PQ 6.5 — Do I look for hidden meanings in other people’s words? Do I bury my real meaning?

a crystal ball, in which there is a view of a coastal scene, including a vibrantly blue sky
Image by Pai Shih / CC BY

PQ 6.5 — Do I look for hidden meanings in other people’s words? Do I bury my real meaning?

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She is the most beautiful woman in the world. We’re whizzing down the road. A rural route. Trees rush by. She’s in the driver’s seat, like always. Her long black hair glints in the sun. Hers is straight, well behaved. Mine? Curls that are trying to run away from my head.

She never stops talking. It’s stream of consciousness, and I can’t follow it all. I can never follow it all. I don’t think even she follows it. She throws it out to the world, and then it vanishes. And she’s left with the feelings, the smoke produced by that fire. But I know how to look for that smoke. The feeling behind the words.

Mostly what she’s really saying is “pay attention to me, validate me.”

Because that’s what she really wants, my mother. But can’t ever come out and ask for it.

Dad is a rock solid person. Intelligent. Stable. An excellent provider. But he travels a lot. Works even more. And isn’t a talker.

Figuring out what Mom wants me to say? It’s a game with ever-changing rules. Fluxx. Or Calvinball. The “safe” response is context-dependent. I’m not even sure she knows from moment to moment.

But I practice. And through trial and error, I get pretty good at it.

And without realizing it, over the years, this social math has a way of reshaping the way I interact with people.  Constant self-monitoring and assuming that others do the same. Playing into the vicious cycle of relationship testing. And it’s years of many false stops and starts before I can make real progress getting out of these patterns.

The Mind-Reading Diet

Several months ago, I made the decision to go on a Mind-Reading Diet:

This week I decided I’m going on a new diet. It’s called the Mind-Reading Diet.

Slimming down with psychic friends? Nah, it has nothing to do with food.

Instead, I’m going to experiment with taking people at their word, not guessing the meaning behind what they’re saying, not feeding into passive-aggression, not giving fished for compliments, not anticipating unstated needs.

Like any diet, some days I do better than others — but I’m happy to report that it overall has been a very positive change.

And yeah, as a result, I really do feel lighter.

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.

 

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