Further

I am really exhausted today–lack of sleep, a crisis in the middle of the night coming at the end of an already difficult day. I was thinking basically how unpleasant it feels to know I should be taking steps, deciding things, weighing pros and cons–anything to give a sense of moving forward–when I just don’t feel able to think of anything.

Then I began to realize how much there had been in the night to take in, how many surprising interactions with people, how much readjusting in my mind that and my friend’s attitude has required.

Some people don’t see themselves as having internal lives. They act without much awareness of how being in themselves actually is. And they don’t think of other people as having internal lives either.

I’ll give you an example: I was reflecting about C to IT Ma’am that the students got their results and actually she may be reacting to that. I said, “She might be afraid I will be disappointed in her marks.” Or something like that.

She said, “Let’s wait and see.”

Reasonable enough. But I know she said that not trying to understand C’s state of mind but assuming, instead, if C got low marks, I would be disappointed and even angry. She was suggesting to me: Don’t get angry about her marks quite yet, as if I don’t have choices about how to respond to marks or that we might have inner lives the other might not know about. Rather than grasping the separateness of our inner experiences, she assumed there could be only one.

That kind of mindset explained a lot about the rest of our chat, which was terribly dysregulating overall: she assumes C is just kind of a playgirl. (I know this from other talks with her when she was in Country X, teaching at the same school with me.) She does not realize C does not share the extent of her feelings of woundedness about relationships or her difficulty with relationships with IT Ma’am as she does with me, because it doesn’t feel safe to be vulnerable in that way. She doesn’t realize there might be any gap between her perception of C and C’s felt inner life.

IT Ma’am is only worried C will become pregnant, so she suggested a talk about condoms. This after I said, “I don’t think this boy is good.”

Some people slot things into existing pigeon holes of information very quickly. I think perhaps because there aren’t that many, only their own.

I think people don’t have a sense of their own inner lives as being their own when they lack this sense of an “other” who might have a different view. Country Xers as a society tend towards intolerance of individual differences or dissent, but not everyone is quite that extreme.

My friend, in deciding whether it might be okay to ask me to leave, went through her own chats, looking for what she might have told me–thinking, as long as she had said this might happen, I wouldn’t have a response to it. She was afraid of my response–broaching the topic first over Facebook chat from another room in the same house–but felt if she had her bases covered I couldn’t.

It’s hard for her to be with the idea that I still have an inner life she has no control over. I haven’t aired my feelings about it or said anything. I don’t think I am making any kind of dramatic attempt to be seen, but I still have one. I am working very hard at staying grounded within myself, so that I can continue to have one.

I had not realized this about some people. I know that’s stupid, but I hadn’t.

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3 thoughts on “Further

  1. ALEXANDRA ROTH August 5, 2017 / 8:41 pm

    I would say that most people are about as aware of others’ internal lives as they are of their own, but this isn’t 100% always the case. Or at least, it seems that if you don’t tune in to what’s happening inside yourself, you tend to ignore that in other people as well.

    In considering your example of IT M’am, it occurs to me that these kind of responses are also sometimes gatekeepers; they serve to disinvite further revelations. It’s not so much that the person is unaware of your inner life, as they are wanting to be allowed to ignore it politely. That’s what these bland, anodyne responses like “Could be,” or “You never know” seem to me – a turning down of the offer or the opportunity to know more. I think people are constantly signaling each other in subtle ways, Come closer, or Not so close, or Let’s drop it now. The way babies do, you know, look into your eyes until they feel over stimulated and then they look away. Adults do this too.

  2. Ashana M August 6, 2017 / 4:51 pm

    You are right, but it just did flash through my mind she meant, “Don’t get angry just yet.” Because of the language conversations tend to be stilted. Country Xers do know one way to say something and that’s all. Stock phrases get a lot of mileage.

    • Ashana M August 6, 2017 / 4:51 pm

      Language barrier I meant.

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