A:B :: C:D

A few days ago I wrote:

“Shame and fear would seem to be stealing the show.”

One of the steps toward a solution is to discern the tools you have to combat the problem.

In this case, those tools are courage and faith — courage to combat the fear, faith to combat the shame.

I actually stumbled on the second part. Doesn’t pride combat shame? Um, no. It’s faith, folks.

Having made it this far, I’m left asking where those sentiments went. I used to have them in considerable abundance.

Inversely, why do I — why does anyone — hold onto shame and fear? They’re not worth much, once they’ve done their job of teaching you to stay out of trouble.

That leads to an even more fundamental question: what are the fear and shame protecting me from?

Fear

When I wind up my fears into a big, continuous ball of string the product suggests that I’m afraid of people — oh, that again! — afraid they won’t understand, afraid that they’re too selfish or insecure to do the right thing, and so on. The cold truth is that I start people with two strikes, and an awful lot of them are perfectly willing to oblige the third.

I wonder how many of them read my nonsense off of my body language, and oblige the third strike on purpose just so they can get me out of their way. That’s how I would do it.

When I keep up that honesty I grasp that I’m exercising a conditioned response, not an inherent one.

The key to halting conditioned behavior is one part discipline, and more parts replacing the unhealthy conditioned response with a healthy one.

My unhealthy habits with respect to my low opinion are:

Finally, even if those habits don’t sink me, I routinely attempt self-sabotage by way of putting my foot in my mouth.

Mmmyeeeaaahhh. That’d be great.

Discipline

How, then, do I replace those habits?

The latter two of these “new habits” are especially tough.

A weak link

My most basic challenge is this: asking for things, up to and including the opportunity to work, makes me feel on-the-spot and deserving of criticism as a matter of course, except perhaps when I have something to offer in return that’s of far greater value than what I’m asking. Like anyone who isn’t suffering from an acute personality disorder, the notion of asking for things I haven’t obviously earned makes me a little anxious. (Well, more than a little.)

That conditioned response comes from a heap of pretty old baggage that can be summarized as “I grew up without any rational understanding of interpersonal boundaries, and I still overcompensate, ten years after I was first called upon to recognize that problem.”

I never learned to fill in the boundary gaps with native charm; I’m not really wired for all-flash-and-no-substance. The best I was ever able to manage was a keen talent for codependency, and when I saw that for what it was, I started running hard in the opposite direction.

The thing is… I feel like I’ve got a good handle on explaining to people the sort of behavior I expect from them, and from myself.

[insert and overstrke extended internal dialogue jibba-jabba about regret here]

…But while I have confidence in my ability to set, maintain, and (to a point) declare expectations, I’m a total pussy when it comes to stating clearly what I want. I’m mixing up the chicken and the egg; I assume people are selfish sonsofbitches who only want for themselves and never for anybody else, even if there’s mutual benefit to be had. Therefore I attempt to settle for what crumbs people are willing to dish out once they see past their selfish parsimony… even though I’m wired to leap at the chance to help people who are completely honest about what they want and what they’re willing to offer (fairly) in return.

One of the assumptions under which I normally operate is that water seeks its own level. However, it would seem that I refuse to include myself in that system.

I think I need to figure out how to set all of that straight.

Just thinking about things does nothing for the anxiety that comes from buckling down, and facing the anxeity with nothing but force of will is a good way to give myself ulcers… what I must do instead, if only for the time being, is develop faith that I and my skills are, in fact, wanted. I can believe that in the same way that I believe a throttle makes a car go forward. However, I have a much rougher time keeping faith that the Universe will cooperate — just as it requires at least a little faith to believe that a car’s systems will work adequately to ensure that working the throttle will bring about the desired result.

Music

Rush, “Resist”
@amazon
@allmsuic

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The Egg and the Chicken

The Egg and the Chicken —by Ben Henick, 22 July 2010

All journal entries

  1. Talking About the Weather
  2. To the Rafters?
  3. Coming of Age with Killer Apps
  4. Race to the Bottom
  5. Meditations on Decay
  6. Net Neutrality, or the Lack Thereof
  7. Three Problems
  8. Post Mortem of a Book Project
  9. The Egg and the Chicken
  10. Yellow Dog
  11. Digging Through the Clutter
  12. Lessons from Mom
  13. Being Careful What You Wish For
  14. Out on a Limb
  15. Beliefs, No. 1
  16. Like a Chimney
  17. Does Not Compute
  18. Past Trends, Future Results
  19. Beyond These Four Walls
  20. Competence, Confidence, and Reality
  21. Anesthesia
  22. King of the Mountain
  23. “A Deer in the Headlights”

Disclaimer: This is definitely self-indulgent. If you don’t like it, read somebody else.

This nook of the Internet is my antidote for Twitter. ©2010 Ben Henick, all rights reserved.

Job, or hell?

Yesterday I happened on two links. (Good grief, I love the Web.) The first is an e-mail alideshow of sorts aimed at the guts of some hypocrite named Spencer, the author’s (erstwhile imaginary) boss. The second is an article in Slate discussing the (un-) desirability of low- to mid-level service jobs.

…And then there’s the story of the flight attendant who on Monday found a spectacular way to say “take this job and shove it” after being verbally assaulted at length by a passenger.

All three pieces are a kick. Reading them in rapid succession, as I did yesterday afternoon, is a kick in the guts. The article about jobs-in-general particularly evoked from me a visceral response.

Rich get richer, poor get poorer

The sense of entitlement to profit that I raised a few days ago is evident in every talk about compensation I’ve heard about, or participated in, in the past several years. It seems to me like the vast majority want labor for the cheapest they can possibly obtain, while remaining content to throw handfuls of money at senior management and holders of equity — even ones who, as it turns out, contribute little or nothing.

It always seems like the same old story: hire somebody with the basic minimum of proven ability in order to get away with paying them as little as possible, train them up to the minimum needed by the organization, fire the ones who don’t take comfortably to that scheme at the instant they’re identified, and work the others to the bone until they burn out.

I believe that on some level, most people recognize that this is going on. However, I struggle to understand why. It seems axiomatic to me that people who feel valued will work harder, yet the trend moves toward every possible effort to remind people that they’re replaceable and ought to get the best out of things while they can.

Compassion vs. sociopathy

The only fact that adequately explains this prevailing state of affairs is broad, unwitting subscription to the system cobbled together from the amoral rants of a mildly nutty Russian emigré. On balance that would not be so bad, except that like that ethos’ nemeses — Communism and Christianity — “Objectivism” works a hell of a lot better in theory than in practice.

I see two deep flaws with this ethos, deepening my my confusion. First, we can’t all be Howard Roark; lots of us lack the temperament requisite to that outcome. As much to the point, if we all could have and act upon that power, civilization as we know it would rapidly descend into barbarism. One man’s clear thinker is another’s cold-hearted sonofabitch, and the latter type is awfully good at inducing conflict.

Second, human beings possess and act upon compassion compulsively; the ones who habitually refuse or fail to do so are (rightly) called sociopaths. We all recognize that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and communities tend to raise the minimum when given the chance. Cutting loose that weak link instead… goes a bit far.

Meritocracy

The happy finish of the labor market’s neo-Nietzchean race to the botom can be found in two virtues that are compatible with all of the belief systems in play: honesty and fidelity.

As it stands, the realities of social (im-) mobility leave some with first-class tickets, and consign the rest to steerage barring both outstanding luck and superlative effort. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that anyone who manages to climb their way out of steerage won’t be shoved back down by some vindictive asshole.

Rewarding honesty and fidelity in the workplace — and penalizing those who lie, cheat, and habitually cover their asses — would go a long way toward making the labor market a better place for everybody.

We have the technological capacity to discover and promote out of steerage quickly the ones who’ve earned it, as a matter of course. We can do the reverse for those who feel most inclined to rest on their laurels. Why don’t we?

Music

Hey Lewis & The News, “Workin’ for a Livin’”
@amazon
@allmusic