Sunday, March 19, 2006

Too often people react to their own histories and not the present.

You will find people reacting to
* people in their pasts
* events in their pasts
* problems in their pasts

Sometimes if you point out what they are doing to them, they immediately realize what they are doing (like when my brother said "but Grandmother, I'm Mark ..." and she immediately changed the way she was reacting), but often, even if you know what they are doing and tell them, they don't adjust. "It is 42!" "But, that was the math question from yesterday" is not the right response. Telling them makes the problem worse, it does not solve it.

There are many things that can only be heard by letting there be silence on your part.

Sometimes what we need to do is listen in order to listen. It can be a necessary use of silence. Too often people listen in order to speak when what they need to do is listen in order to listen. One way to catch yourself, is to hear your own questions. Do the questions have a point or are they questions. Is the question a prelude to speaking or is it a prelude to listening?

Sometimes the only way to the present is by listening and sometimes that can only happen if one person can be silent until the other person reacts to the present and not the past.

As an aside, I've been amazed at how often telling people the truth causes them to reject it or causes more harm than good. I remember a dear sister who saw a psychologist. "You are trying to be the child in the relationship instead of one of the adults" he told her. 100% right. She was grossly offended and told everyone and rejected what was the key part of what she needed to make progress. As I listened to her outrage I kept my peace -- telling her the doctor was right would not have helped, it would have only made her problem worse.

The Rotary formula of:
  1. Is it the TRUTH?

  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?


  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"

has a great deal of value. Metamessages aside (i.e. when you are asked "do these make me look fat" sometimes the real question is "do you still love me and find me attractive" and the way to answer "yes" is to not say "yes, they make you look fat."), what are we really doing if what we say is not fair, does not build goodwill, and harms instead of helps? I don't think it is communicating a truth that is worth being said.


annegb said...

Good post, as usual.

One thing that occurred to me as I was reading this is that in sales, the person who talks first loses. I don't know how to explain it, but I've found that when I'm arguing with somebody, if I'm quiet, they'll sometimes just talk themselves into my opinion. It really works.

annegb said...

PS, it's hard, too. I don't do it very often.

Téa said...

I wasn't familiar with the rotary outline there, but it rings true in the reading.

I need to go read more about it to understand how to better anticipate the applications of the latter two principles there.

How do we know ahead of time when telling someone the truth would make things worse?

Bookslinger said...

Tea: "How do we know ahead of time when telling someone the truth would make things worse?"

Many of us have to learn the hard way, through trial and error. A fortunate few learn it at their parents' knee.

Steve: re: people reacting to the ghosts of their pasts. I think that's a good definition of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and its related flashbacks.

Stephen said...

The Rotary Steps are one of the best guides I've found about "truth" vs. "truth."

The "truth" has two problems:

(a) first, the metamessage we convey with it is false ("yes, those pants do make you look fat" has the metamessage "I do not find you attractive because I no longer love you.").

(b) people aren't ready, often because they can't hear it.

Tonight I had to talk to someone who I didn't know if something was the truth or if they were ready to hear it. So I talked in parables, about other people's experiences.

They got it without feeling attacked, without rejecting and without it causing harm.

The "you know, when my uncle had that problem, this is what happened with his kid ..." sort of thing. Not as preaching, not as pushing a point, but as telling.

That seems to help, as long as the parable isn't too pointed.

I'm still thinking.

Anonymous said...

I hope you do not mind that this is a little venting here. I have ocd to where I think that I am constantly at risk to harming other people. I think that I am so incompetent that I do things wrong that everybody else seems to know how to do right and therefore I get very contaminated or pose a danger in another way. Basically, I am told by people that it is all in my head and I so hope that they are right. I cope by telling myself that people have said it is in my head and hope that the present situation fits into the box. When it all began, it was so painful and I was so raw and full of despair. Even my worst days now are better thankfully. Any how here are three of the reasons that I was given that I have the disorder. 1) A psychiatrist told me that I have this problem because I am worried about my parent's relationship and do not want to worry about their relationship. I find this so hard to believe as the pain of my disorder is so much worse than I think worrying about their relationship could ever be. 2) Someone told me that the fact that my father is abusive and controlling is why I am trying to control my world through ocd. I kind of like this one as it blames someone else. One time I bursted out saying that I had ocd because my dad pushed me down. My dad thought that was so funny that he started laughing and will ask me from time to time to tell him a sad story or joke about how he pushed me down. He did not exactly push me down, but rather forced me down on at least one occassion because I was not doing somthing right like when I was working with him and he was so frustrated at my ignorance. At any rate, I had some ocd symptoms before the home situation got bad. If it is my dad's fault I hope that he is forgiven because deep down he is a real sweetheart. I don't think he understands enough that he really causes me harm though. 3) I was told the I have ocd because I am a perfectionist and was into self-worship and thinking I was so great and good at doing right that it caused it. If that is true, it only makes me feel so awful that I caused it. Yes, when things were going good and I was doing everything you were supposed to like going to Church every Sunday, reading scriptures, paying tithing, I did feel that I was a pretty good person and would to some degree judge others. But to go this stark raving mad does not add up to me. I can see where my obsession with not sinning could lead to this, but that was not so much due to my self-worship but due to my fear of damnation, which is really what my ocd is all about. I fear eternal damnation and that I why I am afraid to kill someone else. I worry about other things too that I worry will send me to hell. At any rate, I was told to concentrate on being grateful for things that Heavenly Father has done as a way to overcome my ailment. I have tried really hard and it has not worked. This person seemed rather glazed over in their eyes when I told of the physical and mental abuse through the years in vague terms. Well, I guess it is best not to share that with people and I have done very little of that through the years. At any rate, I had some ocd tendencies from a young age so I see it as a nature vs nurture thing. I am not saying that I may not have any fault in the equation, but saying that I took away my whole life practically and miss out on going to so many events and live in fear because I had self-worship seems rather a cruel thing to say in my book. This is long, I wonder if it will post. Edit it if it is not appropriate to what you want on your site.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forget to add for whatever it is worth that I think that I have learning disabilities that effect my ability to navigate in the world. Oh, and I should add that I am an extremely cheerful person by nature. I have had bouts with depression through the years, but most of the time I am pretty happy. Even with my present problems, I am pretty happy most of the time. I just get frustrated sometimes when I think of those who I thought would help me and in many ways did more harm than good.

Anonymous said...

I guess my point of my comments under anonymous yesterday is that for the most part to make comments like the above do nothing to help me over my anxiety problems. With the exception with dealing with abuse, which according to a link that a good friend of mine sent me is actually supposed to help a person improve with anxiety symptoms, all of the other advice causes me pain. I have never had therapy that targeted abuse. Those who I sought help with for ocd that were in the mental health field seemed to minimize or brush of abuse for the most part except when there was a physical incident. Then they said to move out, but did not help me to that end and stopped following up. Thankfully there is no physical violence at present nor has there been anything to speak of physical violence wise for years. I have learned that abuse therapy might help just recently, but my parent does not want me to go to therapy. It is probably just as well as it is very hard for me to go places. I know this is a bit much drama wise for your site and invite you to edit if you like.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I am back again. I hope you do not mind. I did want to say that I do not post here in thinking that there is anything that you know of to speak to the situation. I have met a few good friends in the online community who have allowed me to vent. That has helped so much. I do want to add that when I had forgiven my dad a lot for his treatment of me as I think that he really is not in control of rages, I still had very hard feelings against those who I thought would help me out of the situation. What is more, their lack of help made me feel that they condoned the situation at times. I felt like I was not worth it. One person made mention how I was to graduate in College in a few months and so that was not long to endure the situation going on for years. Things were at a pretty bad climax although not at its worst. He did offer to help financially, but that is not what I wanted. I thought he would help find a room-mate for me. He never brought up the subject again after I went for help that one time. That has been my experience in general that people do not bring it up and it is so hard to speak up when so many haved seemed to want to pass the buck. I did not graduate as scheduled, but did continue to live at home even later. It would help if they would say as my good friends online have said that I did not deserve the abuse. I do not want to seem like a baby about it all or anything. I know abuse situations and mental illness are very sticky situations and hard to help a person with. I mean I do not even fully understand mental illness myself. In addition, I have come to realize that my fantasy of someone actually helping me with my ocd making it hard for me to take care of myself is unlikely. Also, I do not have many life skills to start with. Again, I am not seeking advice here. Perhaps what I say may enlighten someone to be a little more sensitive in their approach to helping someone in my situation. I cannot fault others though as I know that I am often at a loss for appropriate words when others face difficult situations. Also, I am powerless to help others out of a bad situation. I do not want to be bitter towards those who I feel have failed me. I often think I am over it, and then it comes back to me. However, I am in a better frame of mind than I was so I think that I am making progress.

Anonymous said...

My oh my, I sure hope that the bulk of what I said was relevant. There really is more to me than someone who thinks about all of this stuff. I really have hobbies. :) I think that I have vented all that I possible need to with my online friends. I have only done this for the past year as I just got a computer two years ago. But what more can I say that I have not said. That is not to say that professional counseling would not be in order down the road. I really don't need anybody to feel sorry for me. In fact, my life is going pretty good in many respects at the moment. Sometimes I just get on a roll when I start venting. But I really want to keep the past in the past. That was then and this is now. I only want to remember the past in so much as it helps me be a better person.

Anonymous said...

Ummn, instead of spilling my guts, maybe I should of just asked if these pants make me look fat lol.