Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Where to Start... (It’s kind of a rant!)
I think, right now I just have to start somewhere! So many thoughts floating around, and it’s time to try to put some down!
Without a lot of crap, this is what I’m thinking about:
I’m thinking about how thinking gets in the way of seeing and therefore our actions because if we’re not seeing clearly, then we don’t (can’t) know what to do…
We count on people being certain ways for us. And when they’re not living up to those expectations there can be trouble in those relationships, or just blindness and missed opportunities. What is the source of this trouble?
Memory is a repository, a rich resource we can draw upon when in relationship with others. Our memories, both subtle and obvious, help us understand the world. Our memories help us interpret the language of the world.
When we mistake the meaning of memories for the content of the present moment, we are stuck in the past and not seeing correctly.
Let’s say I’m in relationship with my boyfriend, and he is always “the rock.” When my emotions are unstable I can go to him and his presence tends to calm the storm. On a particular day I go to him and he is aloof. I have nowhere to put my pain, because I had been depending on him for this. So I am miserable and tell myself that he is, “growing tired of me,” or, “doesn’t love me.”
Meanwhile, my (imaginary) boyfriend is worried about something at work. He just doesn’t have that to give to me right now. He tells himself that, “She is needy.”
In this scenario more distance is created between me and my boyfriend because I am expecting him to be how he always is, and he is suffering about his job and needs space for himself. Expectations based on memories are getting in the way of peaceful interactions during stressful times.
What I’m interested in though, is how our memories support rich perception. Our memories provide the structure for so much. We wouldn’t be able to go anywhere to experience anything if we forgot how to drive the car, ride the bike, walk, or whatever the basic things may be... So obviously memory is important for life in the world. And relying on memory incorrectly causes problems.
What if I grew up in a family that would make degrading comments based on race, gender, obesity, disabled, age, etc.? Don’t we generalize about things?
Our ability to conceptualize is challenged by living in society. Men and women require different healthcare. Culturally men as a group share challenges, just as women do. Then there are so many things that we share and that are the same. Ethnicity can also dictate concerns that a group of people share.
The richness of differences that exist among us is an asset. The problems that exist around perceived differences are a failure of imagination. Our ability to think is hamstrung by our old psychological baggage.
Another “lazy thinking” approach is when we assume that others are basically like us. This can be a way to tell ourselves that we are open minded and accepting of other people, but really we do violence to who they are in assuming this. Also, when we accept images others put onto us we do violence to who we are.
An example of this might be if I had relatives who would ask me if I was pro-life, (when they know that I believe in a woman’s right to choose) and not hear my reply, and instead use it as an opportunity to shit their opinion all over me. This is not a real conversation… It’s like a sales tactic to ask a question and then go forward with whatever you want. In this case they are not seeing me as someone with my own rich set of experiences and wisdom to bring to the moment.
How do the images that we hold of one another serve us? Images or impressions provide the language for us to interface with one another. And when we look to these past impressions for content about the present moment we are confusing the language to understand with the content of what is really happening.
So the challenge I put to myself is to see. It is easy when I meet someone new who looks like someone else I know to assume that this person is like the other one. This type of generalization destroys the possibility to see this person who I am with, now. It also limits my experience when I look through the goggles of the past in this way. But can I use everything I have learned up to any given moment to see more clearly, instead of killing the moment by perceiving it as a meaningless repetition of something I have already experienced? Can my memories contribute to my ability to perceive someone instead of robbing them of their uniqueness?