Thinking of You

I was thinking of you the other day.  I was thinking about how special you are.  I was thinking that you are wonderful and generous.  I was thinking that I’ve never met a person as original and unique as you are, and I was thinking about how long it took you to become what you are today.  Seriously, look where you’re at now?  Compared to where you were even ten years ago?  You’ve made a lot of progress through the trials and tribulations you’ve been through.

We’ve all had our problems, but compared to you … we don’t even know what real problems are.  We thought we had it bad, until we heard the story of what happened to you.  It’s remarkable that you’ve been able to overcome all of that and not have a single personality weakness as a result.  I was thinking how well you knew yourself, and how long it’s taken you to know you in that special way you know yourself.  I know you don’t have a lot of “me time” to think about what you mean to all us, but I wanted you to know that we think you’re special, and original, and kind, and you’re the type that would give the shirt off your back to someone in need.  They usually only say such things about people after their dead, but I wanted you to know that I know this about you now, and I want you to keep on being who you are.  We need more people like you in this Godforsaken world full of self-serving types that wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire.

I've been thinking about you

I’ve been thinking about you

So, the next time you feel a little down, read this, and know that someone out there knows you for who you are.  You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.  Does that sound like anyone we know?  Well, some of us out here want you to know that we’re paying attention, and we know that you’re trying, and your special, and you care.

I remember when you said that you hate people who argue with you when they don’t know what they’re talking about.  I know exactly what you’re talking about.  Some of the times, it feels like the world is against you.  Some of the times, it feels like the stars will never line up for you in your current perdicament.  I’m telling you to just keep doing what you’re doing, and things will work out eventually{1}.  It will for you anyway, because no matter what anyone tells you, you’re doing it right.  Who are we to argue with the way you’re doing things.  We don’t understand your situation, until we walk a mile in your shoes.  Your situation is different in ways you can’t really explain to people who don’t know you.  Well, I know you, and I know that you’ve gone through a lot when you tell me the stories of your life?  Who do I think I am when I consider the other person’s viewpoint in your story, when you’ve made it abundantly clear to us that you know what you’re doing?  We’re the self-indulgent types that don’t see you for who you are.

You’re the one that thinks differently.  We believe what others tell us, when we should be listening to you.  You appear to have a better grasp on the issues, because you’ve lived life, and no one gives you credit for that.

You reached that point of hyper-awareness on that drug that one time that helped you understand a fundamental truth about life that we never would understand?  Then you couldn’t remember it the next day, you remember that?  Yeah, you got so obsessed with it that you started taking drugs so often that you forgot why you were taking the drugs in the first place.  I know that we shouldn’t laugh, but the only reason you took the drugs in the first place was to facilitate extraordinary thought in your brain, but you took so much that you ruined it.  There were a lot of people laughing at you for that.  That wasn’t you?  Oh, sorry.  You sure, because I could’ve sworn…

Then you were the one who described that one person in a sexually gratuitous manner.  I remember that, because we were all stunned, and that’s exactly what you wanted.  You wanted us to drop the pretense we had of you being all graceful and polite.  You wanted us to know that you were not constrained by the constraints of your gender, but we all thought you took it too far.  We kind of felt sorry for you in a way.  You thought it was daring and confrontational, but we thought it was kind of sad that you had to fight so hard to appear to be an individual. You danced around your lust to us, when you probably would’ve been better just stating that you lusted after that person blatantly.  That wasn’t you either?  Oh, sorry.  You sure, because I could’ve sworn…


The Healthy Nature of Illusions and Delusions

“They’d listen if I complained,” a delusional friend of mine said moments after I told him I went to the boss man and complained, and that I didn’t think that my complaint would register.  He said this in the midst of one of my fell-fledged rants, and he said in such an egocentric manner that I felt he was in dire need of a reality check.

If you knew my friend, you’d know that he wasn’t the type to say such things to tweak people in a good-natured, competitive sense.  He believed he was a more valued employee than I was.  He believed that he was one of the most valued employees in the company.

t1larg.boss.gettyAnd if the world operated in a fair manner, my friend would’ve been an employer’s dream.  He was a hard worker, and an eager student for those that could inform him how he could do his job better today than he did yesterday.  He was a quiet man that didn’t want to socialize on the clock, and he even tried to avoid drinking soda, not for health reasons, but to avoid taking too many trips to the bathroom on the company dime.  He tried to avoid speaking in meetings, because he didn’t want to be perceived as a complainer, or trouble maker.  He wanted to do the work he loved and be compensated accordingly.

He believed in the old adage that if you kept your head low, and your nose to the grindstone, they noticed.  They may not have said anything to him, but “trust me they notice.  And if I ever did complain, all that hard work, and obeying the rules, would pay off.  Trust me.”

I had worked for too many corporations to trust him however, for I knew it was human nature for an employer to take model employees for granted.  I did not have the temerity to tell him that his beliefs were delusions, however, and that he would one day have his unhealthy delusions shattered.

When I would later read, in a Psychology Today article, written by Merel van Beeren*, is that psychologists believe that the delusional are exhibiting greater mental health than I am.  This would prove to be a direct contradiction of the beliefs I’ve had about the unhealthy nature of the illusions and delusions we have about the power and control of our day-to-day lives.

“People overestimate their agency, but it’s for the best –those with an accurate sense of their own influence are often depressed.  Participation in lotteries goes up when players can choose their own numbers, even though they are no more likely to win.”   

“I choose to stay employed at the company,” is something we might say to bolster this argument.  “If the boss man changes the rules on me in a fashion I don’t care for, I can always quit.  It’s not like I’m being held against my will, or locked into employment at this company.  This is America, the land of opportunity, and there are numerous opportunities out there for someone like me.”

Fair enough, but how many of us do leave the company?  How many of us get locked into the fear that we cannot do anything else?  How many of us get locked into the “At least I have a job!” mentality that helps us deal with the changes the boss man makes that affect us in a negative manner?

“Well,” we say, “I guess I do have the option to leave the company I work for, and I guess I could drop out of the workforce altogether if I want to go live with my Mom, but I have chosen to live free of those constraints.  I have chosen to live by certain constraints, beset upon me by my boss, so that I might be a self-sufficient individual who lives free based on the payment he gives me to live within his rules.”

The point, as I see it, is most of us do not view these matters in such constructs.  We think everyone has to have a job.  There is a “40-hour a week, paycheck on Friday, and put up with constraints” mentality that we have.  If you think this is an exaggeration, try quitting your job and going out on your own.  Try existing in a realm that is free of constraints in a relative fashion.  The first, and most prominent aspect of life that you’ll miss is the routine of a work day, and then you’ll miss the structure that that mentality provides.  You’ll feel an odd sense of worthlessness that you cannot explain, because you’re used to being a drone, and you’ve trained yourself to be an employee and to accept what the boss man says.  You’re locked into this mentality.

In the freest country the world has ever known, we get locked into a mindset that this is all we can do, so we will put up with the boss man’s constraints.  In order to support ourselves, and continue to be free, and self-sufficient, we make compromises.  But Where is the Line? the singer/songwriter Bjork once asked.  Where is that line between the freedoms we give up and the freedoms we enjoy, and how much freedom are we willing to give up to be free?  As the writer of this Psychology Today article suggests, analyzing all of this can lead to depression, and it’s much healthier to delude one’s self into believing that we’re free and in total control of our own universe.

It’s much healthier, for example, to believe that we have some say in the rule changes that the boss man employs than it is to examine how valuable we are in lieu of the changes the boss man has made to affect our work dynamic in a negative manner.  It’s much healthier, to think that we are such valuable employees that there is some fear in the boss man that prevents him from making such drastic changes that would affect our decision to stay with the company than it is to acknowledge that the boss man often decides what is best for his company’s bottom line first, what is best for all of his employees second, and then what is best for the individual employee last, unless we fit into the second group of course.  If we don’t, the boss man will find a way to sell his change to us in a manner that satisfies our ego.

There is a great website out there that has a single joke on it.  It’s called Office Versus Prison, and it details how the office space mirrors the day-to-day activities of the prison.  The following are a few of my favorites:

IN PRISON…you spend the majority of your time in an 8×10 cell.
AT WORK…you spend most of your time in a 6×8 cubicle.

IN PRISON…you can watch TV and play games.
AT WORK…you get fired for watching TV and playing games.

IN PRISON…they allow your family and friends to visit.
AT WORK…you cannot even speak to your family and friends.

IN PRISON…all expenses are paid by taxpayers with no work required
AT WORK…you get to pay all the expenses to go to work and then they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners.

IN PRISON…you spend most of your life looking through bars from the inside wanting to get out.
AT WORK…you spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars.

IN PRISON…there are wardens who are often sadistic.
AT WORK…they are called managers.

My friend lived with the delusion that if he ever decided to take the floor and complain, the higher ups would sit up and take notice.  Things would change.  ‘They may not listen to the average employee, but they’ll listen to me,’ was his mindset.

I would barrage him with a list of complaints I had about the way things were done on a week-to-week basis.  He would remain quiet, with a quiet smile on his face.  “Doesn’t that frustrate you?” I would ask.  Most of them time it didn’t.  Most of the time he had already developed a rationale for the way things were done, but some of the times he would get just as enraged as me.  “Too bad there’s not a darned thing we can do about it!” I would say to sum up our unified frustration on those occasions.  I would tell him that I complained to the boss man, and I was given some lame excuse for why things would continue to be the way they were.

“They’d listen if I complained,” my friend said.  Of course that statement bothered me, as it fed into my insecure belief that, in Merel van Beeren’s words, my friend’s agency was more valuable than mine in the company.  I told him that he, again in the words of van Beeren’s, overestimated his agency in the company.  I warned him that there would come a day when he risked letting people know his opinion of the way things were done, and he would find out that the boss man just wanted him to shut up and go back to being that face in the crowd that accepted his changes for what they were.

My knowledge was not theoretical.  It was firsthand knowledge that I gained by being a man that kept most of his complaints in check, until that moment arrived when something meaningful came my way.

I used to think that if you picked your battles for subjects that you had deep concerns about, the boss man would be more apt to listen.  I was wrong.  I learned that the boss doesn’t care for complaints, and he doesn’t give more weight to complaints that come from a person that doesn’t complain often.  They just want you, and the person that complains all the time, to shut up and learn your station in life.  Coming to that realization was, as Merel van Beeren pointed out, caused me a sense of depression that I wished I could walk back.

My friend did complain about the way things were done, after a time, and he found that he had overestimated his agency, and he quit the company.  My friend didn’t quit right away.  He loved the company, but his moment of epiphany was just as painful as mine.  He learned that by avoiding the complaint, you don’t gain the respect of the boss man, you slip into the favored status of rarely seen, never heard, and the minute you pop that delusion, you shatter everything you once held dear.

If Merel van Beeren is to be believed, and I must say he puts forth a pretty decent argument, my friend was the healthy one in our friendship, until I poked so many holes in his delusions that I brought my unhealthy skepticism to his life and depressed him.

* van Beeren, Merel.  The Skeptic’s Cheat Sheet.  June 2012. Psychology Today. Pg. 22.