Miscellaneous content from the original enlightened caveman. Some serious, some not. Take your chances.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Robitussin and the Gauche Theory of Mind

Sorry for the absence - the guy who never gets a flu shot cause he never gets sick got the freaking flu, and I do not handle sickness well. On a scale of 1 to 10, I operate between a 9 and a 10 pretty much every day. So, on the ultra-rare occasion that I fall ill, I bitch and moan and wail as if I'm on my third week of chemo. I act like, as the Scots would say, a big Jessie. Fortunately for all involved, thanks to my superior immune system, I kicked that avian-borne nuisance as fast as it hit me. I'm back. Not full speed yet, but getting there.

Anyhow, as I was lying in bed yesterday (trying to match the pitch of my moan to the droning humidifier), my wife came rambling through the room and we spoke for a moment. This and that, nothing in particular, but she didn't ask me how I was feeling. She didn't ask how I was feeling!

That bitch!

Instantly, resentment washed over me. Sure, go on about your business and ignore the infirm. Wait'll it's your turn, honey. Ahh, the vindictive hue of the Robitussin-induced delirium. How could it slip her mind that she should be inquiring as to my status? Didn't she know what was on my mind? Didn't she know that the central theme on my giant movie screen was my own decrepit condition, complete with moan track in Sony Digital Audio? Acknowledge, please. Anyone? Anyone? Bitch. Bitch. Biiiiiii....

I moaned myself to sleep and forgot about it until today. But now, hovering at around a 6 (an 8, if I sit perfectly still), I am able to take a mental and emotional step back, and something has dawned on me. It seems like some of my smoothest moves have come by acting upon mistaken impressions of what either was or was not on the mind of whomever I was interacting with. Though this falls under the general heading of misunderstanding, it isn't the miscommunication kind; it's what I'd call a gauche theory of mind problem.

Theory of mind, in this case, is understanding that other people have their own plans, thoughts, and points of view. So, if you have a gauche theory of mind, you have a tendency toward, shall we say, less than polished social behavior. You get that people have their own picture of the world, your perception of exactly (or even remotely) what that picture is just comes in a little fuzzy. In my recent time of need, I clumsily assumed that the all-consuming role of my symptoms extended well beyond the confines of my body. Get within the zone, and your mind, like mine, should be instantly preoccupied with my condition. And if you don't act accordingly, well screw you.

Now, I'll admit, this is pretty childish. That's why it's a good thing I don't get sick often. I was pushing the envelope snagging my wife to begin with. But this notion of a gauche theory of mind, when it persists over an extended period of time, explains quite a bit of what we see all around us. Just watch the preliminaries of American Idol or just about any reality show and it's on parade. We marvel at people who so misconstrue their reflection in the minds of others. They perceive themselves manifestly beautiful or talented or popular when in fact they are no such thing. In fact, this brings up an interesting by-product of the phenomenon - other people notice it, cringe, but can't take their eyes away. And the news is?

This realization, obvious as it may seem, brings me back to the idea that we are well served if we familiarize ourselves with the somewhat universal baselines for acceptance in social situations. But, perhaps of equal importance, is being familiar with the notion that the bar is different in different places. These poor American Idol hopefuls, we may assume, enjoy insulated spheres of acceptance where they live, acceptance that they mistakenly ascribe to the wider swath of the general public. How many alligator tears would be saved if these youngsters were served a heaping helping of, "You may be great in Pascagoula, but that says nothing about how you'll do in the City of Angels"? It doesn't mean you quit, it just means you come to grips with how much work you have to do. Then you decide if you want to chip away at it. Believe it or not, our days here are numbered. But the American Idol syndrome is but one example of a gauche theory of mind.

How about the self-important among us? Are they not ascribing their own commanding presence upon our big screens? Are they not disturbed when we don't respond accordingly? This must be the hardest thing to handle for celebrities. In their case, the bar is exactly where they think it is; it's just higher than they think it is, at least when they find themselves in the midst of folks who don't extrapolate what they're famous for to other areas of measurability. So you celebs out there, I feel ya. Here's a tip: You may be great in the City of Angels, but that says nothing about how you'll do in Pascagoula.

Now why should I go to so much trouble to state the obvious? An evening of Robitussin and Coke. Salut.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get well soon. I know what it's like - I got a flu shot (over 65 - what a waste - next time shoot the kids!) and so have a cold. And took a long air trip with it.

"You go over great in Podunk, but not LA" - that's called sophistication or "Acquiring some town bronze" (Regency usage - the slangiest pre-WWII period I know of.) There will always be country mice enduring the polishing process.

I can identify with the gauche theory of mind, being a major sufferer from it. But - the level of sympathy you report expecting tongue-in-cheek is the level given to men and children. Try (ref the same cold remedy commercials & experience) being the wife and mother down with the same thing!

;} been there, done that, used up the tissues, Idiotgrrl

2/23/2005 08:46:00 AM

 
Blogger alice said...

Glad you're back. I was starting to go through withdrawal. You are usually so prolific. When I read your stuff, I always find my response goes off on a tangent which you probably weren't after, so I hope you won't mind.

I never get sick(knock wood). One of the reasons I am sure is that I am self-employed with no sick days or paid vacations which will make up for time lost. I have always thought that my attitude (positive?) is what keeps me from getting sick. I can certainly feel sometimes something coming on, but I just won't let it get to the "stay in bed" stage.

I have always wondered if there really is a power of positive thinking.It has worked for me (knock wood, again).

And now I will tie this in with your ideas. So much of what we do is illusion and self-deception. We encourage our kids to go where they otherwise wouldn't and show "no fear" even when they feel it. We have all learned that this is a sure way to overcome and prevail. Otherwise we'd all be hiding in the bushes.

So those people on American Idol are just doing that. They are overcoming their fear and doing what is difficult. They may be off the money but so what? In my experience it always takes a little of that to make it any where in this world. You gotta fake it until you make it.

It's really all in our heads.

2/23/2005 11:15:00 AM

 
Blogger enlightenedcaveman said...

"Try (ref the same cold remedy commercials & experience) being the wife and mother down with the same thing!"

Hey - as I have this elevated expectation of others when I am sick, I do my best to return the favor. So when my wife is sick, she gets the royal treatment. But that's just me looking out for myself in my own twisted way. She doesn't mind.

"They are overcoming their fear and doing what is difficult. They may be off the money but so what? In my experience it always takes a little of that to make it any where in this world. You gotta fake it until you make it."

Agreed. I'm the *last* person to tell someone not to try something. My concern is for the people who obviously believe down to their core that they've been slighted, that the *experts* have it in for them. Their theory of mind is so wacked that no amount of reality will change it. They'll go back to Podunk, USA and resume their role in fantasy land, rather than taking the experience as a learning point. To me, that's a setup for a long life of unmet expectations.

My philosophy (or one of them) on raising kids is this: provide a complete fantasy world for them when they're very small. They need not have any inkling of what the world is really like. As time goes on, they get weaned off the fantasy - bit by bit - until, around mid way through high school, they are seeing and accepting 85% or so of reality. From there, the rest will work itself out.

These gauche theory of mind folks are operating at about a 50-60% understanding of reality. That, to me, is a problem.

2/23/2005 12:43:00 PM

 
Blogger alice said...

"These gauche theory of mind folks are operating at about a 50-60% understanding of reality. That, to me, is a problem."

I keep having to run in from the shop to check my drawings, so I read your answer quickly....

I'm trying to understand your thesis. I have read the three required essays and of course all of the posts since I started tuning in.

In view of your theory, why is the gauche theory of mind a "problem". And for whom is it a problem? I can think of a myriad of ways in which supposed fools can triumph. For example look at the Japanese(?) kid who has made an album and I daresay a good amount of money from his little escapade on American Idol.

I don't watch the show so I'm not really sure what you're so bothered by. But I've seen the commercials and I get a feel for what it's about. I wonder if perhaps it's really the people who are watching who are the fools. Maybe the whole thing is a set-up for the audience, ala Jerry Springer.

It's nice that you're worried about these folks. I'm kinda worried about the hot chicks your friend is banging. But at the end of the day everyone has to live their life and take their lumps.

I'm actually more concerned by the "dumbing down" of American taste. Most of the kids who are actually winners don't really know how to sing. They just have a lot of stage presence. Really good singing (ie: classical) is not admired in this country.

There I go again, being so 50's

2/23/2005 02:24:00 PM

 
Blogger alice said...

"My philosophy (or one of them) on raising kids is this: provide a complete fantasy world for them when they're very small. They need not have any inkling of what the world is really like. As time goes on, they get weaned off the fantasy - bit by bit - until, around mid way through high school, they are seeing and accepting 85% or so of reality. From there, the rest will work itself out."

I know you have read "The Tipping Point". How does your philosophy square with the idea that parents' influence on childrens' view of the world is largely relegated to genetics (nature) and that it is their peer group which really "nurtures".

or something like that...

2/23/2005 02:28:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From several of your postings I got the impression that you were and honest and intelligent person. However, any man who would call his wife a bitch and thinks that being undercharged and not saying anything about to the store clerk is a man of little or no integrity.
You have lost a reader.

2/23/2005 07:56:00 PM

 
Blogger enlightenedcaveman said...

If you can't recognize sarcasm when you read it, you were in the wrong place all along. Au revoir (that means good-bye) and let me know what's up with Nick and Jessica.

2/23/2005 08:25:00 PM

 
Blogger enlightenedcaveman said...

"In view of your theory, why is the gauche theory of mind a "problem". And for whom is it a problem?"

Well, cheesy as it sounds, I'd really like to see a lot more happiness out there. One of the central arguments in my book is that seeing reality unrealistically means that you will continually be disappointed when things don't turn out the way you wanted. If you have a guache theory of mind, you have an unrealistic expectation of what someone else thinks of you. Thus, you will be interpersonally disappointed again and again in life.

Wait till next season on American Idol and watch the prelims - don't worry about the later part, cause you're right - it's lame. Anyhow, you'll see these people who are crushed, but persist in believing that they're "tha bomb" and that the judges had it in for them. I feel for these people because, if that's really how they feel, and if their families and friends reinforce this silliness when they get home, life is going to be long and painful for them.

And why should we care? Because people like this turn out to be the assholes we meet out in the world - like the guy across the street who hates kids and dogs. I mean, can you be any more transparently miserable?

2/23/2005 11:28:00 PM

 
Blogger enlightenedcaveman said...

As for the Tipping Point - I haven't read it. Blink is my first intro to Gladwell. I liked it so much, however, that Tipping Point has moved to the top of the list. As for peers raising my kid, yeah, I buy it. However, I'll not abdicate under any circumstances. If a power struggle ensues, so be it. I wonder how he'll like being home schooled on an island in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Then, it'll be Los Peeros, but I'll still be Hefe.

2/23/2005 11:29:00 PM

 

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