Sunday, 22 February 2015

Man Up!

I've been told more than once – by well meaning women presumably attempting to repair some undefinable flaw in my overly-simplistic character – to “man up”.
I was watching Date Night last night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey. In the movie, Carell's character turns to his wife and says she has to trust him with chores and decisions around the house. At some level, that one line epitomizes difficulties in modern relationships. It states two things. First, women don't trust their men to get it right and, second, men have given up trying.
Yes, I understand I am generalizing. There are a bunch of generalizations in this post. Just sayin'.
It occurred to me as I heard that line in the movie I had been in that exact railway tunnel myself with the headlight of a two hundred car freight train laden with good intent bearing down on me. There doesn't seem to be a correct reply to the admonition “man up”. That is, except the one Steve Carell delivered.
What, exactly, does “man up” mean anyway?
In the early days of the Liberation Movement, women such as Helen Gurley Brown, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer and Susan B. Anthony wanted equality. Men, in general, can understand this. It's a relatively simple concept. Equality across the board. Each person bringing their strengths to the table to create a greater whole.
But, that's not where we are now, is it.
The feminist movement has gone beyond seeking equality (which, sadly, has not been reached yet). It now seems to be about domination. It's about getting what you want, damn the torpedoes. It's about independence, not equality. The shift seemed to occur during the “Me Generation” of the nineties when everything was about what I am getting whether that fit into the societal jigsaw or not. The self-centred-ness of the 1990's seemed to be adopted by the Feminist Movement and has been steamrolling ever since.
Through the eyes of women, today's ideal male has changed, though none of us (men) seem to be able to put a finger on what that ideal is. The definition seems to be a shifting tide. Oddly enough, women don't seem to be able to articulate what “ideal” means either. You want us to be sensitive, strong, silent, verbal, capable, listeners, communicators, workers, players, serious, playful, stoic, emotional and on and on.
There's a mixed message given to men every day.
There is a confusion among men. All we really wish is to please our mates and to be acknowledged for doing the best we can. Yes, we do like to feel like we are your hero. It's that simple. We want to be able to support our partner the best way we know how and not be admonished for “not getting it right” at every turn. Who gives a shit if little Jimmy's peanut butter sandwich isn't perfect or the groceries aren't put away in some unpublished ideal position in the fridge or the corners of the bed aren't tucked to military standard? The bottom line is, the lunch is done and the groceries are away and the bed is made.
When we are criticized for every little detail, we stop trying. We zone out. We flip through channels or surf the net. We stop talking when every word coming out of our mouths is analyzed to death like you do with other women. When we have an idea and it's shot down most of the time, we stop offering ideas. We stop trying anything new when there is a presence hanging over our shoulder judging how we are doing it.
Men equate love to acceptance of their efforts. Women need to start trusting men to do or stop complaining because we don't do. There is no in between. Start trusting us – mistakes and all – or get used to doing it yourself. What we hear is, "I am disappointed in you again and you're going to hear about it every day until you die."
I understand the need for equality. It's what I want more than anything as well. It seems to me equality comes from trusting the other person. If there isn't trust, it's virtually impossible to be equal.
Over the past twenty years or so, every relationship I have started has begun with a clearly articulated thought offered to my partner: don't give up on me. (Yes... I have stated those exact words over and over.) Ultimately, they do give up. Or, at the very least, it feels that way. Ultimately, I felt more and more like a disappointment as each tiny admonishment is built into a stone rampart between us. Ultimately, I stopped trying because I felt I wasn't good enough. Ultimately, I withdrew into myself where it is imperfect... and safe.
I get that I'm not the easiest cat to get along with. I'm opinionated with a strong sense of right and wrong. I often don't put things where they belong. I'm messy. I let my past history bubble to the surface from time to time. I need time to myself to figure out who I am and what I want to become. When my opinions aren't taken at equal value, I withdraw. I fight for my rights when I feel those rights are trod upon. I forget shit. Sometimes I am an everlasting prick and stick to my guns beyond the end of the battle. I get louder when I believe I'm not being listened to. I get quiet or simply go away when I feel my partner doesn't believe I am of value.
Equality goes both ways, you know?
I tend to be attracted to “strong, independent” women... which seems to be the direction of the women's movement. The definition of independent is; self-reliant, separate, not reliant on support, capable of operating on one's own, no need for outside influence.
None of those characteristics seem conducive to a partnership. Independence – I think – must be discarded when when one is considering entering a partnership.
It's great that you are a strong, independent woman. More power to you. Just go over there and be independent on your own. As for me, I prefer to be interdependent with my partner – each bringing their strengths to the relationship, each being acknowledged for those strengths and each being allowed to make mistakes. Be independent when you're “out there”. When you're “in here”, depend on and trust me.
“Man up?”
As it stands, I haven't a need to man up. You're doing just fine on your own.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Gorillas That We Missed

What we remember is largely based on perception, perspective and attention.
Have you ever been reading a text while walking down the street when a lamp post jumped out in front of you? Clunk! Yeah... me too. Frigging hurts! (My ego, mostly.) We are far too focused on the little tidbit from a friend to notice we are walking blythly into an immovable object.
Before reading the balance of this post, check out the one and a half minute video in the link. Really try to do the exercise. It will help explain what I'm about to subject you to surrounding selective attention. ~grin~
I'll wait.
~whistling, shuffling papers, checking out websites~ “Oh! I want one of those!”
Ah! You're back.
Firstly, did you see everything while doing the test? Fifty percent of you did not. In fact, if you did happen to notice what crossed the screen, you probably lost count at the same time. It's called “inattentional blindness”. What it means is, you cannot focus on one thing and register everything else around that event even if it seems it should be blatantly obvious. If I had you do another test, some of those who noticed what happened in the last video would miss things in the second video.
None of this limited perception has anything to do with intelligence. It has everything to do with focus.
That which we focus on grows (we see more of it) and that which we don't focus on shrinks (we don't notice it as much). I have talked about a similar vane in the past when I mentioned in a previous post that we see 4 million bits of information per second yet we only register about 2 thousand. Which of those 4 million we choose to focus on is what we will register into memory.
Which pretty much explains why some people see an event one way while others see another.
Are we really listening to what Aunt Polly is saying about her new fuchsia doily collection while having cinnamon tea at the bistro or are we focused on the really cute human who just happened to walk by outside the window. In the future, Aunt Polly will smell cinnamon tea and remember a lovely day at the bistro. You'll smell cinnamon tea and remember the hot commodity that just wandered by. Same event... different memory.
What we see is what we focus on and our unique perspective. We have to consciously change our minds before we can change our minds.
Interestingly, this can happen with long ago stored memories as well. We tend to drop some of the details of an event and skew the memory toward a better outcome for ourselves. It's a form of self preservation. Over time, we don't even realise we have altered the memory. The only thing that can change the way we see it is to have facts thrust upon us.
Have you ever compared the same story with a friend years later only to realise your version isn't the same? “Dude! You weren't even there!”
Experiences from our past can alter our memory of current events as well. This comes back to what we focus on. If I've had a bad experience in the past – perhaps several times – the odds are pretty good if a similar experience comes up, I'm going to look intently for those same hints of negative experience and see only those. We eliminate those things that do not jive with our memory and, in turn, our expectation. Even if the negative experience doesn't happen at all, I will invent it in my mind just to prove that this is the way it is for me!
So... what to do about it?
Recognising this is not the same experience and the person or event does not have the same intent or outcome as those which have come before is a good start. Knowing what we are focusing on and why is also important. I cannot change my mind until I know what it is I wish to change. I cannot integrate new behaviours and beliefs until I know what my current behaviours and beliefs are.
Why do I cut the ends off a ham before cooking it?
If I enter into a situation with a predetermined idea how it will turn out, that's very, very likely the experience I will endure. That's what my memories do. They predetermine how this particular situation is going to shake out because I know I've seen this before. And, if those memories are skewed, then the reality of the situation will likely elude me as well.
I will create my experience to prove that is my experience because that's exactly how I remember it from last time.
Have you ever gone to a party believing you were going to have a bad time... and did... while everyone else was having a hoot?
I once had someone tell me several times she couldn't see how she could last more than ten years in a relationship. Guess how long the relationship lasted. It became ingrained in her perspective and was based on how she integrated her memories into her current situation.
After checking out the video, I mentioned I was surfing through websites and wrote “Oh! I want one of those!” What do you suppose it is I wanted? Does it matter? Each of you will have had a flash of thought regarding what website I was looking at based on what you know about me. Even if our contact has been limited, you will have formed some sort of opinion based on your collected memories of me and situations we have been in together.

Odds are pretty good none of you are right. 
We have to be careful how we judge people when what we are basing our opinions on are likely a limited portion of who that person really is and on our memory of them... or our memory of people from our past who are similar to them.

Monday, 16 February 2015

One Hundred Fifty Then Bust

Technology is a wonderful thing.
After posting yesterday I realized my blog has fingers in more pies than I remembered. It automatically goes out to a few venues. I should probably explain that I am still on hiatus from Facebook (and most social media, for that matter). It might look like I'm there but I'm not.

My sudden appearance is akin to a wispy puff of smoke like the proverbial ghost in the machine.
It would seem that technology is invading our lives everywhere we turn. Even this blog is being written, not by fingers incessantly hunting and pecking on a keyboard, but by voice command. It's rather interesting technology though it often tends to garble what I'm saying. Either that or I am mumbling like a drunken, gutter bound sailor after a despicable night of overindulgence.
Considering my predisposition for slurring when I'm tired, it's more likely the latter.
Here's an example: What I said was, “Hi, I am Ed.” What came out on the screen was, “High, I am like a kick in the head.” The machine is probably right, in the end. The technology, though, as much as it may be an extension of our memory (transitive memory) cannot pick up on nuance. It may be "smart" and it's really not that... smart.
Continuing on the theme from yesterday's post, Dr. Wegner has taken his study much farther than simply the venue of couples. He, and others, have continued research into the realm of optimal community size. It turns out shared memory in a community is optimized at 150. They have called this The Rule of 150 (go figure).
This rule of 150 extends to many groups including learning institutions, church organizations, corporations, neighborhoods, book clubs and house parties. Once a group reaches close to or over 150, some of the members of the group will become unruly.
Consider the example of W. L. Gore and Associates (the creators of Gor-Tex). Each time one of their factory units approaches 150 people, they split the unit in two creating an entire new building for the new unit. The company has been wildly successful for 40 years. W. L. Gore realized early on that any organization greater than a certain number becomes distracted, ineffectual and knowledge becomes shared only by peer groups rather than the entire organization. He just happened to note that 150 seemed to be the magic number, which researchers have since discovered. In his organization everyone knows everyone and knowledge is shared throughout each facility. In this way, Gore has created a large corporation of small, intimate, completely functional groups (tribes).
W. L. Gore and Associates has been rated as one of the top 100 places to work virtually since its inception.
Though it seems technological advances are allowing us to reach farther, in effect we're still bound by the same parameters we have been constrained by for tens of thousands of years (the 150 rule). Even anthropological studies show that smaller groups were more effective and the size of those groups seldom reached more than 150. Is it any wonder large communities begin to have undesirables? After reaching 150 people, individuals begin to feel separated from the community at large. They begin to feel anonymous. They begin to feel disconnected. They begin to feel overburdened and pull away.
They've gone into a form of separation anxiety and act out simply to be noticed. But, what they really need is a break from the group with a smaller, more intimate group. A sabbatical, if you will.
It would seem I am no different.
I tend to get wrapped up far too much in other people's stuff and forget myself. Thus the need for a mental holiday and a hiatus from social media. I, like many others, reach a level of mental overload and need to get away for awhile. It's a psychic break from technology and people to simplify things and bring me back around to being myself. I take these breaks occasionally. Sometimes it's for two days and has been as long as two years.
~shrug~ Who knows when stability returns (if ever).
Here's what I know. Technology, while enhancing our ability to communicate, has not enhanced communication. In the end it may actually be degrading our ability to communicate over wide swaths of society. With the overuse of symbols, acronyms and truncated 140 character thoughts, we may actually be turning ourselves into a society of B.C. comic strip cartoon characters where the small group understands each other and the message is lost on the grand scale. Alley Oop has nothing on us, Dude... right?
In modern society we all belong to a tribe. Our tribe. However our tribe hasn't the same collected members as everyone else's tribe. This is neither good nor bad because shared memory travels much more quickly in interconnected groups. 

But the intimacy and emotional closeness of the information is gone.

Instead, tribes are interconnected with everyone else's tribe. That is, your tribe is not the same as my tribe even though we are each a part of each other's tribe. Not so long ago your tribe was the same tribe as my tribe and everyone we knew were the same people.
Things seemed to function better then.
Perhaps that is the answer. Perhaps we should all split off into tribes and disappear into the wilderness.
Or perhaps we should just get off social media get to know our neighbors.


Saturday, 14 February 2015

Sitting in the Nose Bleeds Watching the Frey

I'm gonna crap all over Cupid... the vacuous, plump little man-bird.

Today is the day some of us get cards with wee hearts and an innocuous Hallmark inscription scrawled inside. After a split-second and a peck on the cheek, we start to think of the eighteen boxes of chocolate we bought for ourselves and have been stuffing into our mouths by the fistful for the past week whilst hidden in the kitchen pantry - chocolate, caramel and rum filling smeared all over our fingers and face - dark chocolate saliva slinking from the corner of our smirking lips – pausing at every odd sound like a wide-eyed, chipmunk-cheeked, milk chocolate convict.

Ah... romance.

Whether yours is broken, throbbing, cracked, bludgeoned or over-the-moon stoned on industrial strength Endorphins, today is heart day. Some of us will be spending time with a new love fawning over each other until it's difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Some of us will be spending our day with someone we have known for years. Still others will be spending time with the love of our life... ourselves.

Today is the day new love blossoms, old love rekindles, someone gets a note from a secret admirer, someone gets turned down, some laugh, some make love, some cry. It's a day that affects virtually everyone.

But, is it the heart after all?

University of Virginia psychologist Daniel Wegner coined the term “transactive memory” in 1985 where he studied couples and memory. He took half of a group of couples and paired them in their actual couple. The other half of the group were split up and paired with a person they did not know. Each pair were given samples of information, then asked questions afterwards. The couples who were with a partner they were not familiar with fared poorly. Those who were with their own familiar partner did much better in remembering details.

What Dr. Wegner found was there is a memory sharing between couples. People who are in a couple haven't a need to remember everything like they might when they are single. They can use their partner's memory. Those who were paired with an unfamiliar person fared less well because they didn't have the memory connection between them.

In a couple, each partner becomes responsible for remembering certain things and becomes a specialist in performing certain tasks. We can debate the rightness or fairness of this splitting all we like. It happens whether we agree with it or not. And, we are all capable of storing required memory and performing required tasks ourselves. It's simply more efficient in a couple.

There's a certain level of euphoria attached to becoming a couple. How much of that euphoria is actually relief? “I finally don't have to remember all that shit by myself anymore!” It's a different spin on the reasons for attraction. Perhaps we're attracted to a certain person because they capable and willing to do the crappy, mundane shit we don't want to do.

Therefore, romance is nothing more than me taking responsibility for shit you don't want to do and vise versa.

Done deal.

This would also explain a lot of other things along the winding road through hills and dales we call love. Consider the following list:

  • I get pissed off at you when I have to be responsible for shit you are supposed to handle, you lazy, scum-sucking slug.
  • I feel lonely because I am exhausted having to deal with all the crap on my own. Where is that one person to pick up all the slack?
  • I miss you when you're away because now I am forced to remember how to do all the shit again.
  • Break-ups hurt so much because you're taking those memories and responsibilities I stored with you away from me! Arse-hole.
  • I feel euphoria when you come home because I get to give responsibility back to you for the shit I can't remember how to deal with - like letting the baby out and changing the dog.
  • I begin to feel disconnected when you no longer hold up your end of the bargain and share your memory with me.

We feel euphoria or pain or loneliness in our chest and attribute the feeling to an expanding or breaking heart. Science now shows the heart is simply reacting to chemical reaction of the brain either by feeling relief that we have found someone to relieve us of remembering everything or by feeling anxiety and loss because we have lost part of our memory stored with a person we trusted to be there.

Indeed, it isn't just a feeling you have lost your mind when you break up. You actually have lost a piece of your mind. And it is painful.

This would explain why we are attracted to the same personality type over and over. It feels like we are getting our memories back. It would also explain why we are reluctant to give up on a relationship we shouldn't be in at all. That person, despite not fitting with us, has our external stored memory.

As for me, the operation was a success. I'm pretty happy remaining disconnected and watching the show from the nose-bleed section of the arena. You all just go ahead and dance the jig. I'm content right where I am with my memories... taking aim at the plump little winged man-bird with an evil grin curling my lips and milk chocolate saliva dripping down my chin.