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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tacit Agreements & How to Change Them

We love to work, play and live with people who "read our minds" successfully. Like playing music together, tacit agreements coming from a shared subculture can sometimes give a very pleasurable conviction of bonding. It's is pleasurable how easy it can be to “read” each other's intentions and needs in the context of shared values and circumstances. However, tacit agreements can be tricky to manage if they need to change.

Many of these circumstantial "agreements" and tacit understandings are made below the awareness level of their long-term effects that can cause unintended conflict somewhere down the road. This can happen for many reasons.
  • The people involved may be playing a role that may or may not fit who they really are – or who they are becoming or have become.
  • Perhaps an extraordinary circumstance goes on and on that later comes to emphasize differences between the two people's values or situations when previously they felt similar.
  • Perhaps a person wants to be the best of who they can be, so their intent is to step into their dreams of who they want to be - no matter that they aren't quite there yet...and the other person decides they're a "lying poser" because they're in the position of cleaning up after the mess left behind.
  • Perhaps someone is going through a phase in their life where situations are changing; later they settle into what they will become that could be much different than how they were - when they were poised on the edge of the act of changing.

It's really handy if another new tacit agreement can be allowed to evolve so it can take the place of an outdated one. This benefits from taking some thought to what has worked splendidly in the past. Many of us have trouble observing and spelling out what we have done as naturally as breathing; but this is quite valuable to groom as a skill.

For instance, a couple who worked and lived together found themselves always arguing about differences they once regarded as advantages. They decided on a three-point approach to their problem; every time conflict rose up, to apologize and note down what they wanted to communicate immediately and save it to be delivered all at once at a regularly agreed time. They decided when the concerns and complaints, although some of them needed to be communicated, were too volatile to be delivered in person, they would write them down. They also decided to use classic co-counseling techniques. Then, they brainstormed to figure out what was a guaranteed fun time they could share together regularly as a break in their work day. Since they had been together long enough so they couldn't go back to "dating" per se, they decided to learn something new that they could do together. This gave chances for new experiences to happen that emphacized harmonious, constructive experiences that re-newed the significant connections of the constructive difference of the two people that had been previously making them fall apart.

How people feel about changing things usually need to be factored in.
As many people know, it's sometimes easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission - especially when the answer will always be "no" or "I'm scared." The challenge in tacit agreements is to find out how much it matters to the people involved if the agreements are done differently or are not done.

Being able to do this artfully will avoid the ritualistic ways of fulfilling the expectations of a relationship that most people must fall back on. Relationships can go sour when a person must play a role instead of being themselves because, so many roles are like jobs that can be done by others. Better for the people involved to have a means for ongoing delightful surprises and potentials that change with the times.

Sometimes the whole idea will make you feel like a turkey.

When starting a relationship and with your every action concerning the other person, you are evolving a tacit agreement of how people are supposed to treat each other. Problems come when you tacitly agree to match slightly different cultural standards, causing what could become endless confusion where these differences overlap. In that situation, tacit agreements may require you to do more than you really want to continue doing, or to accept or assign a meaning that you don't want your actions to have. This is why it's handy to clarify tacit agreements.

There are a number of ways to clear up tacit agreements gone bad.

One way is to conduct a situational 'test' that involves what the person might do if you do this or that to see what they do. Now, many of us aren't very practiced at designing these tests or interpreting them. So the longer you can go on without decided what the results are, the better, because then it allows for more experiments to be done before the conclusion is delivered.

The next step is to conduct these "tests" and indicate clearly in a positive way what you'd like the result to be or why you're wondering why they always do the same thing. This is a way to see if the person is willing to go for what you propose. You can tell them what it means to you and if they are paying attention, this may help the two of you get on the same page. A good question is how can each person have free rein to invent ways to address each other's concerns, without having to read minds?

At some point with relationships where tacit agreements are being established, you'll need or want to find out how much what you are doing matters to the other person in proportion to how much trouble it is for you. If either person can't make changes for implied or expressed agreements with their partner, it’s not good for either of them or the longevity of the relationship. Either way tacit agreements can lead to big disappointments when people figure out that the deal they thought they were making or definitions of bonding in friendship or love was quite different for their partner than they expected.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Accident Of Birth

Beautiful women must make peace with how others react to them at some point in their lives. Problems coming from other women must be dealt with as well. Lots of people wouldn't have much sympathy for these sorts of problems; like having to deal with being rich. But they are very real.

I speak from experience. Once I was young and stunningly beautiful. I did not need to hear about how beautiful, how skinny, how I looked like a model, how my nose was perfect, my lips were so luscious, hair so easy to manage, how I should just wave my ass to get guys to do things for me, anything I wanted.

Heard it every day of my life from someone, if not in words, in the looks they gave me. Wildly resented being born by an accident of birth and defined as sexually beautiful by my culture. Then the odd looks when I commented that it was very strange to be beautiful and to always wonder if someone was doing something for me or with me merely because they liked looking at me. It was sort of like being rich and wondering if your friends liked you because of what you had or because of what you could give them at some point in the future.

My response when I would get these admiring and sometimes cutting, envious comments from other women was to use humor. I would declare some platitude about the nature of comparison of bodily parts and it's wiser to compare yourself to yourself... in a suitably stupid and lousy Indian accent. I learned to trot this one out by preparing it ahead of time. To finish off the humorous effect, I tell them, Oooops, again I must have been spontaneously channeling Baba Hagen Daas. They will laugh and that will be that.

Now I'm not-so-happily fat while being treated for a hereditary hyperthyroid problem that has swung my weight to the other extreme. It's helping me to remember my reply to other women about how did I stay so skinny: "Probably something WAS wrong with me" - and it turned out to be true! Funny, huh? Not a bad idea to watch how you reply or react in this situation because by making the comment I made, perhaps it was "installing" some program with the reaction. Sometimes I wonder if this was true for me...but that's pretty obviously superstition. I was probably just stating facts.

To make peace with being beautiful by confronting the whole idea dead on, my first idea was to so what people told me I was: become a model. This did not work. Turns out I hated dealing with the sort of people who really were only concerned with how I looked and had no idea that who I was inside. They didn't get how the inside me was connected to what they saw on the outside. With a natural charisma that I had no idea how to turn on or off, when I walked into a room, everyone turned to look at me - and I did not know what to do with the attention. Hated the idea that beautiful women were trained to manipulate to get what they needed. Couldn't get rid of the attention I got, no matter how hard I tried to hide myself. I dressed in the most trashy, bulky, loose clothing I could find. It was an era of my life I would never wish on anyone.

A number of coincidental things happened to me in that era. I read Laura Huxley's "You Are Not The Target." It stunned me. At that point in time I was also learning Alexander Technique by attending daily teacher-training classes. As I learned to see postural expressions of character in other people, I realized that others could see my own postural attitudes and how they expressed who I was on the inside as well. Realized that people were probably responding to my own body language that expressed my internal character on some level - as well as the fact that I was a young, beautiful woman. Even if these guys were not conscious how they could discern this information, they could respond to it anyway. I had to give them credit for that, whether they knew what they were responding to or not.

Suddenly, getting this attention became my fault, instead of being an accident of birth. Learning that piece of the puzzle suddenly made my own attractiveness to be a little bit of my fault rather than just an accident of birth. Voila! A turnaround. I was so relieved.

Upon examination, I realized that men seemed to be handing women the power to make or break getting attention. In the past, I didn't want that power. Now that I knew what was going on, I could play with the energy handed to me when my natural charisma was turned on. In the past I was desperately trying to hide my own beauty and the power and interest it generated. I realized that I was making myself responsible for their story. Once I realized men were handing me power and then getting mad at me for having it, I could let that go. I could hand back the energy. It was OK that my interest in them was going to be construed by them to be a sexual interest - that was their business. All I had to do was to make it clear that wasn't what was happening for me on my end and move on. It had been essentially a virtual question posed by many men that I was refusing to answer. Now I could answer it.

Another interesting piece of the puzzle for me was a book about the differences in the way that men and women use language to establish rapport or trade information. She's written quite a few - the author is Deborah Tannen. Any one of them will do, but the one called "Talking 9 to 5, Power and control in the Workplace" is the one I'm thinking about that would be relevant to your situation.

In my life, I had hung out with men mostly in your life and probably adopted their speaking style to a great extent. Because of the company I kept I misunderstood what women are doing and why they are doing it. Women are so often looking to do the "trouble-telling" approach in order to establish rapport as a ritual. They are expecting another woman to say, "Hey, I've got other problems as serious as your weight stuff, check this out." Perhaps they are curious what you will do since you do not have their same complaints or objectives that are so obvious with them...

Anyway, interesting topic. Although many people feel that the question of women's liberation is a "been there, done that" subject, it's still very operative in our culture. Currently the topic has receded into the background - which makes it even more important to remember its cultural influence and power.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Time Flies & Slows

This year is the year of the boar, (if I've gotten it right.) Got to participate in pageantry by holding up a forty foot Chinese dragon. It was quite a challenge physically because I was near the front, untangling bamboo spines and hoops, but was quite a fun time.

I was born in the year of the water snake in the Chinese astrology, in the hour of the dog - which makes me an awfully sociable snake lady. Do you know your Chinese astrological sign?

Was thinking the other day how time seems to speed up and then slow down, back and forth during the course of my life. What reason it does it do that? What do you think about this?

Perhaps, the more events being noticed means more of time slowing down. When nothing in particular stands out, the faster time speeds up...

There's a species of tick that sits around on a branch for up to nearly 17 years in a state of semi-hibernation. ...Until a nice warm body happens to come within jumping reach and it seizes opportunity. In only a few days, it feeds on blood, makes babies and dies. Can you imagine what its perception of time would be?

How does time work for you?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Make Time: Sleep Less

Sleep less and you'll have the time to be creative, make more money at a second job or whatever you want to do. But don't just deprive yourself of sleep - get smarter about it.

When I was going to Alexander Technique teacher training school and had to pay for it myself AND live an hour commute away, I came up with the brilliant idea of a split sleeping schedule. Went from nine hours a night sleep to a daily total of five hours with no ill effects. After around three weeks to get used to the schedule, it worked beautifully. I had no trouble keeping it up for over a year - so my experiment stood the test of time! Now whenever I want to stay up late for music or dancing, I can switch into that schedule without having to "get used to it."

I've become a "happy napper"! To my mind, the ability to nap is one of life's secrets.

The best schedule was a split sleeping time. Heard this hint from learning about a study with college students where the minimized sleeping schedule of 12 hours apart was the most common cycle tolerated by the most people. Decided to be sleeping 12 hours apart. For most people, how long to sleep two hours apart would be determined by the timing of their own sleep cycle. After experimenting with how awake I felt after sleeping certain amounts of time, I observed that the best sleep cycle for me turned out to be 1 1/2 hour plus a little time to get deep into falling asleep. So two hours was a good minimum cycle for me that gave me much more sustaining energy than a random "nap."

Rather deliberately because it worked into my schedule, I chose the actual times from 4am-7:30 twelve hours apart, which gave me two cycles each. It turned out that I could get by with the afternoon cycle being only two hours; from 4pm-6pm. It worked elegantly in practice. I would go to sleep at the end of the day and wake up, having all night to be awake...then go to sleep at the end of the night and be awake to have all day.

The only thing I missed is that I never got to see the sunset during the winter.

The trick to start the routine is to pick a time when you want to take a nap anyway. Turn off the phone, lock the door, make the room dark if possible - and it also helps to go through your nightly "routine of going to bed" rather than just treating it as a nap.

With this schedule, you could have two jobs, have more time for the internet or for doing your creative projects, have time for yourself while the kids are sleeping, etc.

Warning: don't let friends who show up from out of town talk you into skipping your sleeping times. You can't "catch up" later once you establish these times. You'll have to sleep ten hours if you get knocked off your routine; or at least I did the two times this happened to me.