This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.
Here are two snapshots of art on exhibit at the art festival in Toronto, Canada posted earlier.
The inflated rabbit is by Jeff Koons and the dress tent is by Adrienne Pao and Robin Lasser.
The event is annual, the entire city is full of art exhibits, indoors and out, some very large,
Here is a quote from one of the books I recommended to you; it's about self-understanding as well as, empathy;
"In addition to choosing different information, we each have access to different information. For example, others have access to information about themselves that we don't. They know the constraints they are under; we don't. They know their hopes, dreams, and fears; we don't. We act as if we've got access to all the important information there is to know about them, but we don't. Their internal experience is far more complex than we imagine."
Sometimes the origin is in an early time of life; how we can understand this (in oneself) and possibly prevent it in others.
A man talked to me today about his inability to motivate himself, specifically, in pursuit of his own interests. He is willing to do for others and will find the energy to pitch in when presented with a need. He loves "...being Julie's husband..." is very happy "...being Christopher's dad" but, "...there's a piece missing." Sean is a responsible man who meets his obligations and tries always to not bother others or infringe on anyone else's activities. He is noticeably intelligent and has some talents. He has some wonderful character qualities, such as loyalty and tolerance.
His problem is with himself; he not only doesn't know what he would like to do and what he wants, but does not even know what he likes. At one point, he described an absence of conflict: How to find time to devote to a favorite hobby, resolving a dilemma about taking money from the family budget for an after-market addition to his vehicle---these kinds of things, some examples of common choice points, simply do not come up for him. He knows that people struggle with these things (conflict between wish and obligation or, even conflict between two wishes) because he has noticed others debating these issues within themselves.
Can you imagine this? If you are always chomping at the bit to get to your next project or feeling frustrated because you can't find enough time for the avocations that interest you, or the opportunity to research an intriguing question eludes you, Sean's difficulty may seem odd. As a matter of fact, I have seen a number of people, over the years, bring up the complaint that they don't know what they want.
How does this happen? What do you think? How does a person find themselves in this condition?
I suspect that in most cases, the seeds for this problem are sown early. This particular individual, who has been told that he was a sensitive child, was oppressed during childhood. Neglected. His basic needs were met, but there was not only little or no attention paid to him emotionally. He was also discouraged from even asking for what he might want. The adults in his family found a child asking them for things to be an interference with their conduct of their own lives. There was no adult in his young life who had the capacity to mentor him. No one was able to pay enough attention to notice what he was drawn to nor to listen to what he expressed an interest in.
As an adult, now with the chance to do the things he likes, he doesn't know where to begin.
If you are a parent, or the relative of a young child, it seems to me that a wonderful gift you can offer is to attend to the child and their unique attributes. If the child shows an interest in something, anything, from rock collecting, to pirates, to ballet, try to help the child develop that interest. You could be contributing something so very important to that person's future; as a result, you will never be forgotten (an adult will one day have fond memories of you), and---you could be saving someone from a future of feeling lost like Sean does. Did some kind adult help you as a child? Have you paid attention to a child in your life?
Today one of my patients put forward the possibility that there may be two kinds of people: One kind knows what they want and are intent on going after it. They see their partner as someone who can help them in their quest. The goal is clear. The partner is expected to cooperate or, at least, that is the hope. For some, the partner is even selected because of being seen as able to facilitate movement toward the goal.
The other kind says: "What do you want?" "What do you think?" This person is in a joint venture, wants to consult with their partner and looks for an outcome that is the result of planning together. In fact, the planning is experienced as an enjoyable part of the process.
This one may not have the drive and clarity of the first but they have a real wish to know their partners ideas and wishes. Their life together will, it is hoped, be a cooperative venture.
My patient is currently in a relationship with someone she describes as being like the first person described above. She was comparing this experience to a former relationship with someone of the second type.
Her concluding comment on this topic was that perhaps she could benefit by developing more of the former attitude herself as she sees herself as always helping and supporting her partner's projects. Sometimes one senses an underdeveloped quality of their own as being more active in another and that becomes attractive.
What do you like? Are you attracted to the focused type with definite ideas about how life should be? Or do you seek a partner who likes to make decisions that have been mutually decided upon? Do you like to be asked your opinion? Or do you enjoy an adventuresome, active individualist?
Do you see yourself in either of these categories? Or, perhaps as a person with some of each? Would you like to be more one way than the other? Just something to think about.
How communication style can make all the difference.
It's all in the delivery!
You can say very hard things, problematic things, controversial things, to most people without stirring up rancor if your tone of voice is agreeable. If your demeanor, that is, your tone of voice, your body language, your volume, and your movements are not aggressive, you are much less likely to provoke a defensive reaction. Without defensiveness on the part of the other person, you are more likely to be heard.
A side note: Some people have a habit of not listening well to others and reduce their attention to the meta massage and what they determine to be, the main point. This person scans, rather than attending to detail. In this situation, what I am proposing might play an even more significant part in the communication process.
(The meta-message refers to the general, overall message, the larger outline, the impression.)
It is an almost stunning experience when you first begin tying this; talk to your friend, or relative, or co-worker about something which you had apprehension about saying. Your calm, low-key delivery may allow the other person to receive information that you thought would not be possible.
There is a catch: You can't fake it. It's remarkable how these automatic feelers we all have will pick up insincerity. So, before you go to deliver your difficult message, you have to stop and sort yourself out. If you are going to have a peaceful tone of voice, you have to be peaceful inside yourself. Give yourself a chance at success by calming yourself, centering yourself, forming a non-aggressive presentation, and maybe even visualizing the exchange going smoothly.
A book on this subject, Difficult Conversations, how to discuss what matters most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen came highly recommended to me by an esteemed colleague (Ellen Zuker, PhD, psychologist). So I am passing this on to you although I usually will only recommend books I have read myself. On that note, a related book is Deborah Tannen's You Just Don't Understand, women and men in conversation. She is a socio-linguist who did an anthropological study of the differences in the way that women and men use language and communicate. I think of this as the more scholarly version of the very popular Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, a practical guide for improving communication and getting what you want in your relationship by John Gray, PhD. I liked his ideas too and many of my clients found his book very readable. His is one of the few so-called self-help books that I have found to be popular with men.
Most people take in the so-called meta-message. They tune into the larger picture; they look for cues and clues as to what the speaker is trying to convey. And they react to what they sense. If your approach is amenable or low-key or even, let's just say, courteous, you have a better chance of being heard. I discovered this myself, just by trying it. And I have observed it in couples counseling and had it reported to me by individual patients again and again. So, while ideas like this can never be guaranteed, it's worth a try.
Give the gentle delivery a chance.
Some people are fascinated by what's next. the new, the novel, is what captures their attention. It isn't that they don't like traditions---but they are looking forward to the next holiday, not pondering the last one. These types often have an intuitive sense of what the future holds and are quick to identify trends.
The other type feel deeply about what has happened in the past. For them, it is important to remember, and a pleasure to review, enjoyable events of the recent or far past. Memories carry meaning and contribute to bonds with others.
Both of these types can change in therapy. The path each takes may look a little different but the benefit is still there for both types.
Some people find making the transitions that life always demands, to be quite a challenge; others maneuver them quite readily. I am convinced that there is a genetic component to this tendency since we can see it in babies. Some stay calmer as they are moved to a different environment or a different person enters the scene and some show distress the minute the current flow is interrupted. Parents who notice can help the first type to learn to entertain themselves and help the second type to stay centered in the face of change.