It Takes New Words

Notes from here

“I believe time heals almost no wounds,” said Dunn. “What heals a wound is good treatment. That doesn’t come from sitting there, waiting. … People 15 years later can recite with incredible accuracy the words that wounded them. The only way is to replace them with new words.”

No two people view any event exactly the same, even within a family. Coleman called this a “separate-reality phenomenon.” Differences in perspective depend on things like position in the family, age and relationships with parents or siblings. A parent might view an interaction as “conscientious,” while the child sees intrusion and control. “It helps to recognize we see our own lives typically from our own narrow perspectives,” he said.

Repairing relationships starts with listening.Take your adult [sibling]’s complaint seriously and listen for what’s true. You don’t have to agree with all of it. But be empathic; try not to be defensive or offensive or blame and criticize,” said Coleman.

Sometimes it’s not clear why family members don’t get along or are overlooked, which may make a situation harder to address. Julie Connor said at her family’s gatherings, certain individuals were sometimes left out of conversations and activities. She once asked why an uncle was ignored. Her mother said she didn’t know.

Charles Randall Paul, president of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, believes techniques that bring warring nations and religious rivals together can help families with seemingly unresolvable conflicts — including religious, philosophical or lifestyle differences where people “believe they cannot with integrity compromise.

“You can have a respectful and even friendly relationship with someone who is your opponent, your rival. So many think incorrectly that disagreement means it would be impossible or wasteful to engage that person,” he said.

Paul admires noted family therapist John Gottman’s ability to watch muted videos of couples and predict by looking at certain facial muscle movements whether couples were treating each other with contempt or respect. “Contempt is the death knell for any human relationship,” Paul said. “If they feel you disagree with them, that’s a different matter — especially if they feel you love and respect them.”

Working Backwards

A male friend’s question on Facebook:

“I don’t know how a person gets to the conclusion that understanding others’ emotions is a childish thing one is supposed to grow out of and be less understanding of others… How does anyone think that becoming less understanding of the world is maturing???”

My response:

“Because to a patriarchal mindset, emotions themselves are childish, or at best, effeminate — crying when sad or throwing a tantrum when angry are things that babies and children do, and they equate the outward show of emotion with having the emotion itself. Adults don’t do those things (unless they are manipulative women who cry to get their way). “Real men don’t get mad (e.g. throw a fit), they get even.”

“And empathizing with adults who are acting childishly makes you also childish.

“Seriously, this is what all my siblings think of me being upset about my SIL being so rude to me when my dad died. I was “over-reacting” and just need to “get over it”. Being “too emotional” was another accusation. My husband later observed that this was because I cried openly and without shame, and they just couldn’t handle me grieving like that.

“Oh, and as for “how they get to that conclusion” — it’s easy. You work backwards.

“In this case, you start with the incontrovertible “conclusion” that you are morally superior to the person whose behavior you don’t like. Then you find a way to “logically” support that “conclusion”. He does it [referring to the author of the article that was the subject of the OP] by heaping scorn on her for being empathetic.

“In other cases, such as mine, you start with whoever you know is supposed to be at fault — I am the youngest and the scapegoat and cannot possibly be in the right over an older sibling’s wife — and then you find “reasons” why. So instead of asking, “Who was really wronged here?” they ask, “What has she done that we can say is the reason she’s at fault?”

“It doesn’t actually have to make sense — to borrow words from Terry Pratchett, it just has to have the “right shape”. If it kind of “sounds good” it will be accepted by everyone who also wants to reach that same conclusion.

“I don’t say it’s a healthy way to operate but I’m very very familiar with it. It sure must be comfortable. No chance of running into anything that would cause you to do any soul-searching.”

I Dare You

P.S.  I met Matt Inman once.  I was smart enough to bring a decent pen and some nice paper, and I have a few original drawings as a result of that foresight.  One went to my online friend Becky, who loves Inman but couldn’t attend the event.  A couple went to the son of one of my other friends.  This is the one I kept for myself.  Thanks, Matt, for all your great work.

Happiness is Choice

Notes from here

“…most of us grew up in a culture that places great value on “fairness” and “playing by the rules.”  There’s just one problem with this noble ideal: the world simply doesn’t work that way.

…If someone assaults you, steals from you, or cheats on you, you have every right to feel upset or angry—so, too, if you have suffered verbal or emotional abuse… You will almost certainly need time to grieve… And, depending on how [someone] has behaved, you may also need time to work through feelings of anger, betrayal, and the downright “unfairness” of it all… but past a certain point, they may do you more harm than good.

“…we need to accept the world for what it is. The Thai Buddhist Master, Ajahn Chah, put the idea this way: “If you want the duck to be a chicken and the chicken to be a duck, you are really going to suffer!” Indeed, part of accepting life for what it is means accepting—not liking!—that there are many “bad actors” out there who sometimes try to hurt us.  [but boy does it suck when these people turn out to be part of your family, which we are told we can always count on, blood is thicker than water, etc, etc]

are the Stoics saying we should simply “turn the other cheek” and put up with injustice or shabby treatment at the hands of abusers? Certainly not!”

“Seek refuge in yourself. The knowledge of having acted justly is all your reasoning inner self needs to be fully content and at peace with itself.”

It’s Different for Girls

My mother was pretty invested in patriarchal, authoritarian (“strict father”) parenting.  She loved James Dobson, of Focus on the Family, and she put the vision of this kind of family into effect, such as forcing Dad to do the punishing of the boys when he came home after being gone all week.

It is well known now that authoritarian parenting is is hurtful to both parents and children.  The authoritarian parenting style is linked with kids who are less resourceful, less confident, less socially skilled, and less accomplished at school.  And it is intimately bound up with the patriarchy and usually, religion.

The patriarchy is more or less a huge set of problems.  And one of them is that it is emotionally stunting to men.  Maybe this is another reason I’m different from my siblings, and another way I lucked out.

Below are quotes from the full article here.

“We raise men not to see trauma or see experiences in their lives as traumatic, difficult, or painful. It is against the code of being a man and so, as young boys, we and others convince us over and over again that it wasn’t trauma.

“I am going to explore why men’s trauma is so invisible… The invisibility of men’s trauma is definitely a part of The Water.

[“The Water,” the reality in which we are all immersed but of which we are often unaware. The term refers to a parable of the two fish at the bottom of the ocean when another fish swims up and says, “How is the water?” and then swims off. The two fish look at each other and say, “What the hell is water?” That is how gender, in particular, shows up in our lives… And most of us don’t see The Water because we’re in it. Once you begin to see it, you see it everywhere and you begin to appreciate how incredibly deep it runs.]

“Trauma may mean “wound” in Greek, but in the language of men it means “weak.” And the last thing men want to feel like or appear as is weak.

“Men’s trauma is invisible to us… I have yet to do a workshop or training and not have at least one man come up to me and say, “But I never thought of that as trauma.” And their whole worldview has been changed because they have finally given themselves permission to acknowledge the deep pain they have been carrying around. They have been able to hear the message that, yes indeed, real men have trauma.

“The invisibility of male trauma is embedded in the Man Rules: Don’t cry, don’t be vulnerable, don’t ask for help, don’t show softer feelings. The list of infractions against the human spirit goes on and on. And I cannot repeat enough: We learn these Rules so young, from so many different sources, long before we have the freedom of choice in the matter. We cannot process the impact of what is happening to us. We know that if we stop crying, we experience some degree of safety. We know if we stop showing fear, we stop getting made fun of and might even get respect. We know that if we don’t admit feeling hurt or showing pain, we likely won’t have names and criticisms hurled at us from every direction. That is how we swallow the pain of trauma and tell ourselves, over and over again:

  • It was nothing.
  • That was then, this is now.
  • I was a child then; I am a grown man now.
  • I was a pain in the ass as a kid; I deserved it.
  • They were only trying to help me become a man.