Archive for the ‘respect’ Tag

“WHATEVER YOU DO AFTER SHE SAYS ‘NO.’”   6 comments

I’m finally up and running, so to speak, ready to fulfil my intention of apologizing for my absence and beginning to share my report of a fabulous trip to India and Nepal.

And yes, I do apologize to all who have hoped for and expected a response from me at the various sites to which I’m connected. I did indeed take an almost total vacation from all that as I enjoyed a life changing, life-enhancing trip to India and Nepal.

But something more urgent has come up that I need to comment on. I am both sickened and heartened by the tsunami of reports on sexual harassment. Maybe this time we’ll leap toward a more respectful culture.

I hope, though, that we won’t allow ourselves to think these things are going on only among certain groups of powerful people. This time, maybe we’ll be able to push our awareness back to the source – at least as far back as Junior High.

Maybe you’ll respond by telling me I’m lost in old fashioned issues that no longer prevail. If that’s true, then I’ll take some belated credit for the work we did in the women’s studies programs back in the 70s.

Let me explain by telling a couple of stories.

There was the day when a student in the back of the class asked me to define “rape.” “It’s whatever you do after she says ‘no,’” I said, always preferring the short, provocative answer. “Then I guess there’s a lot of rape going on in the High School parking lot on Friday nights,” he sneered, to affirming giggles of those around him.

I know he wasn’t far from wrong. I know the culture reflected in my own behavior at my 35th high school reunion when we were greeting each other with friendly and respectful shared kisses until one classmate thrust his tongue into my mouth. I didn’t go “Ugh, gag, gross!, ichy.” No, I discreetly wiped my mouth and went on with the conversation – couldn’t hurt his feelings and make a scene, you know.

Or the colleague celebrating his promotion who came into my office, closed the door, and grabbed my breast. Gently, so as not to embarrass him (It was a stupid thing to do, after all) I removed his hands and proceeded with conversation.

In neither of those cases did the offender have any kind of structural power over me. It was culture at work.

Just as it probably was at the same time with the teenage girl in the high school parking lot uncomfortably accepting the guilt when her date complained about her teasing. “You can’t stop now after you got me all worked up.”

The writer’s rule is “show, don’t tell.” But I’ll bet we could have a great go-round discussing the complexities involved in those stories.

Now, as they used to say on SNL, “Discuss among yourselves.”

My hope is that today’s issues will promote another leap forward in the honoring of respect and honesty.

SHARDS OF MONEY-SAVING THERAPY WISDOM   6 comments

I’ve been promising to present some “rules” of therapy – no charge. So here’s the first one. No doubt some can be applied in a broader sphere, like maybe government, war, and politics. But discussion here is limited to our personal/interpersonal lives. I call them shards, because I’m really just offering pieces that suggest something larger and more complete. And besides, they have sharp edges that require careful handling.

Rule #1: The only person you can control is you.

This is basic. It starts at the very beginning – the need to make life predictable – to get it under control. I could easily get lost here in a long review of Developmental and Social Psychology but I don’t feel like doing that. I’ll acknowledge that how we go about controlling is strongly influenced by the way we are raised. Here, though, I just want to point some ways we get it right, and some ways we stray. I’m hoping many of you will make comments about the how and the why based on your own experience and understanding.

Let’s consider a couple who seek therapy. You can place bets that it will start out with each one trying to change the other, mostly by telling the partner how he or she should be. No surprise, it doesn’t work.

Oh, maybe you can influence the way the other person acts. Browbeating, bribing, passive aggressive words and actions, financial control, violence – other forms of bullying or abuse. In that sense, I guess I’d have to admit that the other person can be controlled. Look a little deeper at the couple, however, and it’s clear those things aren’t getting what the controller really wants; confidence in the partners faithfulness or love or admiration or respect, or …

And the chances are good the restrained one would find a way to strike back, Or maybe become something less than what the controller was expecting.

What does often work is to change one’s own behavior to evoke a different reaction from the other. Basically, this is the object of mediation. Funny thing, though, that starts with changing oneself. Back to the rule. The only person you can control is yourself.

That kind of change requires honest listening. But it won’t work if the person you’ve been listening to is not honest. And here’s a really important point. You can’t be honest, or get honesty from your partner, if one or both of you is not being honest with yourself. Which brings us to another point.

Self Control

Yes, the goal is self-control. But not the way it’s often meant. Too many of us are raised to think that self-control means hiding or squelching our own feelings. That won’t work without either taking a toll on our bodies, or eventually coming out in uncontrolled anger, or tears, or depression, or something else I’ve missed.

The fact is, we can’t get enough control of ourselves to change if we aren’t willing to be honest with ourselves. To accept our own “Shadow.” But that’s rule #2, saved for the next posting.

The situation with couples makes for an easy example, but the rule applies everywhere. I hope you’ll use the “comments” section to add some examples based on your own experience.

But before we leave our unhappy but growing couple, here’s a question. Could it be that more arguments would help? The kind where each one is honest about feelings and opinions and listening to the other? (Even if they’d rather not admit it at the time.) And knowing that somehow they’ll have to do something about what they’re hearing if they really want things to change.

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See page 35 of “Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses.” A conversation between Dara and her mother.

“Your father respects me – and us.

 “I do not believe it. I hear him when he is arguing with you.

 “Oh, but Dara, that is the point. We do argue. I know some mothers and fathers who do not argue, but I will tell you right now, the wives do not argue because they do not dare. … Your father and I argue because he holds me in high regard. Otherwise he would never listen to what I say, and I would never dare say it.”

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COMMUNITY, CLOSENESS, AND RESPECT   21 comments

Not a big deal, or maybe it is. No, it really is petty, but I have a gripe today – well, I have it often, but it was evoked today with my trip to Curves. I’m so far from being athletic you could say I extend the normal curve like a snake way off to the left. But I do try to get to Curves three times a week for what amounts to a workout.

If you’re familiar with the place, you know there is a large circle of workout machines. (I think 12. Next time I go I’ll count them.) In between there are “recovery stations” where you can do whatever you want – walking or jogging in place, flinging your arms around, bending and stretching – whatever. And it’s all timed. 30 seconds on a machine, 30 seconds on recovery.

For most of us who pay the small extra fee, the intensity of our workout is recorded on a computer which, at the end of two plus cycles, tells us how we did. Something to strive for. As for me, the hard part is getting myself there. The joyful part is seeing the end.

So, about community and closeness. If I were doing a more serious blog, I’d be ranting about the importance of encouraging community, cooperation, empathy, working together, appreciating each other’s differences, overcoming greed. In other words, I think community is our hope for the future and appreciation of things past.

But It also means respect for our individuality. And that’s what set me off today. When I arrived this morning, there was one other person working out, so I chose to start on a machine at a distance from where she was so as not to crowd her. I was happily (well, dutifully) working my way around the circuit when another woman arrived and started her circuit right next to me. Now, if there ‘s a huge crowd there, options are few. Bu she had plenty of room.

What it meant was I had to stand and wait for her to finish, or work my way around her to a different spot – not the best way to keep the computer informed.

Actually, she seems to be a lovely lady. So what is it when people seem not to be aware they are crowding others?

Now that I’m on a roll, how about the light at the intersection of highways 41 and 5? (Or wherever your example may be.) Those of us who drive there often know the green light lasts just long enough for three, maybe four cars to get through. I’m OK with that. It’s a busy intersection. But I do try to be alert if I’m first in line so I move as soon as I’ve taken a quick look left to make sure no one is running the red light against me. I’m not perfect at it, but it seems to me like an act of respecting other people’s need to get through the intersection. My gripe? Folks who are first in line who seem not to be aware that the fate of others depends on them and, for want of a better word, dawdle for one reason or another. Leaving those a few cars behind them waiting again through the whole cycle before they can get through.

One more example of failure to respect personal space. The person whose own personal space is minimal, so he or she drives you into a corner as you try to maintain your polite distance in a conversation.

I know. I know. Cultural differences. Even neurological differences. For my classes when we were on the topic of personal space, I often cited the difference between my Swedish heritage of greeting people with a handshake that produces a separation of approximately three feet. (Try it) Compared to my welcoming Italian heritage in-laws who greeted me with a kiss on the lips – or at least in the vicinity. I learned to appreciate the closeness, though I suspect they never understood the Scandinavian stand-off-ish-ness (literally.)

But why couldn’t the woman at Curves have chosen to start a few machines away from me this morning?

p.s. I’m almost positive the woman in question will never see this blog, and wouldn’t recognize herself if she did. Therefore I feel safe in making this public.

 

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