I live in the Middle East. I come into contact every single day with people whom I unconsciously stereotype. It’s not something I’m proud of. It’s just the truth. I come into contact with Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Bedouin, and foreign workers. I meet them in the supermarket, building my neighbor’s house, at my children’s school and pretty much every place I go. I live in a hodgepodge country where it’s very tempting to name everyone else as “other” and placing a stamp on them as if I really knew them.It’s not something I’m proud of and I know it limits my life as I judge people before I really ever get a chance to really know them.
When I catch myself stuck on stereotyping, I use The S.T.U.C.K. Method to extinguish the thoughts and beliefs that unconsciously rise to my mind.
Steps to Unlearn Stereotypes that Are Limiting My Life
The first thing I do is stop. By stopping, I don’t mean stop thinking. Instead, I mean that I direct my attention to a place else entirely. A place that is tangible and in the present moment. An example of this is bringing my attention to my breath. Often times, when I get stuck on an emotion, the first thing I do is close my eyes and take a deep breath. It help to begin the process of separating myself from the story in my mind.
Next, I tell myself what I am stuck on. I use the phrase “I am stuck on…” to acknowledge that while I may be stuck on an emotion, I can also get unstuck from it. When I find myself stuck on stereotyping, I sometimes find myself saying to myself, “I am stuck on fear”, “I am stuck on self-righteousness”, or “I am stuck on aversion.”
Then, I uncover all the beliefs I have about the situation. I use the phrase, “I believe …” to remind myself that yes, these are beliefs and not truths. Such as, “I believe all Arabs want to destroy Israel”, or “I believe religious Jews think they are better than non-religious Jews”. After I list all of my beliefs, I check the accuracy of each of them by asking myself, “Is that belief 100% true?” Many of our beliefs contain the words “all, should, need, must, etc.” which are indicators that those statements cannot be 100% true. After checking the accuracy of my beliefs, I typically recognize that my original story is unfounded.
At this point, I stretch my consideration muscles and consider all other possible perspectives of the story. Sometimes coming up with other considerations in the midst of a “stuck” moment, is very challenging. Therefore, I tend to keep a number of considerations up my sleeve for when needed, such as: “I don’t know the whole story”, “This too shall pass”, “Let Go, Let God”, and “It is what it is.” In the case of stereotyping, I may consider, “There are many Arabs that have no interest in wanting Israel destroyed” or “I don’t know every religious Jew individually, and therefore have no idea what their beliefs are”. After making a list of considerations, I choose one to take on.
The final step of The S.T.U.C.K. Method is to bring self-compassion to yourself for getting stuck in the first place. While getting stuck happens to all of us, it’s nothing something we are necessarily proud of. So, at this step, we say, “I got stuck on “x”, and it’s ok.” If we don’t close this process with “OK”, there is a risk of carrying around guilt for getting stuck, which of course, is unproductive and contradictory to our goal.
These five simple steps to get unstuck from stereotyping can be easily applied to many other situations in life, including with relationships, at work, and even with yourself. It is a simple, but easy-to-remember and effective method to promote emotional well-being. And as we promote emotional wellness, we in turn improve the world one situation at a time.