Sunday, December 13, 2009

Reflections on Silence and Not Having a Clue

I was a quiet child.

It should be stated for the record that I am introverted and soft spoken, by nature.

Family lore holds that I would quietly entertain myself in my crib, and that "having a good cry" was generally something I engaged in about once every few months, as a baby and toddler. Apparently I didn't "fuss" and I didn't "demand." I'm also told I had a total of maybe 2-3 "tantrums" before age 16. Whereas I definitely was "there," I don't remember those days, so I can't verify whether all of this is true.

I do remember that a substantial part of my early decision to "just shut up" was fostered by my environment. Initially, I stayed quiet because the mantra of my extended family was that "Children MIGHT be seen, but they should definitely NOT be heard." Subsequently, said silence was reinforced by my repeatedly being told "Just be quiet. You have no idea what you're talking about, and nobody cares what little boys have to say, anyway."

It should also be said for the record that I don't possess much natural inclination to "fight" with people, over points of view. I tend to go "Meh. Whatever. That's interesting. You can keep your point of view, and I'll keep mine." And then go about my business. I sucked at debate because other people's opinions generally seemed as valid as my own. It's not for me to tell others what to think-- I'll happily share alternate points of view, but I'm not going to pound them into anyone's head. Sometimes I smile at the irony that I was in my 30s before I (psychologically) learned about "tools" to disinvest myself from other people's closely held opinions... "gaining" the additional insight that I had already been letting things be, pretty much since I started speaking.

Last week, I did a lot of cleaning up and organizing, of the "stuff of life" we accumulate over time. I came across some journals from the early to (mostly) mid-1990s, when my former marriage was failing, and had failed. Journals, talking about life, and questions raised in therapy. I didn't have much time to really look at them, but I picked up a few threads belonging to that period of my life, just from a quick glance. And paused to insert them into the greater context of life.... my overall existence... age zero to the present day.

"Just because MOST people believe and do something, doesn't make it True."

Whereas self-study often leads us to the conclusion that we should finish the above statement with the words ".... True for ME," there are actually a surprising number of situations where the greater world adopts and adheres to some idea, or action, or tradition that is really not inherently in most people's best interest. A state of near "mass psychosis" arises because folks end up doing/saying/believing something based on little more than "Well, everybody ELSE does that, so it must be right," and there's no pause to question whether or not "the accepted norm" makes any sense, whatsoever, or is healthy, nor whether any "sense" it does make is Global vs. Individual.

For example, scientists have repeatedly shown that we-- as human beings-- attach more strongly to a person who makes us earn "insecure" and "unpredictable" love, in relationships, than to someone who openly and freely gives us love. In fact, we "work harder" to gain approval and "earn" love, when we're being treated badly, than when we're being treated respectfully and kindly. It is almost as if we deem "secure" love to be "boring" and "not challenging enough," and many people actively reject it and dismiss it, as "lacking in passion and intensity." This may hold true for as much as 90% of the population, and if the relationship doesn't actually "end badly," we certainly end up feeling bad about it, much of the time. Yet, most people stay on, and on, and on, in less than desirable and painful situations...

Or, take the state of being an Introvert, as I am. It is a genetically based root character trait, not "shyness" or "social anxiety." But our culture is based in outgoing, aggressive go-get-it-ness, and 70-75% of the population IS extraverted. It is the majority paradigm. Nothing wrong with that. However... it doesn't make introverts "defective," and in need of "fixing," so they can be more like extraverts. And yet, introverts often labor through endless "assertiveness training" courses and Toastmasters classes, pressured not only by the predominant social paradigm around them, but by their own sense of not being like "the majority."

The above are just a couple of examples.

As a species, it seems, we often find some measure of "safety" in NOT thinking for ourselves.

Looking at the journals, I realized that my ex didn't think I knew what I was talking about. I was vilified for wanting to look at how things actually were, rather than how things were "supposed to be." Or how she "wanted them to be," I suppose. When I was a kid, I was told repeatedly that I didn't know what I was talking about. Yet, I could watch the adults "make plans," and "agree" on something... and I could readily see that it would "end badly," through the non-expert eyes of an eight-year old. And it would "end badly," and the adults (whom I thought "knew better," since they asserted that I didn't know) would sit around and be all hurt and surprised that things did, indeed, "end badly." 40-some years later, I watch adults-- sometimes even very evolved adults-- get stuck in the very complexes they insist they have long since worked through, and when I (gently) draw their attention to them, I relive my childhood through being told that I have "no idea what I am talking about." I shrug, and watch their circuses unfold.

"Just because MOST people believe and do something, doesn't make it True."

I am sometimes stunned-- and a little saddened-- by the number of times I have said "no, this will end badly, I don't want to be part of this" only to be met with the assertions that not only do I "not know what I am talking about," but moreover, *I* am the one with the psychosis. Which makes me feel a bit like the lemming who pauses at the top of the cliff and goes "You know what? This is stupid. We'll DIE if we jump off, so I'm not going to jump."

And then I get "institutionalized" for not jumping, because jumping is simply "what people do."

I am, I suppose, an observer of people and patterns, and a "connector of dots."

"Popular opinion" holds that I am "apathetic" because I have become unwilling to engage other people in the "drama and chaos" of their lives. Allegedly I have "issues" because of that. I have "issues" because I say "that fire is hot, and I don't want to sit in it," rather than just willingly sit there and burn myself to a crisp, with everyone else.

Look in the mirror.
What you see in that reflection is also called "projection."

But don't take it from me.
I don't know what I'm talking about.
But I do observe a lot...


  1. I think you know what you're talking about - am pretty sure of it. :-)

    Excellent post, leaves me to ponder. I like when that happens...

  2. I've learned that people often need to make their own mistakes, and it doesn't matter a slight bit that I *do* know what I'm talking about and can see that it's all going to fall apart. If they do it, its because they need to. So I've learned to shrug and hold my tongue and just prepare to be for them afterwards, careful to only say "I knew it all along" inside my head.

  3. Hi Peter,

    I have experienced earning love and found it so addictive that 4 years after I separated, I still felt ambiguity. I never would have thought that possible having gone through all the torture of a toxic relationship.



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