dharma monkey

embrace the monkey

Conditioned to categorize


I’ve written here about my tendency to pass judgment on complete strangers during my daily commute. Rather, I should say that my commute is when it’s most noticeable in my own mind (I sometimes think of my commute as my Metro Meditation). Truth is, I suspect we all do it – something as seemingly harmless as, “He looks good,” or, “She’s got big thighs.” In my case, I can categorize / compartmentalize / pick out a person’s differences in a way that is lightening fast and that is rarely non-judgmental.

But why do I/we do it? Some ideas:

We’re conditioned this way. Throughout natural history, successful species have always had the ability to spot things that are different. We are no different with each other, I would posit, when it comes to noticing and categorizing other humans who are different from ourselves.

It was part of my upbringing. I grew up in an area where everyone was pretty much alike – racially, socially and economically. Diversity was there, but it didn’t exist in my world. So people who were different for whatever reason stood out, and my mind got in the habit of pointing those differences out. And my exposure to people of different cultures/races/life experiences didn’t really take off until my mid-20s.

I grew up with a low self esteem. Those who share that experience know just how judgmental (and wicked) one’s inner dialogue can be, especially when it’s the primary defense mechanism against one’s own perceived weaknesses and shortcomings.

So I will continue to be mindful of when I do this, and try to determine the cause: perhaps my own lingering insecurities with who I am and my “place” in society? Whatever the case, being conditioned to categorize certainly can’t be the end result of developing compassion and loving-kindness for all beings. That I can say for sure.

Author: Sean

I am Sean, a writer/PR guy originally from the Rural South who grew up and settled down in Washington, D.C. My interests include local politics, Eastern philosophy, languages and reality television.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.