Monday, April 6, 2015
Mary means well, mostly.
Many of the well meaning people I have run into over the years have a few key similarities. Often my experience is so outside of their own they cannot find a way to relate, and so when they offer advice they are reaching for anything that seems remotely applicable. My experience is disheartening and difficult to hear about so sometimes they would prefer not to hear about it at all, and their trite and contrived expressions to me are generally a sign of their shields going up. They completely relate to my experience and want to dive right into being friends, giving advice but it comes out badly because they are only drawing on what few things they know and they apply it like it is truth.
Note: I use the term well meaning person or individual not in an everyday normative sense; I am specifically applying it to those persons or individuals who seem well meaning but fall outside the norm due to lack of being self reflexive.
Recently I had connected with an individual who shared a lot of similarities to my background and experiences. This was great, I really appreciate connecting with people who can understand where I am coming from. I had originally felt like they didn't want any more friends and were to busy but after a recent conversation it seemed we could be friends and would have a lot to share. I shared resources and ideas and they countered with something they had found to be really helpful. I thought about what they suggested and mentioned my hesitation to them about trying it and ultimately decided it was not for me (at least for the moment) but I would keep it in mind and see where I was at down the road. I said no (though I did elaborate to them a bit why). I did this in writing because I often communicate thoughts more clearly using that method. I got a letter back and some of the highlights ( I am paraphrasing) were: they thought I was afraid, and that I was an isolator. They tried to say that this was okay because they had been and isolator too. They shared some of their own very personal experiences to show me that I had nothing to be embarrassed about. They unintentionally devalaued my experiences. My reasons were not reasonable enough, my experiences were not not reasonable enough because "look they had overcome all of those things".
They finished by telling me that they are a blunt personality and that I would see that is just how they are. Forgive me but that is not being blunt, that is having an opinion which you think is right and therefore that you are right about everyone else and their experiences.
I should have mentioned this in my list of key similarities in well meaning people I have run into; one of the reasons those in my life have applied their opinion like it is truth is because they feel as a Christian they are wiser and do know better. They often seem to feel like they can speak to others from a place of authority or prophecy, that they can convey Gods wisdom on another persons life and decisions. When engaging with this particular well meaning person I really felt that their faith was certainly involved in the equation, from the tool/resource they suggested, to their sense of authority in suggesting it (it being the truth, and their being an elder in age).
This person did not hear me, listen to me or respect my 'No!' or my personal experiences I was bringing to the table. They didn't stop to think about how I might feel and how that might be relevant. It's like they didn't really see me at all. They wanted to help, but whom were they trying to help me or them? I really think themselves through re-affirming what they felt they knew by telling it to me. When they didn't acknowledge what I was saying, but invalidated it they made it so I was not a part of the conversation. And when you have a conversation where you are talking at someone but not allowing them to participate you are projecting. This is really about the well meaning persons own fears and insecurities and that they are trying to work them out by talking "at you". Not only that their choice to not really hear you could stem from the fact that if you don't agree, you are not in alignment with them and they begin to question themselves, and this can cause them to be fearful and create their need to feel affirmed (talking at you and affirming their own opinions and values).
Yes they had good intentions at the start but a well meaning person (as I am defining them here) is not developed in themselves enough to not project those good intentions with wisdom and a sense of contentedness to others. This is not always a character failing, sometimes its because the well meaning person has found themselves in difficult life circumstances, and their own need for affirmation is greater than their sense of being grounded and thoughtful. When it is a character failing it can be attached to narcissistic, selfish (normal not narc), disconnected personalities. When I think of Mary Crawford from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park; I think of someone not fully developed and grounded in themselves. She is not a one dimensional character because that sense of lack, the circumstances and experiences that created it creates complexity and dimension. Her shortcomings do not simply make her bad, but perhaps her lack of knowing better or choosing not to do better makes her sad.
I always felt it was sad that she had these moments were she could have chosen a different path but choose to stay with what she knew, or felt lacking in the necessary tools and understanding. Perhaps like many well meaning people she wants to do good but doesn't know how. Therefore she does not think evil but ends up speaking it, as it is the only script she learned and does not know how to learn a new one. She also does not know how to engage with others in a way that is not self motivating. A sign of her disconnectedness at the core. Just like some well meaning individuals are not able to engage without projecting or wanting you to be what they envision. Edmund's faults aside for a moment Mary's attentions to him were disconnected, a game, and she tried to project and push him to fit what she envisions. And she does not see anything wrong with this vision because she is not self reflexive (many well meaning individuals are not). In fact she is so confident in her opinions that she completely assumes to know the feelings of the family and then dictate to them what they should do with Crawford and Maria's affair because she is worldly and experienced therefore right.
This assumption is what differentiates the type of well meaning person (and Mary) I am describing and the more normal day to day situations in which people engage with one another. I have often tried to fix things for others out of good intentions and found it to not be helpful. But unlike Mary Crawford I don't operate from this assumptive mode of thinking as a constant, I am also self reflexive and observant when engaging with others. I might even ask if what I said was unhelpful, something Mary would not necessarily think to do. If you worry that something you said was not helpful you are self reflexive. I have mentioned in the previous post how sometimes we are telling our own stories when giving someone advice, and if we are truly engaged with the other person we will usually end up seeing that is what we have done and then re-frame our approach, ask questions and work to engage better.
I wrote them another letter in response in addition to communicating by text message. I indicated I saw the good intentions and appreciated that they wanted to share with me. I was attempting to be graceful when texting because blowing up would not have been helpful, but I wish that I had communicated that their words were hurtful when I sent my last response letter. If I have the opportunity to connect with them again at some point I can relay how that made me feel. They never responded to my last letter or said anything about it when I saw them afterwards.
I get the feeling that I am not what they hoped or envisioned I would be.