Saturday 5 March 2011


Have you noticed a phenomenon by which you become the person the other person expects you to be? I have experienced the magnet, which pulls you in to a world to which you do have a key in some aspect of yourself, but which in no way opens the door fully to who you are. Any relationship or contact which does not exert this pull becomes, therefore, significant, in that you are left free to feel exactly yourself. For example, I have been known to make the odd comment which qualifies as a wise reponse to whatever is going on. If I am with someone who likes and respects me, in the sense that he/she knows accurately enough who I am, I feel wise and confident enough to carry the discussion forward. If, however, I am with someone who sees me as presumptuous and tending to suggest a waste of space, I become diffident and awkward. Any on-going discussion is stilted, adding nothing to what has gone before. In my life there are some who see me as self-centred and, therefore, lacking in empathy and understanding. In that milieu I become those things. Stories I want to tell , as I see it, to support the contention we are talking about become a dilution of the issue, drawing attention back to me. What I see as an expansion of the argument becomes a narrowing of it, relating just to me. With those people, even before an apparently dispassionate debate, I am awkward, feel out of myself and lumber in clumsily to confirm their view of me. I can be kind and generous except when in a situation where I am believed to be self-seeking. Then I really do look to see which behaviour may be in my best interest.

This phenomenon is like a wardrobe. Without premeditation, without the what-shall-I-wear the 40 year old would have asked before embarking on any situation at all, internal or external,
I find I put on the clothes of the expectation of the other. Because of the, no doubt, universal need to be loved and approved of, I am certainly not alone in this. We are demanding and whingy in the company of those who see us that way but outgoing and explicit to those disposed to see us thus. Just as we are capable of feeling different according to the clothes we are wearing, so can we feel different according to the characteristics perceived in us. A certain level of expectation and excitement comes with what one wears to an evening in the theatre. A tee shirt and track-suit bottoms will produce something quite other in the inner world's approach to the external world, don't you agree? With more than three score and ten years the sadness comes when it is too late to change the perception of onself that certain others hold, even in the face of what you, yourself, may see as incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. And there's the rub: no matter how incontrovertible the evidence in your awareness, your aura, it seems to me, may still give out the 'badness', the ' not much of a human being' the other has imposed on you. As I have put to you further up , there does need to be something of a hook already within you on which these contradictions can be hung, but, for myself, I wish I could unhook myself from the complicity with which I slide in to the clothes so beguilingly laid out for me.

I was once asked about my good , intense, but platonic friendship with a man who, more usually, very much enjoyed all aspects of friendship with women. "He makes me feel like myself", I heard myself explain. There's not a lot of that about. You'd think I would have hacked it by now, but, if at one level you are only 40, there could still be time wouldn't you say?


Anonymous said...

My thanks for another first-class piece of reading. You combine seriousness with wit, an unusual pairing, and all the more valuable for its rarity.

Anonymous said...

I second the first commentator's sentiments.
The phenomenon described in this blog is one that is familiar in the career world to staff development experts. The staff member acquires a certain persona for the manager (or vice versa) which it is very difficult to remove and, indeed, as a self-fulfilling prophecy often results in the person behaving in the way expected towards the person expecting it. A very vicious circle.
Looking forward to the next blg, Liz!