.
  • Scooby snacks, to keep myself and the dog smiling.
  • A lot of room for new experiences and lessons.

mindfuldog

Hopelessly homeless

The other night, at about 4 am there was a bit of a ruckus outside my bedroom window that woke me up.

I live in an alley with a popular bar on the corner and it was Friday night, so I didn’t think much of it at first. People often leave their bikes in my alley and sometimes have trouble finding it again after a couple of beers and I guess that’s fine. I also understand that you want to evaluate everything you saw with your friends and have a good giggle about it after a good night out.

oscarThis particular occasion was different though, as I started smelling a foul smell at some point and heard some more stumbling and crashing that had me sitting up in my bed for the second time that night. I knew it must be one of my neighborhood bums fighting his demons. It’s happened before and usually, when I step out, they apologize and promise they’ll keep it down.

This particular homeless person, let’s call him Oscar, was new to me and there was no apology when he saw my sleepy face peaking at him. I know most of them by appearance, as the shelter is quite close to my house and they often hang around a bit before they’re allowed in. I know enough about alcoholics to recognize in a split second when someone is beyond reasoning, and that was definitely the case with Oscar on this particular night.

Oscar had rolled someone’s garbage container into my alley and had tipped it over. He was emptying its contents onto the street while cursing to himself about the system and how he had been wronged by this person and that. I asked him what he was doing and he barely looked up. I saw that this was not the right time (or outfit) to be taking on Oscar, so I closed my door, lighted up some incense in my bedroom and plugged my ears with some soothing music and tried to go back to sleep.

Shortly after I crawled back to bed, I heard a car pull into my alley and I knew it was the police… I felt bad for Oscar, because I had decided not to call the police on this guy because I thought he had enough to deal with already. Apparently not all my neighbors could be so forgiving at these hours. I couldn’t resist, so I put my bath robe back on and went to my door. The police asked him the same thing I had asked, and this time he answered:

I’m putting up my tent here, can’t you see?! I wanted to go to the shelter, but they wouldn’t let me in! I don’t understand why not, don’t I have a right to stay somewhere? This is my country too! They treated me like an animal, so I took their bin and now I’m trying to clean it out so I can sleep.

angerHe was so angry. So troubled. The police told him to put the trash back in the bin and he reacted with more anger. It’s all he had to give them at that point.

Why should I listen to you? So you can take me down to the station? Check my name, I have no debts, no criminal record, I just want a place to sleep!

I wanted to say something to him, but I didn’t know how or what. One of the policemen saw me at the door and ordered me to go back inside. Oscar glared at me and I know he thought I was the one that had called them.

I wanted to tell him it wasn’t me. I wanted him to know that I would have let him sleep in my alley, even beside my door if he had only kept it down… I wanted him to know that I didn’t judge him for his current state, nor for the fact he had no home to go to. I knew he was only here because the shelter didn’t have room for him, or because he wasn’t able to collect the couple of euros needed to pay to stay there. I wanted him to feel I saw him as a full fledged person, not an animal or any lesser being.

When the dust had settled (all though the smell lingered for a bit) and silence took over in my alley once again, it took me a while to fall back asleep. I wondered if the one that called the police was actually the only one that had done him a favor as he now probably had a place to spend the night…