Monday, March 14, 2011

Family and Friends

Partially, the role of family is to support you (or me) in life decision-making. Part of that role, though, is to disagree with decisions. However. The disagreement shouldn't exactly rise to the level of sanction that severs the relationship itself.  Family and friends serve as a sounding board, and life will be best in the longer term if they are vocal about their disagreements, I think, so long as they are a) honest and b) flexible and c) respectful.

Family members, particularly, can see your life broader than you can see yourself.  It just is.  The problem is that their broader view doesn't necessarily make their advice more sound.  If they try to dissuade you from a strongly held preference, you'll still feel stymied if you don't attain that goal.  In the longer run, you'll adapt.  We don't always adapt of course.  There's a way to get stuck in a psychological rut without knowing it.  Cognitive psychologists call these ruts "self-defeating beliefs" and they entail basic "I'm a failure" type explanations.  As I've covered before, these explanations have motivating power, which makes them more difficult to overcome.  They're rational, to some degree, because they help us accomplish stuff, although there is a cost.  To everyone who's ever complained about a co-worker, or a job.  The costs suck, because we're annoyed, or feel that we're undervalued, but we need the money, the benefit, so we keep going forward.

There's almost always a bigger picture/small picture narrative to be told, and family/friends often fall into two groups.  Friends likely confirm the positive view of the bigger picture and the anger at the smaller picture (from sheer anecdote by walking on the streets of NYC and listening--this is biased of course--but many many people talk to other people purely to complain about third parties not present because, it seems, they cannot directly complain to the non-present third party directly without some associated cost).

Family, especially parent-type folks, mostly understand larger narrative survival type restraints, and urge the larger narrative over the self-indulgent smaller narrative.  That's not always true, of course, a good parent knows how to mix advice and guidance into both narratives and through his/her modeled behavior (probably the most important guidance any parent could give). We always find excuses to blame our parents for things here in the US, whether they are too focused on the bigger picture (restraining our behavior!) or their own smaller picture (substance abuse) or our smaller picture (micro-managing).  What we dislike is the illusion of restraint on our behavior.  What we love is the illusion of choice.  It doesn't matter that our illusion of choice might keep us restrained so much.

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