Abraham Maslow wrote in ‘Toward a Psychology of Being’ in 1962;
‘I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail’.
I think that’s something we’re all guilty of to a certain extent – we come at life with all the biases and preconceptions and stereotypical judgements inherent in our family, our culture and our society, as well as the cumulated tacit knowledge gained through our own life experience.
We tell ourselves we make objective, logical decisions based only on what we see before us, but without really thinking subjectively about why we see what we see; without really appreciating how often we actually respond emotionally to what we expect to see, and therefore react accordingly. It stands to reason that if the only tool we carry is a hammer, why on earth would we see anything in front of us but nails, because that’s what we’re equipped for dealing with at source?
So many of us carry around daily our invisible (yet potentially destructive) emotionally triggered hammers without even realising it, oblivious to anything other than our own distorted worldview and blindly believing it emphatically to be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
For example I know I have a hugely problematic lack of trust of all people I perceive to be in authority over me – my life experience to date has taught me that people who claim to be acting for me generally have their own best interests at heart, not mine. From parents to past life-partners to politicians, I now expect to be let down as I have been before and often feel defensively that an aggressive pre-emptive strike is my safest option – I effectively aim to take them down before they take me.
But in recognising that pattern of expectation, in realising that it is in fact me being pre-armed with my invisible hammer that makes me see everyone in authority as a prospective nail to be hammered down and bent into shape, I can at least try to temper my reaction each time a similar situation arises, giving myself time to make a more informed choice about the reality of the perceived threat in front of me before whacking the hell out of some poor innocent bystander caught up in my twisted version of truth…