Outsmarting Your Opponent

A Story about slowing your role…

“You have 1 new message,” opening it faster than my iPhone could complete that obnoxious “ding,” notifying me. “I’m aware I have a new message,” verbalizing my frustration to the ding itself, as if more upset at the noise than the novel of a fucking text response I received; designed for yours truly, specifically to piss him off. My level of patience was wearing thinner with every word as I noticed the, intentional, level of expertise she displayed in her sentence structure and the specificity of each word and its meticulous placement; as if to deliver an intentionally direct and flawlessly passive aggressive message without any consciousness of it.

I knew it was a trap.

The kind of trap that starts with a,” Fuck you,” delivered so perfectly under the radar that a retaliatory verbal assault would surely equate to a response of, “I would never say such a thing,” as you now look like the asshole with an inability to prove their definitive instigation.

The condescension and word placement were that of an experienced tactician and similar to…well me.

Imagine, if you will, a situation where someone that didn’t graduate high school but somehow possessed above average grammatical proficiency, skillful writing techniques, and an over-developed ability to structure messages like a skilled influencer; or less egotistically, a natural born asshole with a master’s degree in manipulation that used words to his advantage his whole life to craft clever messages of subtle condescension designed to eviscerate any hope of a meaningful response.

It’s a passive aggressive, yet indecipherable, under-handed insult designed to be easily misinterpreted as conclusive in order to elicit a response of, irrefutable, irrationality, barbed with anger.

Seeking success through an indication of their irrationality and quelling any possibility of further retaliation whilst making them look like the aforementioned, asshole.

Imagine, if you will, someone giving me a taste of my own medicine, impeccably.

One thing I don’t want to do is give off an impression that, from the depths of hell, I emerged a saint that lives in a constant state of tolerance and love of his fellow man. That would be a complete misrepresentation. The reality is that, on my best days, I still have trouble with something as minimal as tolerance.

Tolerance is, literally, the lowest form of love someone can display, a bare minimum in human empathy.

A kind of minimal expectation to not behave like a savage barbarian.

Although much improved, on a fundamental level I have an instinct, of which, being right is of utmost importance; however, the difference is the way in the way I, now, define “utmost.” Someone, relatively “normal,” would agree that everyone prefers to be right over wrong, given the simple choice absent context, between them.

Reasonably, who wouldn’t?

The difference between myself and someone with a, relatively “normal,” instinct to, “be right,” is that my definition includes the inscription “at all costs,” at the end of it.

Meaning that, it is my natural instinct to interpret being right as the end all be all, even if it includes tactically nuking an entire civilization, scorching everything once living in order to achieve it. My natural instinct is to associate “being right” with being happy.

You think that’s bad…just wait…it gets worse.

Let me introduce you to my two oldest friends, ego and pride. We’ve been friends since childhood but we all started shooting heroin together and after I decided it wasn’t going well, I got clean and was told to dispose of everything unhealthy in my life.

I am aware that my friendship with them is toxic and unhealthy but it’s also familiar and comfortable at times.

I just stop by to say, “Hi,” every once in a while. Then they steal my wallet, we fight, and the cops get called landing me in jail…and they never bail me out.

You’d think after a few consistent lessons like this I would understand it’s constricting the advancement of my life…but I’m irrationally optimistic. Instead, as if completely forgiven and forgotten in moment of weakness, I seek the comfort of the familiar, lower companionship.

Even when presented empirical evidence of the tragedies and recurring suffering of times passed, it still feels good in the moment. Knowing full well volatile nature of our relationship, I will get defensive with the insult of my friends, rationalize their misbehavior, and stubbornly declare that, “I’m right, and it will be different this time.” Yet, every time I am proven wrong with familiar consequences.

Pain is the greatest motivator for change.

I learn every lesson the hard way, unfortunately. On the bright side, when it is finally learned, that fucking thing is cemented as a permanent fixture. This is one that will never be cemented though, as I will always contemplate if the fire will burn my hand this time.

I will come up with new strategies and rationalizations, presenting different interpretations in an attempt to get someone to understand why I tactically nuked an entire civilization in an attempt to persuade them that it was for the greater good of mankind and their perception is flawed; ultimately persuading myself that it was right and acceptable and muddying my perception.

Success with this is measured by the consciousness of it and continuous strive for improvement, while failure is an acceptance of the shortcoming, a justification excusing correction and the blurring of, once, distinct lines between right and happy; eventually becoming non-existent and transforming into oblivious regression.

But, there’s help available for me, unfortunately.

A set of principles to abide by and effectively keep perception in check.

The most absurd thing I have ever been told is that my perception and, therefore, my judgement is defective and if I wanted to feel better I was going to have to come to terms with this, concluding it accurate.

This seemed an unreasonable task, as I considered how someone could possibly think that their thinking was defective when it’s the way they think and thinking they could think differently with a mind that defines their capabilities to think…I think.

Stay with me.

The thinking that thought that was actually named ego, my old friend. Ego was the one that reassured me, “You’re smarter than that, way too smart for this shit and certainly smarter than this guy.

This doesn’t apply to someone like you.”

The hardest thing I’ve ever done is surrender my ego, continuously, after sufficient evidence of it being incorrect and battle scars to prove it. I didn’t believe that the man that told me my thinking was defective was, in fact, correct, I just believed my thinking might be incorrect…with no help of his…surrender of ego was more of a gradual process, clearly.

Once I became conscious of the defective nature of my natural thinking followed by the admission of this I was unable to justify it as ignorance any longer; leaving the insanity of repetitive behavior as the only excuse to engage in a behavior that had, ample, historical documentation of failure, therefore not a valid option.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to, it simply means I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself when it worked out poorly, anymore.

That’s when things get interesting. They change.

The way I perceive the feelings and emotions of others begins to evolve the more I practice tolerance. Again, to reiterate, is the lowest form of love there is, the bottom of the totem pole, a kind of bare minimum expectation for being a civilized human being; and I still have difficulty with it on my harder days.

The interesting part is, when called into question, it’s usually a debate, hinging on whether I move on or suggest that they, “Go fuck themselves,” and associated benefits.

What was once an insatiable desire to be right morphed into a curiosity in the validity of their statement, despite the shortcoming and the origination.

A pause of sort, with genuine interest regarding the source of their feelings.

It’s called empathy and was once a foreign concept to me.

A gift of momentary awareness and reflection granting us understanding and choice in response. The once primitive, necessity to be right, has evolved to an ability that gives you great power, and depending on how its wielded, constructive progress or annihilation with laser precision.

Empathy can be used as an effective healer or, alternatively, as a bomb more precise and devastating than the earth scorching tactical nuke, referenced above.

Welcome to the evolution of my perception.

With empathy, an ability to understand what another is experiencing emotionally, there is a similar checks and balances system with identical choices, but more profound consequences in choice for helpful or hurtful.

Constructive resolution and scorched earth of another level.

With this newfound asset, empathy, we have an ability to diffuse an unpleasant situation without the bonds of “right,” and, instead, an emotional intelligence that comprehends that, “it’s not personal,” and acting accordingly.

Alternatively, the struggle is using it with love, and minimally, in my case, tolerance.

As opposed to a weapon for invalidating “unreasonable” feelings and the perceptually immature response they elicited based on them; essentially, used improperly, it’s target acquisition through insight and empathy barbed with superiority, laser guided for a direct hit at an “opponent’s” emotional weakness.

A newer set of circumstances with larger stakes and worse consequences to the same debate over the relativity of implementing tolerance or ego and pride into a situation.

This is my same struggle with a greater power and a greater responsibility.

Simply, in my case and referenced above, it’s a decision to be tolerant and responsive with constructive communication and the implementation of empathy to arrive at an amicable resolution; or alternatively with immaturity; like a child with a new samurai sword, cutting my opponent into a million pieces with my egotistical desire to demonstrate my superiority in emotional intelligence, invalidating their feelings and resolutely foregoing my development of tolerance for a temporary satisfaction of my ego and pride.

So, what did it do?

I wanted on an instinct to, enthusiastically object to what I perceived was her unwarranted overstep based on feelings I deemed invalid and kindly tell her to, “Go fuck herself;” but pausing, momentarily.

It’s like acknowledging the visual confirmation of a land mine she deployed, unaware I had witnessed it, hoping I ignore the small sign that reads, “Beware, This is a Fucking Mine Field and You Know It,” stepping on it anyway, which would be fatal for me and followed by her reassurance that she didn’t place it there.

I knew she placed it there, but have no conclusive evidence to back it up, only that, “I saw it!”

It was a display of brilliant sentence structure, offering plenty of circumstantial evidence to interpret as conclusive, aimed to trap me in mistaking an assumption of perceptual certainty, and no valid way to prove, “I’m right.”

It was a neatly packaged premeditated outcome with a bow on it, addressed to me, and opened at my own peril, including a ‘Thank You’ letter inside, after I opened it, expressing her sentiment for my part in the game of, “That’s not how I meant it!”

A crafty placement of a land mine named condescension and disguised as potential misinterpretation, intended for triggering a familiar impulse to step onto it; ultimately, exploding on me for the compulsion to be right, and finally, adding insult to injury, with an amends required…admitting my part…for stepping on her land mine placed with tact and a motive to orchestrate this exact scenario…have to give it to her, it was clever and familiar.

I paused for the whole fucking hour it took to compose myself from the frustration of the superb and creative way she structured and delivered her condescending response…

…and I have to give her credit, she was clever and crafty, just with a recognizable tactic I had used before and didn’t fall for it… “because she’s an amateur.

You’re an artist and she’s a painter.

You have an unmatched gift of intuition, making you the smarter and more advanced chess player and ultimately, you beat her,” said Ego, chiming in to persuade me it was a game to be won and giving me a much-desired, yet silent, pat on the back as I concluded writing this.


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