There’s been a few thoughts floating around my head the last week or so. At first I thought they were completely independent but I realized pretty quickly that they’re connected. I’ll explain both of them briefly anyway and we’ll go from there. If you follow me on Twitter (@DaraghFleming) you might have noticed that I tweeted them both in the last few days.
The first idea is actually something I had thought of originally around 5 years ago. This idea is that someone always has to play the villain. Generally, no matter how complex the top level of a story turns out, in all stories there’s a format of good vs. bad, light vs. dark. That is usually constructed around the idea that the main character is the ‘good’ and whatever adversity they face is structured as the ‘bad’. Every story has its version of the villain and usually the main character is the perceived hero of the story. This is a narrative archetype, and it seems to be a universal knowledge, in that we all are aware of it. (may be a part of the collective consciousness Jung was on about).
Anyway, if this idea of good vs. bad is a universal subconscious archetype, then in each of our own lives, we should all assume that we are the ‘good’ in the story, considering we are the sole main character of our own lives. Nobody in history has ever walked around knowing that they were the ‘bad’ guy. Each person has their own background, story, their own series of events that leads them to be where they are in life. We all believe that whatever we are doing is the ‘good’ in the story. Unfortunately, in the same way that it is virtually impossible for everyone to be above average in intelligence, it is impossible that everyone is the ‘good guy’ in the story arc. By virtue of the fact that bad things happen to everyone, this implies that at some points in life, we are all left to be the bad guy, to be the villain. Playing the villain once in awhile doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you human. However, believing that you’re NEVER the bad guy, may possible make you a bit of a prick because you inherently will never believe yourself to be in the wrong, and you will always believe that wrong is being done to you, that you are always the victim etc.
Now this last idea leads me to the second idea I was considering this past week; emotional intelligence. In its basic sense it’s your ability to regulate your own emotions and recognise and understand the emotions of others. It’s not the same as empathy really because you can have emotional intelligence without empathy. Emotional intelligence is connected to the villain theory above because without emotional intelligence, we wouldn’t be able to recognise when we are in the wrong, or more importantly, recognise that a difference in opinion/feeling doesn’t equate to the other person being in the wrong. If you have a strong emotional connection to an idea, person etc. and another person doesn’t share this emotional reaction, that doesn’t make the other person bad, or wrong, or against you. It just means that they don’t feel the same way as you do, and that’s allowed to happen. Emotional intelligence would allow a person to understand this, to understand that reciprocal emotions aren’t obligatory. Yes, when a person doesn’t hold mutual feelings it is psychologically damaging as it contradicts our own narratives, but this doesn’t make that person ‘bad’ for not feeling the same way you do.
Basically, it’s very, very easy to believe that you are always the good person in every interaction, that your story is the story of the hero. It’s then naturally, quite difficult, to consider that you could be the villain. Nobody wants to be the villain, but sometimes, everyone has to be. Therefore, exercise emotional intelligence to differentiate between someone playing the villain, and simply not getting things to go the way you wanted them to. There’s a huge difference and it’s really important. It’s the difference between blaming everyone else for things not going your way, and being accountable for your own actions.