The Drama of Respect
Craving respect may be culturally determined or arise from an ego that feels so little that respect is sought to inflate it. For some people, being respected is more important than having money or power, although using money and power is often a way they try to create respect. Losing face for these people is the biggest humiliation. Everyone wants respect, but when it becomes an addiction, it will work against us, our relationships, and our ability to create a caring community.
The Godfather (1972), with Marlon Brando as the aging head of a mafia family, illustrates the powerful influence that needing respect can have over an individual and the people who must give respect or pay a price. In this Long Island mafia family, respect has one of the highest values, perhaps only rivaled by loyalty and power. Respect is a cultural mark that positions people in the hierarchy of the family. Brando, as the imposing patriarch, demands respect and receives it without question. Giving respect is never questioned because, along with loyalty and power, it helps to maintain the family's ability to deal effectively with rival families and the police. If you like the Don and demand respect, "In Need of Honor" is for you.
In a moment, you will use your imagination to get a clearer picture of your inner movie about requiring respect from others. The point of understanding this pattern of thoughts, feelings, and effects is to deepen your awareness of its dynamics and impact, so you can make conscious choices and create a new movie to live within.
Recall a time when you were driven to get respect from others. Close your eyes and replay the experience in your imagination. Then, write a brief description of the drama below, carefully including the thoughts that supported the drama, the feelings that arose from those thoughts, and how those feelings affected what you said and did. (Enter your response in the following box or in your word processor window.)
What effects did this drama have on you and others?
Briefly describe what you get from demanding respect. What are the payoffs?
Briefly describe the price you pay for it. What parts of yourself and your life do you sacrifice when your demand for respect becomes too extreme?
Is what you are getting in payoffs worth the sacrifices you have to make?
Having become more aware of this movie, including what you get from it and what you sacrifice, what new choices in thinking and being are being revealed to you? Note them.
Create a new movie
Relying on those choices and your creativity, sketch out ideas for a different movie which incorporates new ways of thinking and being. As you create your new movie, be aware that you are of two minds because you have a dual nature. Your duality gives you the capacity to shift from one thought to its opposite in a search for balance. For example, there is a part of you that does not crave respect from others because you have a strong enough ego to respect yourself. How will cultivating that capacity alter how you live?
With your eyes closed, imagine living in your new movie.
People who require respect may create a hierarchy of power, but never a real sense of community. They may receive a lot of respect from others because they demand it, but the pressure they apply to get it is likely to produce hidden resentment among those who must obey. Eventually, that resentment may work its way to the surface in subtle and blatant forms of criticism and gossip. While we all need respect from others, there is also an opposing side to us that can live without it. It is the self-respecting part of us that, feeling good about us, it is less driven to need admiration from others. Being of two minds about this issue gives us the capacity to balance wanting respect from others and respecting ourselves, so we are not driven to an extreme.
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