Indifference, Insecurity, and Assumption Transference
I am the biggest fan of The Weekly Dream on the planet. The most recent Dream on General Indifference has sparked some very interesting discussion on and off of the site. Rather than post an obnoxiously long comment, I thought I respond with a post that sums up my feelings on this topic. After all, that is my right as this site’s owner :-).
Attention is important. What is interesting to me, how people respond to it. Some people respond differently to the same levels of attention. That is not problematic, except in cases where we expect other people to respond in the same way(s) we do. A very basic yet illustrative example here is eye contact (similar to what Steve alluded to in the Dream). Some, when having another make intense eye contact with them, become nervous, begin fidgeting, and break the contact at the first opportunity. Others are compelled to return the stare, perhaps more intensely than the one they received. Is either response right or wrong? I don’t think so. Why is the same not true in relationships?
For me, the amount of time I spend on something/someone does not many times translate to my level of love for them. If that was the case, I would never leave my grandparents house. Yet we expect people to do things because “they should love us enough” to do it? I don’t know if that always works.
“If you loved me more, you’d…”
I’m not so sure that I could make the above statement. It is based upon a problem that all-too-often rears its vicious face in relationships: assumption transference. This can be defined as having your own notions on something, and then trying to force another individual or group to live within your notion. What’s worse is that often times when I’ve talked to people about this topic, they often reveal that the reason they said it was because they were unhappy with their own emotions. What that means to me is that they were trying to have someone else do something that they themselves did not even feel good doing! The example here is something like, “I love you so much that I didn’t eat all day. If you loved me more, or as much, you’d do the same.” You can replace “didn’t eat all day” with just about anything: “didn’t go to class,” “didn’t take that job,” “didn’t go see my family,” etc. to see my point. My questions is, why would we want to do that to our loved ones?
We need to have better ways of communicating our feelings. Perhaps we instead should be focusing on addressing the reasons we feel negatively about our emotions in the first place. In the above example, maybe the parties can talk about why they feel bad about the things they do because they “love each other so much.” This will likely be a very revealing conversation, so it will only be successful if it is honest and does not contain accusations. If you’re lying to the person, and cool with that, y’all shouldn’t be together in the first place (and probably won’t be together much longer). If you start accusing people of things, you’ll be in trouble because the accusee will be spending their energy defending him or herself instead of addressing the negative feelings that were the motivation for the conversation.
Now to the “Cater to you” sidebar. Let me submit a question and a theory to those who find the lyrics troublesome: do you view your current/previous relationship [or relationships in general] as a power struggle? As some abstract (or concrete) competition or back-and-forth game of 1-up? If yes, then I think I can understand why you would take issue with the ideas of this concept. However, not viewing these intimate interactions as struggles for power or dominance can unlock the door to mutual catering in a way that is fulfilling to all parties involved.
Why are relationships seen as power struggles so much? My theory is that this perspective is founded upon personal insecurity. If I feel weak and I am uncomfortable with my feeling(s) of weakness, then I will be on the defensive to try to stop anyone from exerting “power” over me. Likewise, if I feel strong, I may seek out opportunities to demonstrate my “strength” over others. The commonality between these two extremes is that they are founded upon insecurity. To feel one or the other is not insecure in and of itself. To feel one or the other and to project those feelings upon other people to “protect” or “exert” yourself is demonstration of insecurity.
Now a concrete example. Someone who feels weak will have a problem doing something for another person because they feel that it makes them look/seem weak. Also, they may be hesitant to do these things because they fear being exploited as a result of that “weakness.” This adds another element, also introduced by insecurity, which is distrust. It says, “I know that if I was in your position and you were dealing with a ‘weakling’ like me, then I’d exploit you.” This is what I mean by projecting your insecurities onto others. This sort of assumption transference leads to lots of misunderstanding and miscommunication and unhappiness. The assumptions, especially when they are wrong, will then lead to your counterpart becoming defensive, and then everybody loses, including the ‘weakling.’
How do we address this? By changing how we view our interactions. If you see your relationship as a chance to exert power over another person, that perspective may need to be re-evaluated. Similarly, if you see your relationship as a place in which you feel weak, perhaps that relationship should be re-evaluated and you should focus more on what is the basis for your feelings of weakness. My pastor has been talking about family and marriage over the past two months, and he can be paraphrased as saying, “real, functional relationships cannot be power struggles because in these cases two people become one and you cannot have a power struggle with yourself.” This is simplified, but it is true nonetheless. Does your right eye engage in a power struggle with your left eye over which will dominate your vision? They work together without struggling. The same can be true for people and their interactions.
We need to get to a point where we can face our personal insecurities and not pass them onto others. This would have implications not only in personal relationships, but in group social and even political interactions (you know I had to tie this back in to social and political issues somehow :-)).
Just my thoughts. I’ll let Steve stick to writing the Dreams from now on.