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What strange thing is going to happen to me today? February 5, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Dating, Friendship, Relationship, Unemployment.
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2 comments

Some of my graduate colleagues and I in Cincinatti

There was a time in my recent past that I would wake up in the morning and think to myself, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” I was in what I call my “transition period” at the time. I had left a good paying secure job for a chance to better myself with an opportunity that I could not say no to – a free education in the form of a graduate assistantship for a prestigious graduate degree. I was living in a small studio apartment by myself and totally immersed in engaging, exciting work with 30 other students on a day-to-day basis. We were a close family. We ate together, we worked together, we drank, danced, laughed, cried, obsessed and even slept together (overnight study sessions – that’s my story and I am stinking to it 😉 ) When people experience an intense part of their lives together, they become very close. Those ties are never broken and I will always consider them my brothers and sisters. Thank God for Facebook since we are now scattered around the globe.

I know. I got off track there but the fact is that I was experiencing an incredible time full of friendship, opportunity, hope and promise.  I miss waking up in the morning and thinking, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” It just doesn’t happen anymore.

Today was different.

We would gather after class at a local brew pub

I already knew it was going to be an unusual day. I had a very important meeting this morning and the anticipation brought back that feeling of opportunity, hope, and promise.  With it was also the waking thought of, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” – and something strange did happen…

So I am driving to my meeting and my phone vibrates. It is a text from a number I don’t recognize…

“Hi! It’s just me. How is it going? Is the wacko still screwing with you? You ok? Well, let me know.”

Just me?  Who is just me?  When I was in my transition period, I was also in a relationship. It was intense and horrible at the same time. It was a toxic relationship and I was blind to the effects of it and the damage that it eventually did to me. This toxic lover would always start a voicemail or text with “hi, it’s me” and for a minute I stopped breathing thinking that this text was from her. But in this case, the wacko would be her so this text didn’t make sense.

I text back…

“Who is this?”

“Don’t be silly, u know who it is! U r the one that keeps calling me. U think u would forget after these years and all u did to me. I didn’t look u up.”

I am now thinking, ‘oh my God, it is her! What does she want? Wait a minute! I have not been calling her. I have not called this B&%#h in well over a year. This can’t be her.’

I text again…

“I am sorry, none of this sounds familiar. I think you have the wrong person.”

She simultaneously returns…

“Gerry, look at the pic I sent you. You’ll like it ;-)”

Whew!  It is not my previous toxic lover!  I am not Gerry. Wait!  Now I wish I was Gerry. I wouldn’t mind seeing that pic!

She obviously gets my last text and responds…

“Gerald Sr. and Judy you r still nosy fuckers. Why not just put your adult son’s phone down!”

Ok, now that I know I am not Gerry, this is getting very interesting.

She sends a second text…

“And while you r at it tell him not to call me or bother me anymore too! I’ve got my fiancé and my 3 girls and life and don’t need him fucking shit up for me!”

Ouch!  Here is a woman who is trying to respond to some previous lover and she is engaged to be married with three kids? What a tangled web we weave!  Yes, this is getting very interesting indeed.  Now, I could take this conversation into the land of impropriety and irresponsibility pretty quickly but I have had my share of that in my life, so I decide to go the route of the gentleman…

“That is all fine and good but I am not Gerry, Gerry Sr. or Judy. Sorry, I hope things work out for you.”

She comes back with…

“Whatever. He called me from this number. That’s how I got it in the first place and I called it too and Gerry left me a voicemail. So whatever, Teresa”

Well, at least I know her name now. This implies that she now has some doubt about whom she is texting and that I am gaining her trust. I will continue in that manner. After all, I know her. My toxic lover of the past was very similar to her.

“Hi Teresa, this number is 607 244 XY02. I have had this number for many years now. I am not sure how that is possible. Sorry to disappoint you. I hope things go well for you”

She now realizes her mistake…

“Sorry, but someone was screwing with me and it’s YX02, not u. I apologize – Teresa”

“No problem, sorry for your troubles, we all have them. “

We were like family

It was a full day of living in the feeling I had when I was a full-time student working with people I love, learning exciting things and engaged in collaborative work – a day of opportunity, hope and promise. Even with the huge relationship mistake I made during that time I truly miss that feeling. Even though I feel for Teresa and her situation, however warped it may be, she completed my day today; Something strange did happen to me today as well.

Thank you Teresa.

Dreams of Sex, the Past, and Bob Barker January 30, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, inspiration, Sex.
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2 comments

“Come on down! The price is right!”  What?  Me? The dream was so vivid I could feel the heat of the studio lights. There I was, on the Price is Right Show. Bob Barker holding the microphone in my face and asking me, “…and what do you bid Steve?”

What am I bidding on Bob?

Wait! … where are my clothes?

It woke me up instantly. That is the only way I can remember my dreams; when they are so intense I am thrust into consciousness with the dream scenario still embedded in my thoughts. There I was in bed, still hearing the theme music and wondering, what was that all about?

Some dreams are so bizarre (thanks Bob Barker) and make no sense to us. Others have a clear connection to what is happening in our lives at the moment. Some are from our past. Some are of our future. Whatever and whenever they are, we want so much for them to have meaning. We want our dreams to guide us to our future or give us understanding of our past. We want our dreams to give us the answers to our current situations.

According to Dr. Michael Breus, leading sleep expert, there are reoccurring dreams that we all experience that may have a common meaning. These Dreamscapes include; falling, being chased, visiting or seeing someone you knew who is now deceased, being back in school or college, or finding yourself naked. In general many of these dream scenarios indicate some current stress happening in your life.  However, it is important to understand that the same common dream can be interpreted differently between individuals. For example, let’s take the dream about being in high school. This is a reoccurring dream I have had for close to 25 years now. My dream focuses on the restraints of the high school environment; hall passes, bells, teacher authority, etc… I hated my years in high school and this dream reflects the restrictions I felt while attending. It may even extend to the limitations I felt growing up with an over-protective mother and under-loving stepfather. I find that I have this dream more often when I am in a financially or personally restrictive time in my life. Others who have this dream may interpret it in an entirely different light. If they found their high school years to be personally enriching and socially affluent, they may have this dream in times when their lives and relationships are going well.

Sex and being naked

We have all had this one. Having sex with a friend, your boss, your mother, past and/or present and/or future lover – you name the person, people dream of having sex with them. Think about what sex is. Yes, having sex normally reflects a mutual intimacy between two people. However, it can also be an act of dominance or power over someone. Some even associate sex with pain. Combine your meaning with the person you dreamed having sex with and you can come up with all sorts of conscious parallel meaning. Personally I have never dreamed about having sex with my mother or boss (ewww.) My sex dreams always are with past, current, or desired lovers. More important to my personal interpretation however, is the fact that when I am feeling overly stressed, limited, restricted, I don’t have sex dreams at all. It is in a time when I have hope and high self esteem that my dreams become sexual. Apparently for me, sex is about confidence.

Suddenly lose your clothes during your dream? You are not alone. This is a common one usually meaning that you are afraid of having something exposed, insecurity or low confidence. It can also reflect on the anxiety you are experiencing about an upcoming meeting, doctor’s appointment, presentation, or performance. Not many get naked in their dreams and like it. For the ones who do it can reflect a bit of a narcissistic need for attention, to stand out in a crowd, or a need to be noticed by work colleagues or a recent romantic interest.

The Price is Right

So what does this all have to do with dreaming about being on the Price is Right Show? I have not seen this show, let alone thought about it since I was a teenager. Bob Barker was a young man back then (and that is the age he was in my dream.)

What does this all mean?

It has been a few days since I had this dream and I have used this time to reflect on it. My belief is that this dream mirrors the doubts I have been having lately about pursuing some big dreams of mine. Maybe I am wondering if the cost is worth it. Is the price right?

It is natural to have doubts. It is normal to lose some self-esteem – confidence – as you challenge yourself with change. But what is the alternative? For me, compromising is not an option. “What do you bid Steve?”  Bob, I am not going to make a bid because what I am doing – what I am going after – is priceless.

As for being naked? If people can’t respect me for the challenge I have put before myself, then they need to step aside and let me pass. I have no shame in what I have started. I have no regret in the hard work I have done and am doing to get there. I have no remorse in what I have left behind. I have put myself out there. I have exposed myself and it feels wonderful.

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become – Charles Du Bos

Resources:

Recurring Dreams and Their Meanings – Dr. Michael J. Breus

It Takes a State of Mind, Not a Place in Time January 2, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Health, Holiday, Life.
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5 comments

Happy New Year?

Are you sure about that? What difference does one evening, one day, make in your happiness? Will writing 2010 on your checks be that much more thrilling and exciting to you than writing 2009?  I doubt it.

I have been travelling the blogosphere in the past few days and reading everyone’s thoughts on how, in this New Year, things will be different. Losing weight, exercise more, quit smoking, do more of this-do less of that – Resolutions such as these are made only to be broken within a short time span.

Cognitive Dissonance

Rationalization of bad behavior can be a powerful influence. A smoker will rationalize by thinking, “I won’t get cancer, other people get cancer.”  A dieter has thoughts of, “One more cookie won’t matter.” A couch potato will reason, “Running is bad for your knees.”

The psychological theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Leon Festinger, 1957) explains just this type of human rationalization. It is more difficult for a person to change behavior than it is to change their thought. Thus, rationalization is conceived and the behavior remains the same. In fact, the process of Cognitive Dissonance is so powerful that marketers use it as a basis to sell you products you don’t really need. They force you to make superficial decisions that make you believe that you must buy their product. “Oh! Chef Boyardee says my kids will be happier if I serve them mini-bites micro ravioli.” “Oh! I will get ‘girl-approved hair’ if I use Axe hair products.” These marketing techniques are banking on people not taking the cognitive energy to understand that these superficial connections are completely irrational.

Superficial Rationalization vs. Reality Perception

It comes right down to Ontology – the way in which people perceive their reality. There are two basic meta-theoretical perspectives on this: Determinists – the thought that prior conditions determine human behavior, and Pragmatists – the thought that people plan their behavior to meet future goals. Determinists believe that their life is all determined by fate. This is the “Forrest Gump” philosophy of “Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” People who think within this paradigm are behaviorists. They believe that their world is just a series of events and awareness levels that are slowly unveiled throughout their lives. They have no control over the outcome. These people tend to rationalize more (they are more susceptible to Cognitive Dissonance.) The Pragmatists however understand that their whole world outlook is based on previous experiences and connections and their future is completely malleable through their actions. These people are interpretivists. They understand that for every action, there is going to be change and they have previous experiences to prove it. They learn from their past mistakes, they adjust future actions by assessment of prior events, they plan accordingly for long-term improvement.

The Transformational Learning Experience

How do we learn to think like an interpretivist? How can we gain the knowledge and experience that will give us the constructs to intrinsically understand consequential behavior? What do we need to obtain the cognitive complexity needed to think long-term benefits rather than frivolous unsubstantiated pronouncements of change that will be consumed by cognitive dissonance the next day?

I was fortunate to be involved in a research project on transformational learning during my last degree work. Transformational learning has three elements; the learning experience must be memorable, it must change behavior or attitude, and it must be continuously referenced within a person’s self-narrative (Wilson, Switzer & Parrish, 2007). Long-term behavior change begins with transformational learning. There must be a personal stake involved that transforms thought into entrenched action – action that will not be shifted by cognitive dissonance or any other external influences.

Specific examples might include:

  • Personal health scare or one of a close companion = healthy living changes
  • Birth of a child = value of life and need for longevity
  • Divorce/separation = broader understanding of long standing relationship values
  • Job Loss = value in acquisition of transferrable employment skills
  • International travel = understanding of acceptance and value of diversity

The list is limitless on the powerful learning possibilities and the long-term values that are gained by them. What is important to understand is that life change cannot be frivolously decided upon just because of a date on a calendar. True behavior change must come from previous experiential learning events that are transformational. Personal change comes from personal experience. Something must be at stake for you, or your loved ones. Use the New Year not as a reason to start a new behavior, but as a reaffirmation of your devotion to your journey towards life-long action. Action that is based on previous powerful learning which puts true consequence on change.

Long-term personal change comes from a state of mind, not a place in time.

References:

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Wilson, B., Switzer, S., & Parrish, P.(2006).  Transformative learning experiences: How do we get students deeply engaged for lasting change? Paper presented at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology proceedings, 2006, Dallas, TX.

Running is… November 15, 2009

Posted by jassnight in fitness, Life, Love, running, Spirituality.
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superstock_1431r-214silhouette-of-a-man-running-postersRunning is not just physical for me, it is also spiritual. Let me explain.

Much to the displeasure of my fundamentalist sister and the disappointment of my mother, I have not been inside a church to worship for almost 7 years now.  Why?  Because I have found a direct conduit to God, Yahweh, the Creator (whatever you want to call him/her/it, and shame on me to even try to label.)  I will call him the Beloved for this post, reflecting Trebbe Johnson’s book, “The World is a Waiting Lover: Desire and the Quest for the Beloved.” Her description of an internal connection with the soul that reaches out to the creator best fits my ideals of spirituality.

Here is my issue with organized religion. Religion has a human incentive to it. Since the “church” existed there has been a human desire to profit share with the Beloved. Historically, churches used the beauty and glory of the Beloved to manipulate, suppress, propagate, and market the human agenda – sometimes for good, more often for peripheral motives. Regardless, the church has always portrayed itself as the conduit to the Beloved. You are discouraged to speak to the Beloved unless it is through the convention set down by the church; a certain way to pray, a certain structure to service, a certain amount to tithe, a certain viewpoint in lectures, homilies, sermons, a certain way to die and morn, a certain way to celebrate, a certain way to love.

My connection with the Beloved has no conduit. We talk directly to each other. It is mostly when I run. There is something about the solitude coupled with the rhythmic sounds of breathing, heart beating and foot placement combined with the glory of the outdoors that brings me to the Beloved. This morning’s long run was a classic case.  When I started the run, my mind was in reality. I was thinking about my less than ideal situation. I was stewing about a relationship with someone that frustrates me. I was assessing what I will say in a very important interview tomorrow. Then I climbed out the foggy valley and looked down, I saw the blanket of clouds resting in the valley keeping it warm and safe. A huge flock of geese appeared from behind me and flew overhead. There must have been well over 500 of them crisscrossing in a complex array of “V’s” as they headed south. The sun had risen and splashed colors throughout the sky and fields. The wind was in my face. The smells of fall engulfed my mouth and nose. My day-to-day reality melted away and I was now with the Beloved. We became one. My body and mind connected to the earth. Heaven appeared and I was immersed within it. I loved and was loved. Peace.

Peace.

Running is… my connection to the Beloved.

The meaning of life November 3, 2009

Posted by jassnight in fitness, Life, Love, Relationship.
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just one thingRemember the movie City Slicker’s? That one moment when Billy Crystal asks Jack Palance the question, “what is the meaning of life?”  Jack holds up a finger and responds with this, “Just one thing…” When I saw that movie many years ago, I wanted to know. “What was that one thing Jack?  Tell Me!”

At that time I remember working hard toward that standard American dream. You know – the one that says that we all need a big house, two cars, lots of special gadgets and the best in services and comforts. With that mentality, I couldn’t understand why I would return to my standard funk even after buying the latest iPod, or renovating a room in the house. I just didn’t get it. Wasn’t this stuff supposed to make me happy?  “Jack, tell me what that one thing is!”

I will spare you the gory details about how I learned what the one thing is but let me tell you, it is true that money can NOT and will NOT buy you happiness. It is not about money. It is not about possessions. It is not about comforts and services. It is about LIFE itself.

I am currently working in a new career that I love and with people who are passionate about what they do – for 1/3 of what I use to make!  I am living in a back room with just a bed and a desk and feel comfortable, warm and secure. I don’t own the latest iPod or phone. I don’t get cable TV. I don’t buy the latest fashions. What is wrong with me? Nothing!  I have found that one thing.

That one thing is LIFE. This is heaven. This is the gift – here and now.

We have these bodies to touch, feel, and experience this world. We have these minds to understand, comprehend and remember. We have these hearts to connect, unite and love one another. This is it – this is the one thing.

I have made it a priority to take care of my body so that I can experience this world. I have seeked out more education and continue to do so in order to understand and comprehend. I have made wonderful relationships with others through my heart so that I can connect, unite and love with them.

I am happier than I have ever been in my life. Here is the extra bonus – The best things in life are FREE!  (Well, except maybe that last master’s degree 😉

This is my vision statement:

I feel great, happy, successful, prosperous, rich. I have terrific energy, since I cooperate with nature. Fresh air for the lungs, sound sleep for the nerves, wholesome food for the stomach, daily exercise for the muscles, great thoughts for the head, and close connections with people I love for the heart.

Let’s face it, she is just not that into you October 30, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Love, Relationship.
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2 comments

Unpeel the layersOk, let’s talk about personal relationships for a minute. Have you seen this pattern? You meet someone and begin to get to know him or her. One of you reveals a little something about yourself and the other will reciprocate. Maybe you started first and said something like, “my mother died when I was very young. It has shaped a lot of what I think and feel today.” Because you opened up and exposed yourself a bit, your friend follows suite. He or she may respond with, “I was close to my grandparents. They died in a horrible car crash and that too has been life changing to me.”  From there, one or the other may reveal something even deeper about themselves and the other will reciprocate. This is a common exchange that we find in personal relationship development. This revealing of personal thoughts, feelings and values may continue as the relationship grows. Trust is also built between the two participants. If the relationship fits the sexual preference of the two, this relationship can become intimate. If not, it can become just a deep friendship.

This is a phenomenon that is explained by Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor in their Social Penetration Theory. Altman and Taylor explain that this mutual self-disclosure process is similar to peeling layers off of an onion. As more layers (of the mutual personalities) are uncovered, the deeper the relationship becomes as each person becomes more transparent to the other.

The key to all of this mutual revelation is that the relationship must grow equally in trust and exposure. Anything else will cause an imbalance in the relationship. If one person either stops the process, or reverses the process (closes up and returns to a more platonic exchange) then the other will more than likely begin to cover his/her layers as well.  The relationship eventually ends.

The bottom line here, and my point, is that relationships take conscious effort. Mutual trust and understanding does not develop in a passive vacuum but thrives in active mutual exchange between willing participants. If you meet a person that you think you might want to explore a deeper relationship with, peel off a layer. If the other reciprocates, according to Altman and Taylor’s theory of Social Penetration, a closer bond will develop. If the other person does not reciprocate, Social Penetration Theory states that it is quite possible that there is not a mutual desire to go deeper.

Unfortunately, you may need to face that he or she may just not be that into you.

References:

Griffin, E. (2006). A first look at communication theory. NY: McGraw Hill.

How do you perceive your world? October 23, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Uncategorized.
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From which lens do you see from?

From which lens do you see from?

In my last blog entry, I touched a bit on life-perception and influence. Today, I thought I would go into greater depth on this topic.

Without going into a full lecture of meta-theoretical perspectives and the paradigms involving epistemology (the way people learn) and axiology (the way people perceive their world,) let me just state that people will perceive their reality through two possible lenses.  These lenses are either interpretivism or behaviorism and there is a big difference between the two. Behaviorists believe that their world perception and learning is determined by a slow progression of awareness of a pre-determined existence – objective awareness.  It is the well-known Forrest Gump paradox: “Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” Interpretivists believe that their life perception is shaped by previous experience and influentials (such as parents, peers, teachers, and religious leaders.) They “interpret” their existence through these parameters – subjective awareness.

The argument is this; is there only one, external reality that can only become aware to us by growth in perception (Behaviorist viewpoint)? Or, are there multiple realities that are conceived internally through individual interpretation of external events and connections (Interpretivists).

There are arguments for both of course, but think about this. If we were all destined to believe that there is only one reality, wouldn’t we all be voting for the same candidate in an election? Wouldn’t we like all the same foods? Wouldn’t we all drive the same cars?

While I was a student during my last degree work, I was on a research team. One of our discussions centered around which type of research tool to use to capture information. Being an interpretivist, I argued that a qualitative tool would best serve our needs. My colleague, a behaviorist, saw a quantitative tool as being more effective.  One day I finally said to him, “just the fact that we have two different viewpoints about this subject suggests that reality is subjective and not objective.” He had no choice but to agree with that statement.

How do you perceive your world?