24 May, 2012

Nothing else for it, I guess. (Part three.)



‘Well Karp I certainly can see why you’re worrying about this so much, it’s a veritable swamp of emotional despond.’

‘A very bleak midwinter indeed Mitch, parenting-wise, and actually hold on to your hat because it gets even worse, I think. Because if you really think about how a particularly well-behaved and emotionally adept child got to be that way (and so far as I can figure most people don’t really think about this, unless you count vague and annoying bromides like You’re mother must be very proud), then you realize all that child's doing is practicing what’s been drilled into them for years, in which case to the extent a person on the receiving end of so much kind and generous attention appears to feel appreciated and respected and cared for – like even including the kid’s parents and extended family members – in fact, those good feelings are just going to be so many people’s projections of their own desires for affection and understanding onto the well-behaved child, which child, unbeknownst to the world (not to mention the child), thinks about other peoples’ feelings in the same way he or she thinks about trying to duck out of the way of a snowball, which is to say not with the kind of significance we usually think could make us feel good and respected and appreciated.’


‘And so of course just think about the repercussions if everyone raised their children to be perfect emotional angels, rigorously trained to be effusive and caring and attentive to the emotional needs of others, or for that matter the extent to which all forms of socialized politeness are really nothing more than husks in the emotional cornfield, insofar as people are just doing the done thing, and so even if someone was expressing genuine recognition and appreciation you could never really know. That is, if you thought about it, which instead people seem almost universally and unthinkingly to treat this sort of behaviour as a mirror in which to reflect their own deeply poignant and still unmet emotional desires.’



‘Everything OK Mitch?’

‘Yup sure thing Karp, just taking a few moments for reflection.’

‘I sure do appreciate Mitch the respect and care you’re communicating through your careful attention to and reflection on what I’m trying my best here to honestly communicate re my child-having anxieties.’

‘Definitely hear you there Karp, and appreciate it, but have to say it’s difficult to simultaneously reflect and receive acknowledgement for same.’

‘The beauty of the emotional irony.’



‘Actually sorry Mitch, I just thought of an example: it’s kind of like giving myself a birthday present but putting my child’s name on the card, which lots of parents seem to do, and then take perverse and so far as I can tell patently unwarranted pleasure in the receiving of, like even going so far as thanking their kid for the gift. Which I suppose you might say is just a way of including the child in the festivities, but clearly there’s some pretty emphatic socialization going on here, and in any event parents really do seem tickled that their young child 'got them a present', or maybe it’s just the thought of their young child getting them a present that tickles them, which if that’s not a blatant exercise in treating your child like an emotional mirror I don’t know what is.’ [FN7]



‘OK Karp, while I appreciate everything you’ve been suggesting here and sharing and exemplifying and doing so if I may say with exquisite care and aplomb, it does seem to me you’re beating-up on a bit of a straw man here.’

‘I appreciate your appreciation Mitch, and I’m sending you a receipt therefore.’

‘Receipt of receipt acknowledged Karp. But now despite all that’s been so eloquently articulated thus far, surely it matters that as part of your child’s emotional education – which I have to say, it’s hard to think of two parents better equipped to deliver that particular lesson plan than you and the Ellester – surely part of the curriculum is going to be a review of the reasons why this way of treating people is better than some other ways.’


‘That is to say, Karp, that clearly you’re going to make it clear to your child just how horrible and demeaning and emotionally disfiguring it can be when someone declines to acknowledge and respect your attention and other more poignant modes of emotional expression, and so give your child a perfect understanding of why your way of being in the world is better than other ways, so that your child can choose your way over those other ways, or perhaps more accurately choose to retain that way of being, which she’s been raised to think is the right one; not to mention after she goes to school for all of half a day and discovers first hand the wrath of the emotionally occluded, which pre-teens and teens especially tend to be, and rabidly so.’

‘And what you’re saying Mitch is that by virtue of this understanding and choice my child will in fact be able to show genuine respect and appreciation for others’ feelings and the sharing of same, rather than a completely illusory or as it were reflexive and so meaningless version of that respect and appreciation?’

‘That’s what I’m saying Karp.’



‘Mitch once again I appreciate and acknowledge your contribution here, and your sharing with me some thoughts that definitely bear the imprimatur of honest reflection and thinking about the subject matter at hand.’

‘My pleasure Karp, although I have to say I’m starting to see a pattern here developing.’

‘That may well be Mitch but just remember, Step Four in our From Fights to Feelings Weekend Intensive Workshop last year, which step was to always remember that Your side does not a conversation make.



‘You’re right Karp, you’re right. I just need to Trust and abide to turn the feelings tide.

‘I’m here to support you Mitch, if you want to take some time out here to clear out some negative energy that’s manifesting as frustration, which frustration is perfectly normal and appropriate and even healthy, so long as we give it the proper space and release.’

‘I appreciate your offer Karp, but I think I’ll be OK. It’s enough just to pause and acknowledge my perfectly natural capacity for generating negative energy, to honour that part of me, which even though productive of negative energy is still beautiful and perfect and elegant, just like the rest of me, and to set those feelings aside for later but not forever and release them safely into my Feelings Journal before going to bed this evening.’

‘That sounds like a good plan to me Mitch, a very good plan indeed.’

‘Thank you Karp, and how about another of your usual?’

‘That’s fine Mitch, thanks very much. But so as I was saying earlier, there’s a fly in the ointment you’re dispensing about my child being presented with the full spectrum of alternatives re ways of treating other people, and then choosing to continue to behave towards those others in the way that the Ellester and I will have suggested and instructed and demonstrated.’

‘Go on Karp, I appreciate the little précis there to catch us back up to speed after my little detour down the unpaved roads of negative energy.’

‘Not at all Mitch, but so the problem is that there is just no way that any child of mine is going to have anything like a real choice between treating people as emotional equals and honouring and respecting those others’ attempts to share feelings and be emotionally open, on the one hand, and treating people in some other less-beautiful way, on the other. I mean, are you kidding me? When I know first hand how terrible and shattering and ablated it feels to have someone’s hiking boot tread embedded in the heart of your deepest and most authentic and fragile desires and self-conceptions? And to be the foot in that boot? And realize it’s your foot and what you’ve stepped in? I mean there’s just no way.’


‘I mean really Mitch what parent do you know would give their young child that kind of choice? What parent knowingly let’s their child disrespect and demean other people, not to mention themselves as parents? [FN8]
Because it’s only real freedom to make these kinds of choices that's going to give a parent and really any other thinking person any confidence in the genuineness of the emotional sentiments expressed by children and, depending on the circumstances, many young adults.’ 

‘It’s probably fair to say that few parents are looking to give their children this sort of freedom Karp.’

‘Right - so in reality, even if my child does venture out into this cruel and inadequately parented world and discovers just how awful and destructive one person can be to another, and how easy it is to be this way, and how most people are this way all the time, especially to the people to whom they are closest, and just take everything for granted, well he or she isn’t really going to have a choice so far as I’m concerned, to be this other way.’ 


‘In other words Karp, if your child treats you or anyone else with respect and care, basically as the child’s emotional and moral equal, and that also happens to be precisely what you’ve taught your child to do and how to be and further intimated and perhaps on some occasions demonstrated through some of the toughest love you could really imagine that other ways of treating people are just Not On, including especially how the child treats you, her parents, then in fact you and everyone else really with whom your child interacts will never be sure what they’re receiving is genuine emotional feeling, or just some significant-looking but ultimately vapid gesture they’ve learned to deploy in circumstances like these.’

‘Mitch I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nobody likes a simulacrum.’



[FN7] When K was very young his parents enacted precisely this drama, including with presents like booze, which no word of a lie K’s mother told him once that’s what she and his father used to do, i.e. give each other booze and put K’s name on the card until he was like six years old, and then whenever K’s parents’ friends came over to watch the game or something K’s parents would always say Who wants some of the booze that Karpy gave us for our birthday? and expect K to clap or smile or something, and all the friends would think that was just great and play along, and it’s just too depressing for K to even think about the level of irony that may or may not have been deployed at the time. 

[FN8] In other words, the choice of being like pre-E K, q.v. in and around note three, supra.