Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stuff you already know

I forgot to say in my last post, many thanks to everyone who contributed food advice to my desperate cause. You all had a lot of great suggestions, and I still intend to try out most of them. I will keep you updated on my progress. For instance, this morning I ate a banana and a pear. I'm feeling hopeful.

Quickie today, but one that I feel is very important-

A while ago I'd been thinking a lot about the interactions we have with other people, particularly the ones in which we strive to give comfort/advice. Observing my own interactions, as well as those between other people, I noticed a tendency first and foremost to try to soothe the immediate discomforts of others. Obviously this is a noble goal, and no one ought to be blamed for it. But, it seems to me that we often do this kind of soothing at the expense of the soothee's personal growth, which oftentimes requires not validation, but reprimanding. For instance: say a friend comes to you wanting to vent some frustration over a confrontation earlier that day in the supermarket. You listen actively, inserting the proper nods and facial expressions which indicate that you are understanding and sympathizing. Because you want to help this person, you most likely end up validating their frustration, agreeing that so-and-so was wrong to behave this way, and you were right to say this thing and feel this way.

But what if it's a lie?

What if, when you take a step back and look at the situation from an objective point of view, your friend appears to have been the one in the wrong? What if your friend is actually being unreasonable, or a whiny baby? What do you say then, when this person, in all trust, chose you to confide in?

It's hard to say, man. I'm not saying it's right every time to reprimand. There is a time and place for that, and sometimes it's not the time and place. And sometimes you are not the person who should do it. But, I do think it is important to evaluate all these factors before we jump in automatically and seek to patch the wound, to give them what they want instead of what they need. Sometimes the wound is necessary. Sometimes the person needs not to have their feelings confirmed, but to be jolted with a new perspective.

It's like my wise friend Collette once said: "This life is about changing." Indeed it is. How are any of us going to change for the better if our friends keep enabling our flaws, hmm?

I've been thinking about this a lot with regard to the company I keep, as well. I don't think I'm alone in admitting that some of my closest friends are people who happen to be a lot like me. Over time, perhaps not consciously, I have wittled away those who are different from me, who do not share my opinions and whose habits I can make no sense of. I am left with a bunch of quasi-me's. It's terrible egoistic, really. And what is it doing for me? Am I changing all that much when I'm with these people? Or am I rooting myself deeper into the stubborn beliefs and behaviors that we all share? I think we know the answer to this one.

Of course, it's more difficult to make friends with people who are different. We naturally gravitate toward those who we can relate to, and these are the friendships that develop and run most effortlessly. On the other hand, I've seen quite a lot of marriages composed of opposites which appeared to be all the more exciting and wonderful for their differences. So you tell me.

I thought this was going to be a quickie.

1 comment:

Pistol Pete said...

Agreed. Lying to spare feelings can (dare I say "will") be bad in the long run. I say the point where you (meaning I) no longer lie about it is when you've (meaning I've) passed the acquaintance line into the friendship line. I don't always have a hard time "reprimanding" people I don't know, but in an effort to soften my mostly abrasive personality to people not accustomed to it, I will lie. Give it a few interactions, and I'll stop. That said, do you think that you lie with people who've passed the acquaintance line? Because if so, then I do think it's a problem--I greatly value objectivity, even when it puts me in the wrong. While my initial (emotional) reaction might be negative--a work in progress--once I calm down I always appreciate honesty rather than kindness. Although, on second thought, maybe kindness would help soften the hand of honesty so that it doesn't result in a negative emotional response. Rambling. Also, thank-you for quoting me, next time I would like it referenced (I favor foot notes personally). I kid--mostly. Also, I'm going to write a post soon about what to do with the people in our lives; I think it will fit with this -- keep your eyes peeled (?).