Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sympathy Window and Sneaky

Anyone who has been through a break up has probably acknowledge that you only get so much credit, so much time, so many back pats and 'there there's before you are on your ownsome to deal with your lonesome.

Like a window has been shut, and the cool breeze of sympathy no longer blows by.

I am a firm believer in the sympathy window as a social phenomena. And I used to suppose to think that this knowledge was good, empowering. When you understood the window of sympathy, you could avoid making a mistake.

The mistake was to keep seeking/expecting sympathy from your loved ones. And this concept doesn't apply solely to break ups, it probably applies to any persistent problem in ones life.

I once explained it to my brother as he struggled to stop crying over a lost love.

'This is what it sounds like...' says I to he, 'my house burned down. My house has burned down. I really loved my house and then it burned down. It's just ashes. I really wish my house hadn't burned down. That I still had my house. Why won't my house come back?' (and repeat ad nauseum).

'Until people just want to say...' I continued 'yeah. It burned down. It's fucking gone. You gotta learn to live without it. It's not coming back. You have no fucking house. So you need to get a fucking new house, or tent or cave or some shit!'

SO what I had until recently, like very recently, thought you were supposed to do with this knowledge was this - shut the fuck up. Quit whining. Stop going to your friends for moral support. You know that it takes longer to get over shit than people expect of you, so you take that shit private and deal with it on your own.

NOW I realise that was wrong. That's terrible advice. Don't follow it. What I have come to learn is that while our intuition is powerful, our instincts are powerful, and you can be a clever, courage and honest thinker. Certain problems are so much harder to perceive correctly from the inside. Your social network, your support group. Those you look to for sympathy, are like an extra sensory perception organ. You have to tap into that shit.

Let us truly understand why the sympathy window closes.

After a certain point of complaining about a problem, you are expected to actually resolve it. And you always have one resolution on hand - exit the situation. No, no, no, no, no, not suicide. But if someone is causing you grief, you are expected to stop spending time with them. If you hate your job, you are expected to start saving, if you have savings, to quit, and regardless should be applying to new jobs. If your car is a lemon, sell it for scrap and buy a bicycle. If you have a problem with alcohol, you are expected to abstain.

You are not supposed to persist with the problem but merely keep it to yourself. To suck it up and tough out the pain it causes you. When you think your friends will stop giving you sympathy and understanding your desire, that is the time to quit.

In scrabble if you have a bunch of shit letters, you can chuck in all of them and grab a new set for the cost of a single turn. I read this in a newsletter sent to me today and found it a meme worth spreading. It's a valid tactical play.

Perhaps the obligation an alcoholic has to addressing their alcoholism is what hit home with me recently, where I realised my own perception of the window of sympathy was flawed. Because I remember this Oprah interview with Michael J Fox way way back where he was talking about his alcoholism, and how quickly he started to lie - the tricks he used, like drinking a whole wine bottle and then drinking the next wine bottle down to the previous ones starting point so it didn't look like he'd drunk any at all.

It's the sneaky behaviour of somebody who knows what they are doing is wrong. Realising that all your friends are no longer sympathetic to your own lost cause, and then concealing from them your own ongoing struggles with the problem is not bravely, honestly, toughing it out. It's sneaky, and I should have known better and behaved better.

The only real thing I acknowledged, was that when things went poorly, I would have to suffer it alone, because I was the only one who thought I should make the attempt.

SO - when you sense the window of sympathy has closed, it's time to actually look at your situation and admit you have a problem. It's time to step back and take stock of who actually loves you, and who patently doesn't. It's time to reward the people that actually care about your well being, and disregard those who don't. It's time, to try and see all the evidence that has given people who care about you sufficient confidence that the problem is known, as is its outcome. ESPeople.

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