Wednesday, December 20, 2006

We See The World Through A Lens Of Self Perception

We have been struggling for a week now, and part of it has been a few untimely events in my real world, with small exercises in perception. In trying to describe each other, if you didn't know each other before hand, you may have gotten the impression that no one knew what you looked like. Unless you were physically pretty close to the national averages.

This has been a series where the vast majority of the action has been in the comments, and you really do have to keep going back to see where people have added to the comments. Crankster noted that he stopped describing people when he realized that he was using the same preference over and over. More interesting, no person was described as heavy. I will tell you all that I am 255 lighter than air pounds this morning, down from 270. Being heavy is the last great area of discrimination in the American culture, and that is well supported by research that you should be able to find yourself.

Just as interesting, no one conceived of me as being Asian, or any other race. I did grow up here, and I was a quarterback, and I do have a game face to scare other players with their game faces with. Lee, who has mentioned that she has Korean parents, and a miserable ex-husband, etc. really is a female, I believe. No, ma'am, I am not Korean, I was born in Queens, NY.

This is not an inquisition. Call it self-awareness. Please laugh at the craziness that has started.

I then asked about relationships, and how they ended. Here's what I was after. I left it vague. Unless it's a bizarre relationship, and they happen in high school all the time, most of the time longer term relationships end when one person stops working on the relationship. That's all it really takes. It's hard to see. It's hidden. It happens inside someone's brain, there's no flashing sign. There's some proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. It may be large, it may be small. But when it happens, no one ends up happy. The communication has stopped and one person has cutoff the other. That act leaves the former with a lot of pent up emotion and anger. If it wasn't anger, it becomes anger.

You can go to the NIH site and read all about the research that has been going on since the 60's. I picked out a particular piece because you can read various summaries. If you need to see how to deal with children, or how you should have been dealt with, it's there briefly. It's in the Patient's Database, not the Heath Professional's so you can understand it. The entire Grief Cycle is there. And it's clinical enough that you won't get emotional. Very important. I am not ever going to be a therapist. I cannot maintain that 'distance' that is so critical to the process. I'm a coach-type, "go get 'em" is not recommended, in fact, contraindicated. A no-no.

The anger can turn into depression, or you can dissipate it. But, you will remember how you were treated. If you were a woman, and it was a man that treated you badly, you might start seeing the worst in all men. You'd look for it. And in looking for it, you'd confirm your suspicions, reinforcing those beliefs. Everytime you see a man, you are going to see a person with those beliefs attached. And you have just colored another person with your self perception. Over time, you won't even realize that you're doing it. Most time, it won't be bad.

I still believe that Claudia is tall. She laughed when she read that, so i dropped her from 5'11" to 5'7". And since she's Italian (self-reported) and from Florida, I originally thought she might be blond being from Florida, then I made her a brunette being Italian. I am using a friend of mine, Terri Valentini, as my model for Claudia, so I had better drop her another 2 inches to 5'5".

But, if you have just been through a nasty divorce, and now you want to remarry, and let's say you're a guy, and your last wife raked you over the coals, consider seeing a therapist first, and make sure you don't carry any baggage into the new relationship about women.

And that was what the second exercise about relationships was about. Describe the end of someone else's relationship. If you make it too obvious, you get nothing worth looking at. Keeping one's mouth shut lets those who play decide for themself if they have internalized a problem. You just look at the similarities and differences.

I'll point this out explicitly, where I was implicit before. Gottman is a therapist in Seattle who has published some self-help tips for couples. Of the nine he published, one goes into some detail about men needing to accept influence from women. In the original comments on CMHL's board where this came from, the anonymous poster focused on this point and embellished on the reasons for its existence. This is a difficult point to make. A lot of things happened to get to the point that you could say that the problem was that the male in a relationship had failed to allow the female sufficient influence in the relationship. Look at Rebecca's comments on her folks, she says that they don't do everything together. They have separate hobbies that they each pursue. I promise you that there are a large number of things that they do together too. I cannot stress this point enough, Gottman put nine items in his self-help guide for a reason, not one. The other eight apply to everyone. They are worth looking at. In other words, if Judy and I broke up after 991 years, and the cause wasn't death, it wouldn't be 100% my fault, even if you asked her.

If your parents divorced, did it affect you? First, let's separate out death and divorce. Two very separate issues. Odat, write me anytime you'd like to discuss this. I'm taking non-anticipatory death of a parent off of the table now. Children do not understand divorce. There is no way that they can understand divorce until they are old enough to have children. Until then, your divorce is a threat to their well being, unless you handle it well. Both of you. Everything is age dependent. The children need to know that they didn't cause the problem. Even if you think they did, they really didn't.

We see people have reported that one parent was not such a good person and that the other was better off. Others have reported that the two were better off not being married, but were better friends afterwards. Playing it straight seems to do little if any damage to the kids. This was not my area, but I do know the other side a little better. I know a kid whose father took off when his mother was four months pregnant. The kid is now 16, and very angry. He wants to know why his father has rejected him, has never bothered to meet him, or see him since he has been born. He wants to know what he did to deserve this kind of treatment. Telling him that he didn't do anything to deserve what has happened has not mollified him at all. He has, in fact, turned out to be a carbon copy of his father as we remember him. This child sees the world through a set of eyes that sees things very ugly.

Does that tie the last couple of weeks together for you?

18 comments:

Claudia said...

it's interesting to try and figure things out and put some sense into what seems like a senseless world by relating to others.
I still love the fact you think I'm tall...I guess I have a tall character.

The CEO said...

How tall are you Claudia?

Claudia said...

5'2!!!! :)

Pickled Olives said...

I thought three times I shouldn't write this, but you threw it out there and i can't ignore it. So for what it's worth:

That angry kid should volunteer in a group home where he can meet plenty of kids who would have been gratedul if their parents had ignored them.

Years ago, I met a kid whose mom tried to bake him in an oven. Another kid whose dad tried to poke her eyes out with a fork.

Ths angry 16 yr old should be grateful he has someone who cares about him at all. He could have a dad around who beats him and abuses him daily. Maybe someone should tell him that.

The CEO said...

Olives- my fault, you got the watered down version. Suffice it to say, I left a lot out, and things are a lot worse than you can imagine. If this piece hadn't taken me so long to write, I wouldn't have resorted to using him to make the point. I was really after using the self-perception theme as a lens for viewing the world selectively. Therefore, the real problem is my inability as a writer. Please excuse me.

Claudia- you'll always be a blond-haired, 5'11" US Olympic Team Free Style Swimmer in my book, not that I ever let reality get in my way, you understand.

Crankster said...

I like the way you're playing with perception here. One of the things I try to do when teaching people to write is to see their writing as the audience sees it. It's ironic, but if you want someone to understand your perceptions of the world, you have to transcend those perceptions when you communicate your vision.

Claudia said...

5'11 blond olympic swimmer...I think I love you!!! hehehe....
ok..seriously though...the 16year old...it's a tough problem. It would be great if he could volunteer somewhere but he's got to want to and it doesn't sound like he's at that place. People are fragile and it would be great to see him come out of it and see that he's got a choice of how he's going to continue living his life despite what happened to him. Easier said than done.

rebecca said...

(rebecca here, signed in as blogger)

since this is about perception, i will again tell you about the debate H and i have over a saying he says he believes in:

Perception Is Reality.

H believes this. sometimes uses this in arguments when he feels he is right and i am wrong.

i always say to him after he says Perception Is Reality - TO YOU. my mother and i discussed this at length just this morning. your perception is your reality. it doesn't mean it is FACT or the ONLY reality. it's yours. just as my perception is my reality. does that make everyone's opinion fact? does perception = opinion and reality = fact? if so then Perception Is Reality and Opinion Is Fact. we know that isn't true. and i think it makes me prove my case to H - my opinion isn't a fact. just as his perception isn't reality...

does that make any sense?

cinders said...

I don't think my parents divorce at the age of ten affected me that much at the time... I was sad and melodramatic about it, but I don't think I realized how bad it actually was until later and my mom starts yapping when she's drinking about my dad cheating on her and the drinking (only if I ask though, she doesn't walk around bashing him). There were restraining orders involved, which I didn't realize until I accidentally stumbled upon the paperwork. An incident involving my dad in the backyard with a can of gas after bar close.

When my mom got remarried, I took that really really hard. Not so much because I wanted her to get back with my dad, but because I was used to having my mom to myself, and now she was pandering to someone else's needs.

My dad got remarried too, I'm never much upset about the stepmothers. That one only lasted a year and a half because even though he had quit drinking, he was still a dick apparently. I guess I'm to the point where I can freely admit that my father is a dick, but I still love him because he's my dad. He appears to be doing much better with the third wife, though maybe she just has thicker skin and bites right back.

But my mom and my dad still loathe each other. They are not friends. I don't even know how if I ever get married both sides of my family are going to be in the same room with each other--I'd really rather just elope. They rarely even talk now, they prefer to use my brother and I as buffers. When they do speak to each other, it usually doesn't end well.

I do suspect that my dad might still be just a little bit in love with my mom though, the way he'll tell a reminiscenty story that sounds kind of cute, but my mom doesn't every tell good stories.

It probably doesn't help that when I was conceived she was 15 and he was 22. If it hadn't been for getting knocked up, they probably woudln't have stayed together. Ten years isn't too bad of a run for a teenage wedding, though obviously my mom must have done more growing up in those ten years than he did.

So how did this affect me? My immediate reaction is that I'm fine, but really, when's the last time I've been in a productive healthy relationship? Why do I throw myself at anyone who pays the least bit of attention to me? I'm sure there is a lot of hard wiring gone awry up there as a result of this, but it is hard to see from the inside.

Alison said...

Great post. You have put a lot of work into this and it shows.

Lee said...

For the record, I am indeed female. It must the androgynous ninja in me that confuses people. I've had two other people send me email to ask my gender...which cracks me up. I guess I come off masculine? And me mommy is Taiwanese and me dad is American. I am a half breed.

I often wonder what our divorce will do to my children. I thought they would be great as we had an amiable divorce and friendly relationship...until he remarried. Now that he has a new, needy wife, I see my kids beginning to wonder why the her wants and needs always come first. I am waiting to catch them.

Kim said...

Children could blame a divorce on themselves. Children could also blame an unhappy marriage on themselves. Most of us should remember what it's like to tiptoe around a house where parents aren't speaking. Where it's like a dark thundercloud is hanging over your house. You don't know what you did wrong. You want to fix it. But you're afraid to say a single word because it might set off the explosion.

Point is: The damage to the children starts way before the Divorce even starts. There can be damage even if there isn't a Divorce.

The CEO said...

I'm trying hard not to be involved in this part of the discussion, because there aren't any hard answers here. I don't want you to think I went away either. Please continue.

Matt said...

I too conceive of Claudia as being exceptionally tall. I had guessed about 5'10". She SEEMS tall.

I think death and divorce are very similar, though you pointed out some key differences. For me, getting left by a woman (my experiences now color my perception of lesbians, btw) was worse than the grief I might have experienced had she died. She wouldn't have left purposely in that scenario and, honestly, I'd feel a lot better about the entire thing if she was dead (though I won't tell the police that).

Anyway, hang in there.....

Odat said...

Very interesting....you've been doing a lot of work here...Thanks for sharing your findings.....
Peace

cmhl said...

excellent synopsis, CEO. Thank you. And a very happy Hanukkah to you and Judy & family, one more day, right? Thinking of you, and appreciating your friendship.

The CEO said...

Thanks to all of you. We have been running around with our heads in our hands. Thanks to all who played.

Glamourpuss said...

Hmmm, I agree on the whole, but not entirely. When I’m back on this planet, I’ll work out why…