Perceptions

Perceptions

People’s perceptions are amazing things. They can be extremely strong motivators. They fascinate me not only from a human behavior standpoint but because they matter so much in life. Not necessarily to me, mind you, but in life they do.

Perceptions are what mainly help us form opinions and cast judgment about situations and other people. That’s why they’re important. They also are what help us shape ourselves and determine who we are as people. All that is is pretty important stuff.

But they all are different, and they all are formed differently and they matter in different ways, and even the way we perceive perceptions makes a big difference. That sounds confusing, but if someone thinks others perceive them some way, even if it’s accurate or not, that will determine behavior and future thought.

Some people are capable of looking at others and situations from different perspectives, which is a valuable skill. Some people can’t ever change their perception, and some people consciously make their perception a certain way just so they can live with themselves.

I used to say perceptions are all that matter, but I’ve changed that stance. Of course, things matter more than perceptions, but they’re still crucial to how we live our lives. Perceptions are a two-way phenomenon. They matter in how we perceive others, and they matter, sometimes more to some than others, to how we perceive ourselves. And the different angles and accuracies of those perceptions vary greatly, which is where things get interesting.

Our perceptions change through life and depend on what stage of life we’re in, and who we live among, and where our priorities lie, which also shift all the time. Despite how dynamic perceptions are they seem to maintain a pretty strong steady linear direction through life, even with all the variance, give or take 5% either way. If I had to guess, I’d imagine they are formed during our most malleable years, which are through childhood, teen years, and early twenties. That’s when it seems people get their set of lenses through which they view the remainder of life. Like going to the optometrist and being given a set of glasses and sent on our way to navigate, cope with, judge and behold the world around us and those in it.

More often than not I see people judge books by their covers, instead of waking a mile in their shoes. Those are two ways of saying that some people have a narrow perspective view, and others have experience, wisdom, intelligence, and knowledge enough to try and view others from different angles. This ability is what places people in different political camps, different socio-economic strata, and different levels in life.

When I look around I’m not sure I’d be wrong to state that most people worry about how others perceive them more than how they perceive themselves. Meaning, the concern about perceptions is disproportionately placed outwardly and how total strangers and meaningless people, or just a very small subset of people that really don’t care one way or another, perceive us.  It’s why people buy cars that are so over the top luxurious the King of Prussia would be embarrassed to drive them, or people worry about what neighborhood they live in, or how big their house is or what kind of clothes they wear, and so on. Some people actually pay money to designers to advertise the designer on themselves to make sure people’s perception is something they’ve crafted in their heads to mean something other than what they are. And that seems to be what perceptions are most about. People trying to manipulate other people’s perceptions to be something dreamt up in the person’s head that isn’t even real.

That has more to do with integrity, self -respect, self-esteem, maturity, accountability and a list of traits that some people concern themselves with and others don’t.  It has to do with character and what a person does when no one’s watching. When no one knows or will ever know your behavior. If the whole world were blind, how would you dress? How would you act? My guess here is that if surveyed and linear regression was applied, you’d see an effect where there are two camps: One that holds themselves to a higher standard, or aspires to a higher standard, even if not achievable, and those that don’t. In other words, a group of people that have no standards, don’t worry about them and don’t care, but they DO care about perceptions. That’s how strong perceptions are.

Some people simply rely on stereotypes to form their perceptions. Lots of people do that, including much of Hollywood. That aligns with people that have equally narrow perceptions. I don’t know about others, but I’ve had people have the wrong perceptions about me since I can ever remember. Being a Southerner. Going to prep school. Being a deadhead. Having an MBA. You name it, people will form judgments about me knowing nothing more about me than what they can perceive from a label.

And personally, I don’t care about any of those things. Because they alone don’t shape my character. Having a three-year-old child and setting an example for her is what dictates how I want to be perceived. I am concerned about how my daughter perceives me, but I don’t worry about it, because I behave just as I would if she were around even when she isn’t. I have standards for myself, and aspire to higher standards, even if I can’t achieve them. It’s (just one) a reason why I keep a clean, neat home, from top to bottom. I don’t have many visitors, but when people stop by, they’ll leave with a perception that I can manage my life and home and surroundings well. And I care about the environment I raise my daughter in, and set a good example for her. It’s why I make my bed every morning and I make sure Cecelia sees me do it. I’m teaching her how to manage her life and maintain personal control over her environment. Not everyone can do something as simple, but important, as that.

On the other hand, some people spend all their time creating what they want others to see, as best as they can. They stage themselves and use lies, deceit, omissions of fact, and any manipulative tool at hand (but usually reach for the two or three they’ve honed and are comfortable with over their lifetime)  and are only worried about how they believe others perceive them. They’re superficial and transparent usually, and devoid of integrity and meaning. People’s perceptions are their own reality can be quite true, and some people, who don’t mind lying to themselves(and others), will change perceptions to create their own reality. And that reality can be wildly different from actual reality, believe me.

That seems to be where a lot of the trouble lies. When you have one group who cares about the accuracy of perceptions, and another who is indifferent and self-absorbed.

“Truth” doesn’t seem to be a central point to thought anymore. My ex-wife told me she doesn’t care about the truth. No kidding. Our freshman congresswoman from NYC, AOC also doesn’t care about the truth. So how do we manage perceptions when no one cares about the truth, which is the foundation of discourse?

you will believe what I want you to believe

 

 

Arrested Development

Arrested Development

I’d imagine most Americans know the term “Arrested Development” from the TV show, rather than the diagnosis that it revolves around. But I get to experience it on a regular basis, and I would guess a lot of people do, and either doesn’t realize it or don’t bother to think about it. But when you’re slapped in the face with it like I was today, you tend to think about it and marvel at it.

The grandmother of my child, whose name is Cecelia Musgrove, was supposed to drop my daughter off to me today at noon. She was sent to the wrong place and left me waiting over 30 minutes and set off a lot of excited texting, with me being accused of not knowing where the regular exchange point is over someone who regularly screws things up, screwing things up. I was called a liar, and my ex declared she was going to call her lawyer for some idiotic reason and no one in their camp could remotely fathom being wrong. It’s simply impossible and beyond all factual reasoning. That’s how things work these days. They don’t. That involves reflection on someone’s part by not believing anything anyone says or does because everything they say or do is untrue. And no one can unknot that mess. To no one’s surprise, I was in the right but still received the usual spears and arrows of intemperate, ignorant hysteria.

I’ve learned there are two ways to hand a child over to another person. One way is to carry them over, set them on their feet, and allow them to walk over to the other person. That’s generally the preferred method for several good reasons. The other way is to carry the child over to the other person and have the new person pry the child away from the person carrying them and climb onto the new host. That is an awkward, unpreferred way to exchange a child, for everyone except someone who has given no thought or consideration for what’s going on and for the child, much less the other person. The first method is what I had to explain how my daughter should to be given to me at exchanges, because at the beginning of our custody exchanges, it wasn’t happening that way, and as any astute parent would know, it caused emotional turmoil for the child.

So today, I was once again made to pry my child from another person, unthoughtfully. But what came next was what prompted this post. What should have happened was Cecelia should have been released to me, and the other person turn around and go on her way without incident. But the following is the level I’m left contending with these days which is easily dissected so that maybe somewhere, someone may take pity.

As my child’s sixty-something age grandmother turned to get into her car after creating a giant mess of an exchange, she blurted out ” Goodbye, Sara Celia!” across the neighborhood.

So let’s break this idiocy down. That wasn’t meant to be a bittersweet farewell to her grandchild, which she could and should have tenderly whispered to her before letting her down to come to her father. It was shouted for no one but me to hear. Why, may you ask?

Because this is the mental strength we’re dealing with: It was intended for me to hear to hurt my feelings. How would that hurt my feelings? It doesn’t, but here are the microsteps of thought behind it: She was trying to create an emotional wedge between me and my daughter by exclaiming Cecelia’s first name, “Sara” which isn’t even her family’s name, but the other twisty dysfunctional limb that was my ex-wife’s grandmother’s name. Then, to add some salt to that “wound,” she truncated my mother’s name to “Celia” as her mother does, to disrespect the very person their child and grandchild is named after. That is, it means more to try and zing me, who is of no consequence to either of them, below the most infantile level than it does to respect their very own child and grandchild. Pathetic? You decide. Trying to change the name of your child to disrespect the family of the chosen name of the child. Can it get any more egregious and wretched? I’m sure it can and will, unfortunately for Cecelia and me.

So, does this strategy work? Hardly. What it does is tamp them back down onto the bottom of the pit of idiots where they dwell. It’s not everyday pettiness. It’s an adult living in arrested development in that of maybe a twelve-year-old. And it’s what I have to grapple with on a regular basis these days.

Why, you ask? Why would a grandmother want to hurt the feelings of her grandchild’s father? What could have turned her against the person who helped raise her other grandchild? A manipulative and selfish force that lies and betrays in order to create a comfortable little den that sits atop a foundation of nothing more than words? Yes.