Visualising an underlying reason helps understand difficult characters
Different Spin - The Star Metro 13th June, 2014
I watched two movies back-to-back recently: “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” and “Maleficent”.
In “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn”, Robin Williams plays the role of Henry Altmann – an unhappy man always angry at the world and everyone in it. When he is diagnosed with brain aneurysm, he struggles to make amends with everyone he has hurt in his life.
“Maleficent” stars Angelina Jolie as the eponymous Disney villainess character in the re-imaginating of Walt Disney’s 1959 animated movie “Sleeping Beauty”. Jolie portrays the story from the perspective of the antagonist, Maleficent.
In both movies, a line stands out clearly, “I wasn’t always like this”.
It got me thinking about a few people in my life, who I felt, have been hurt previously or have lost someone dear to them, hence their bitter, angry and vengeful behavior to life and to those surrounding them.
My mother has always reminded her children against judging someone or something, "till you have walked in their shoes."
Although I've always kept her advice close to me, the underlying lesson from the two movies puts a fresh perspective to the line, "don't judge a book by it's cover".
In my line of work, I have had my share of dealing with all types and sorts of people. From the sweetest, kindest souls; to the meanest, most horrible bullies - the latter naturally, being a pain to work or deal with.
Having said that, I've noticed that dealing with difficult people is less challenging if I visualize a backstory behind their mean demeanor.
For example: A is a complete douchebag to women and has no friends because his wife cheated on him with his bestfriend. Or B is OCD because she was exposed to some horrible infection on her face when playing at the sandbox as a young girl.
Whenever I get irritated with someone or something, I always make up a scenario in my head on why it or they are like that. This has sustained my tolerance level and has kept my blood pressure down. Some of the things said by the likes of people Ibrahim Ali and Ridhuan Tee, really get to me - so instead of getting all worked up unnecessarily, I exercise my "backstory mind game" to try and understand where they are coming from and why. As difficult as it is for me to swallow at times, it keeps me less annoyed as I remind myself "nobody is perfect".
When I shared this "mind game" method with friends, some scoff. Others tell me to just ignore (less psycho-babbling that way) and a few have challenged me.
"Daph, how about the gang rape of the 15-year-old Malaysian student? Or the abduction and beheading of the two-year-old near the Klang river? Does your mind-game method help?"
Having two young daughters, these type of news has left me scared and bewildered. Shocked and angry.
Social scientists would have a whole list of reasons on why rape, sexual assault and murder happens and I've naturally applied these reasons to why these monsters are what they are.
But I must admit, the challenge has stumped me and I question;
"have they always been like this?"
(movie spoiler alert)
Henry Altmann became a complete jerk after losing his son and Maleficient sought revenge for Stefan because she was heartbroken by his betrayal. I know that people aren't born to be unkind or mean or to be criminals and haters. Somewhere, along the way, something sparked or a series of events have made us the way we are.
I live by this mantra that when you forgive, you heal. And when you let go, you grow.
It is probably hard to apply and accept my "mind-game" method to every situation, but it does allow one time to ponder and to realise that things normally happen due to a result of injustice, oppression or societal failure.
The idealistic streak in me hopes for a happy ending for all and that everyone will play a collective responsibility to remove social and economic disparities.
The realistic side of me knows this will be a feat that will take time and lots of effort from a large group of emphatic people.
The positive me knows this is possible.
The writer does not want to remain stagnant in life and has decided to move out from her comfort zone so noone can question whether "she has always been like that". Follow her rants over twitter, instagram and .