Rita on resistance

Friday, September 1, 2017

4:25 a.m. All right, Rita. I think we’re about to meet resistance.

Resistance is fine if it is the right manner of resistance. Not if it is head-in-the-sand, not if it is reflexive counter-argument rather than serious consideration. But resistance that stems from having absorbed the letter and the spirit of what is being said and then expressing a counter-position, or a perceived

Yeah. It sort of ran into the ground. Try again?

On the one hand we don’t want to discourse on the process of logic and analysis. On the other hand not every form of opposition is productive. So, a few words on receiving and responding, rather than rejecting and reacting.

It can be difficult to let yourself hear certain kinds of things. Internal resistance may make it all but impossible. Every word seems to arouse an irritable rejection, so that in effect you can not hear what is being said at all, but can only respond to arguments that might have been made if the person had been coming from the position you reject.

You’re going to have to make that clearer, and maybe it’ll take all session. (Or the rest of my life.) I know the problem, but it will be interesting to see you put it into words.

That actually may be more difficult than your putting it into words and my correcting it to make it my own, as we have done many times before.

All right. Let’s see. (And here we are once again in the familiar slightly ridiculous situation of my having to wait for the words to well up – from where? – in order to provide words for a different and equally disembodies mind to critique.)

I often experience this in argument. Maybe everybody does. In fact, I imagine that everybody experiences it, but perhaps not everybody recognizes it, neither the being on the receiving end of such mis-hearings nor the being a perpetrator (if we may call it that) of such mis-hearings.

I say something. It for whatever reason suggests something slightly or even greatly different to the person I am talking to. He or she responds not to what I said but to what s/he thinks I said, because s/he is responding to what s/he heard; that is, to what my words suggested. That’s one case.

Or, I say something and it touches a core of anger or sensitivity in the other and the reaction comes not to my words, nor to my idea, but to the thing associated in the person’s mind with what was triggered by what I said. Thus, I say community, they hear social and jump to socialism or even to communism and they come back with an argument against socialism or communism thinking they are responding to what I said when in fact they are automatically reacting, like pushing a switch, to something suggested by something else that I didn’t even say.

Or – and you must be used to this reaction, Rita, though I hope not from me – I say something and the other person says, “that’s nothing but…” because they automatically and unconsciously play the academic game of associating ideas and sifting them into familiar boxes.


Yes. Now, each of these examples, which will be familiar to most people, look slightly different when you remember that you are each a community of strands that sometimes compete for dominance. Indeed, sometimes your conscious life is a war of position, with many forces striving to be the “you” recognized by the external world, so-called. So in your first example, one or another complex is triggered by what, to it, is in effect a code-word. You didn’t mean to use it as a code-word; you didn’t even know that it was a code-word, but your intent is easily overwhelmed by the person’s internal reactions. (And if you are particularly malevolent or particularly manipulative, you learn these code-words  and use them for your own purposes, and the person is helpless against you unless and until s/he learns to gain control over such internal automatisms.)

Your second example is more charged with emotion, hence even harder for the person to become aware of – and as you well know, if you are not aware of something, you have no control over it. This second example is easily seen in ideologies and party platforms. It divides the world into “us” and “them,” and is very comfortable for people whose inner life demands and reflects such alignment.

Your third example is in many ways potentially the easiest for a person to overcome. It is closer to overcoming a bad intellectual habit than overthrowing a poorly perceived emotional complex. Once you are aware that you are engaging in what you, Frank, call “nothing buttery,” it is easy enough to change habits. This one does not stem from internal conflict but from, shall we say, poor intellectual training.

Seems to me that intellectuals are the ones who are most prone to it!

I mean, in this case, intellectual as opposed to emotional. You don’t have to have a Ph.D. to have been educated (mostly by silent example) into the habit of sorting things into pre-established categories.

So, to return from this necessary detour, or perhaps we should say, to round it off, let me say that nobody is going to get much out of anything I have to say unless they seriously engage it, and that means avoiding the two extremes. Accepting it without thought or rejecting it without thought are equally sterile, for you will not have mixed your own intellectual and emotional essence into the ingredients. This particular kind of cake can only be baked if you put your own essence into the batter.

Curious metaphor.

Well, I was a wife and mother, you know.

Smiling. Okay, and–?

The hardest thing sometimes is to receive something new recognizing that it is new. The temptation is to say, “Oh, I am very familiar with that line of thought; it is only X.” And, in a way, it may be “only X,” but context is everything. “Only X” in a new context, especially if you are part of the new context, becomes not “only X” but X seen anew. What else have we been doing all this time?

And when “only X” is an X that comes accompanied by significant emotional baggage, the temptation to misrepresent it or reject it out of hand, or both, may be both overwhelming and completely unconscious, hence out of the individual’s control.

And it happens to us all the time.

More or less. but as you are fond of pointing out, things that are brought into consciousness lose their power over you.

Shall we stop here? This seems like a discrete unit.

A few words more, then yes, a good place to pause. In your time (as in mine) and in your society (as in mine) religion is one of the most highly charged trigger-points. You need only either mention or suggest something associated in people’s minds with religion to see a fast closing-off of people’s minds.

I used to see it in you, as a matter of fact.

I realize that, of course. So, I know whereof I speak. All right, this will do.

Thanks, Rita, for this and for the fact that I feel better now than when I started. As usual. Talking to you could put aspirin out of business. Till next time, then.


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