Thursday, January 25, 2007

late night rambling

I've been thinking...

Can you imagine ever telling a child that he's an idiot?
That he always messes up?
That he can't do anything right?
That he's slow and always in the wrong place at the wrong time?
That he’s disgusting and repulsive and that no one likes him?
That you hate him?

Most of us would never speak to a child that way and we'd be mortified to hear anyone else treat a child that way. We all know that what you tell a child, is what he will end up believing. You tell him he’s incompetent, and he will turn out to be incompetent. You tell him he's brilliant and beautiful and he will be brilliant and beautiful. A huge part of who we are is created from the feedback and reactions we get from those around us.. Especially those closest to us.

So, what amazes me is how easily we speak to ourselves that way. Everyone will tell you that there is a part of them, inside of them, that has never grown up, that is the exact same fragile and lonely child. A part of them that still wants to be a child and live life fearlessly, that is eager to take chances and push their limits. A vulnerable child that gets easily hurt, insulted, humiliated. The truth is when we speak to ourselves that way, it’s to that child that we are speaking to – who else would take that kind of abuse? That child inside of us that isn’t big enough to protect itself, it's insecure and easily bullied, and unfortunately believes the criticism.

The looking-glass self is a concept in psychology which refers to the way the reactions and perceived judgments of others towards us provide us with feedback about ourselves and through which we develop our sense of self. Our self-image is derived from the interaction between how we see ourselves and how others see us. We incorporate the views of others into our own self image and then act accordingly.

What I wonder though is how much of that do we do with ourselves. We have inside of us a diversity of characters, a rebellious teen, a spoiled child, an insecure lover, a demanding parent.. We analyze our behavior and we wonder how we ever stooped so low, or reached so high, how did we get so aggressive or how did we manage to be so sweet and tender. How does one person manage all those personas? The really incredible aspect of all this is that these different personalities and characters inside of us interact. One will give support to the other, while another brings the other down. One will teach and encourage, while one will confuse and destroy. The real challenge is knowing who to listen to.

Although I’m the first one who will admit to being cruel and insensitive to that weak, insecure inner child of mine, I also realize how detrimental it is to my personal growth and to achieving a satisfactory level of inner peace and contentment. When I visualize myself as an adult speaking to my inner child, I shudder at what I hear. I don’t deserve that kind of harshness, and that fragile inner self of mine definitely cannot handle it.

On the other hand, it amazes me to hear all the nice things people have to say about me, all the flattering feedback I receive. I don’t understand how they can have such a diametrically opposed perception of me than I have of myself. It seems that we choose to hear the feedback we want to hear. It’s much easier to hear negative feedback, to feed our insecurities and to confirm our weaknesses. In a way it gives us the freedom to be lazy, to be negative and cynical. Who wants to try and reach their potential when they can just give up before they even start? When I’m down on myself, I give up, I don’t even bother trying, I let myself wallow in self pity, self hate, self destruction. If I take into consideration the positive feedback I get from others, I feel obligated to try and fulfill their perception of me and its so much harder than just giving up and feeling helpless.

It's amazing how complex we are. We can believe one thing, be aware of why we believe it, understand what others believe, be aware of its effect on us, make a conscious decision to believe another thing and then unconsciously behave according to a different belief. We are so multifaceted and yet simplify our perception of ourselves to fit in with who we want to be.

I don’t know... the whole thing confuses me, amazes me, and overwhelms me..
I've been told I'm way too self absorbed and self-analytical..
hmm what do they know?!

"Society is an interweaving and interworking of mental selves.
I imagine your mind,
and especially what your mind thinks about my mind,
and what your mind thinks about what my mind thinks about your mind.
I dress my mind before yours
and expect that you will dress yours before mine.
Whoever cannot or will not perform these feats is not properly in the game."
(Cooley, Life and the student)


At Thursday, January 25, 2007 11:01:00 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

No one (s)would talk to a child like that.
And it's only right to treat yourselves with the same diplomacy and kindness you think every one else deserves.
The thing is that we KNOW we know everything about ourselves, which others don't.
(they didn’t see I answered that beggar rudely, they only see me in Shul when I’m all smiles etc..)
To this we attribute the fact that they praise us.
Had they KNOWN all we know they would not...
A reasoning that is wrong! But possibly true nonetheless.

At Thursday, January 25, 2007 4:07:00 PM, Blogger ~ Sarah ~ said...

very complex us humans.

At Thursday, January 25, 2007 5:55:00 PM, Anonymous sbt said...

"I've been told I'm way to self absorbed and self analytical"

self analyzing has nothing to do with being self absorbed. To analize ones self is the natural behaviour that enables us to know ourselves in order to make our soroundings a better place.
anyways if you're an analytical person, naturaly the object of your analization will primarily be yourself because that is an area that nobody but you can conquer in the fullest no matter how much they try, or how close they are to you.
see, look at this post there's nobody out there in the world that will truely, fully understand what you are trying to convey. your own mind will always be yours to discover.

(see how lame comments are?)

At Thursday, January 25, 2007 7:27:00 PM, Blogger knaidel maidel said...

Brilliant post (as usual)

Very often we analytical types think it is born of self-absorption. Perhaps this is true. However, I think that it's called for if we're using it to better ourselves and understand how to relate to the world. As long as you keep thinking of yourself in context, with a higher goal in mind...

At Friday, January 26, 2007 9:07:00 AM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Beautiful post. It is very important to speak to ourselves and think of ourselves with the right respect. Truthfully if we don't do this then we might end up speaking to our kids the wrong way and give them a warped view of life. They will feel and see the way we treat ourselves.

At Sunday, January 28, 2007 9:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's really very simple. You are the only one who knows what's going on inside your head, and therefore you view all your actions and behaviors in a much more complex light than do outsiders who are not privvy to the "behind the scenes" arena. So when you do a good deed, the outsider only sees kindness. But you might see self-gratification, selfishness, etc...

At Sunday, January 28, 2007 1:06:00 PM, Blogger Sara with NO H said...

I really loved this post, mooks. As many times as I've beaten myself up for things that I could laugh off if it was someone else. If we could all follow the advice that we give others, this world would probably be a much stronger place.

At Sunday, January 28, 2007 1:41:00 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

wow...great thought...
could u imagine if they start arresting people for self child abuse..?
I always thought u know how much u can handle..
ur saying that theres an inner being that we abuse more than he/she can handle..?

At Sunday, January 28, 2007 3:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a terrific post.

But, I got one simple explanation to all your confusing questions


we all go through this confusions, yet some have the talent to really dig into it and explain how confused they are.....

You are right on the button, we need to talk to our inner child, the little kid hiding in every one of us, just the same way we talk to others....

Boosting and expecting always brings out better results then knocking and mocking

it is actually the only way one can survive!!!

but who ever said it was easy...

At Monday, January 29, 2007 7:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

its a very interesting concept thinking about how we treat the child inside of us.

i would like to take this one step further and ask how do we treat the child in the people around us?? our spouse, our parents they all have a child inside them too.

if and when we are critical of them beyond the point of reason, or without the counter balance of compliments - as a "child" they start believing it, buying into it, and acting accordingly and most importantly they start abusing the child in them too!
people, think about it before ur critical next time to that "child" in u or around u start and end with a compliment - the message gets heard much better!

At Tuesday, January 30, 2007 11:36:00 AM, Blogger yingerman said...

You're very smart, didja know that?
Anyway maybe we do it to ourselves cause we really know ourselves.
Like I'm in a nasty mood and I really wanna give that cat a deep satisfying kick it should go flying....but then our menchlichkeit asserts itself saying, hey the cat doesnt deserve to be hurt and you're scum for even contiplating such evil.

So in public you behave like a mench a sweet innocent good little girl, but inside, inside you know that you still need to work on those midos.
Which as you say are feelings that you never outgrew from your days as a child, those are middos that your adult being never worked out. so one cursing themselves is really cursing the mature-less-ness that hasnt yet arrived.
Which is exactly what you said ;)

At Wednesday, January 31, 2007 11:47:00 AM, Blogger The Dreamer said...

Hey, I just discussed this with my students!

Beatifully put.
You really have a way with words.

At Wednesday, January 31, 2007 8:32:00 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

what is your e-mail address? i didn't see it on your profile; maybe i missed it...

At Friday, February 02, 2007 2:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you know wat i think is most obsurd of all, is fifteen people will say nice things about you and you wont beleive it, or wont care, and then that one negative remark snuck into a sentence will torment you and upset you.. it doesnt make sense

At Friday, February 02, 2007 8:18:00 AM, Blogger rebeccabeth said...

Great post and great blog! Really amazing..
I often think about the concept of Inner Child, and the way we see/ treat ourselves. It impacts tremendously on our daily lives, our self-image and especially on our relationships.
I myself have been called over-analytical one time too many- But really I think it's the avodah of every person to be in touch with, and sort out their inner voices.

At Friday, February 02, 2007 9:38:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

first of all, plenty of people talk to children like that, unfortunate as that is – but you’re right if you realize that this isn’t the way to speak to someone else, how dare you speak to yourself that way.. I think about that a lot..
Why do you say its wrong but true nonetheless? I think it seems true, but its wrong because we think we take into consideration all the factors, but we don’t – sure they don’t know how badly we acted in private, but we are not always aware of how much good we do..
I just keep going in circles with this thing..

~ Sarah ~ ..
I wouldn’t trade it for being dull as a plant.. ever :)

so glad you commented :) and sure most comments are lame – mine included.. but it’s the needle in the haystack that makes the search worth it. Think about all the senstory stimuli that continually accosts us .. yet in there we find what we need.. im willing to get dozens of pointless comments, have dozens of pointless discussions.. if at some point ill hear what I need to hear to make sense of things!

knaidel maidel..
I agree, I also think that not everyone is created that way and I can understand why it annoys them, but its annoying that it annoys them :)
Youre right though, id rather be considered ‘self absorbed’ in this way than in the other ways ive seen others be self absorbed!

socialworker/frustrated mom..
100% kids are such copycats, they see and learn from the most subtle behaviours.

it's All Good Now..
I’m glad you find it very simple :) but I hear what you’re saying.. then again we are social animals and so muchof what we do/think is based on our surroundings.. hard to know who you really are when everyone has an input into it!

Sara with NO H said...
Youre so right, so many times poele do things that I would be mortified to do, and I tell them not to worry and not to beat themselves up – and I really mean it. Its amazing how much harsher we can be with ourselves when we shouldn’t be, and how easily we can excuse the excusable when we shouldn’t..

How do you come up with these things? :) self child abuse..heh

and yes, I think we do abuse ourselves more than we can handle, we disconnect from ourselves and lose track of how much we are hurting ourselves until its too late and the damage is done.

nuch a chosid ..
I’m human!??! This is my blog, how dare you come here and call me names!? :)

Such a great point. Sometimes all we see is an adult in front of us, they seem strong and like thjey can handle plenty, but how much of our abuse goes straight to that weak child in them.. thanks for that insight!

but what about the fact that you DIDN’T kick the cat? Why aren’t you rewarding yourself for that, for overcoming that nasty desire. Is it always only because poele are watching? What if you were alone in the room, then would you kick it? Youre right that only we can see whats in our mind, but only we can know how hard we struggle to deal with that, why don’t we ever reward ourselves for that?

the Dreamer..
great stuff to discuss with students.. I wonder how much they can understand and internalize and learn from these ideas.. do you find them to be receptive?

anonym00kie at yahoo dot com

you sound like you know me, and you sound like you’re upset with me.. are you speaking in general or to me personal? You’re right tho, 15 compliments will get destroyed by one insult. Why is that? I don’t know.. you can lovingly set a beautiful table with the best china and crystal, but one false move and all of it comes crashing down if you pull the table cloth with you when you walk away.
Youre right that it shouldn’t be that way.. but realisticially.. it often is.

rebeccabeth said...
thanks :)
and I agree I don’t know where I’d be Judaism-wise if I wasn’t “overly analytical” but then again I think that’s MY avodah.. other people have other challenges they face..

At Friday, February 02, 2007 11:05:00 AM, Blogger The Dreamer said...

I find them to be extremely receptive.

My students understand much more than many give them credit for. 'Tis a shame. If only their other teachers would instigate discussions towards relevant topics, they may discover the wonderful human beings they are.

And it's not only for my students. Children and teens undertstand and notice a great deal, and we would do well to explain and discuss with them a variety of issues, if only to see things more clearly ourselves.

At Monday, February 12, 2007 4:43:00 PM, Blogger chana said...

i love this post.
thanks for the reminder- it's important.
when we are more compassionate to ourselves (our inner child), we are able to be more compassionate to others.
beautiful idea and great writing!


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