It may be useful to take a detour at this stage and explore the topic of the Shadow as a source of some of this ‘othering’. 

Robert Bly uses the analogy of a little bag that we drag behind us that contains all the parts of ourselves that were disapproved of by others while we were growing up. He goes on to say that up to the age of about twenty, we spend our lives deciding what parts of ourselves to put into the bag; we spend the rest of our lives trying to get those parts out again.

Make a list of the parts of yourself that you know you have put in your own Shadow Bag. How easy do you think it would be to retrieve them? What is getting in the way of this retrieval? 

Interacting with fellow travellers in the world is a good way to allow some of the items in the bag to surface. A powerful possibility arises when you become aware of the people whom you have ‘othered’ because of the extent to which they annoy or irritate you.

A useful exercise is to make a list of the things that annoy you about a particular person, and then to select the one item that brings up the most powerful response in you. Flip that item around so that you label yourself as possessing that same attribute. 

Is there any truth in this? Does that aspect have a particular meaning in your own life? 

During my early married life, I realised that my carefully nurtured extremely competitive nature was not helpful in my most intimate relationship. I decided to use my strong will to change the narrative: ‘From now onwards, I will stop being competitive!’

Surprise, surprise: the people who started annoying me the most had competitiveness as a commonality, and I had to work extremely hard to suppress my own (hidden?) competitiveness that was being awakened to challenge them. It was only when I accepted that I was actually still competitive but was making (and would continue to make) an active choice not to engage with that person competitively that their power over me disappeared and they (miraculously) stopped irritating me!

Who and what irritates you the most in other people? What is it about your own particular life experience that makes this behaviour/action intolerable to you?