Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Someone Who Can't Stand...Themselves?

Today at lunch with a few coworkers, the conversation turned to one of the coworker's close family members.  It was noted that this family member "does not put up with wussies."  This individual was reported as an 80 year old who runs 30 miles a week, bikes, lifts weights, hikes.  It was also brought up that his current wife is 25 years younger than him; the only woman who could keep up.

The story of this man intrigued me.  Though we have never met, and I was only given a couple of paragraphs of description, the single mindedness described inspired me to drill further into the topic.  I was curious as to why he had such emotional reactions to "wussies."  (I understood he defined wussies as lazy, soft, or fearful individuals.)

I asked the coworker what caused this in the family member.  This coworker reacted with curiosity and mild shock of my shining a light on a door in her own room which she had never noticed for five decades.  She replied "I've never thought of that."

While she mulled this new found door, I posed a parallel for comparison.  I noted that I was not a taxi driver, and taxi drivers do not really represent anything for me beyond the service they provide.  Therefore I do not have any significant emotional reaction when one is in my presence.  Since the family member did have an emotional reaction to the idea of wussies, that term or description must have a powerful meaning for him.

After only a couple of minutes of thought, the coworker had an answer.  The family member had been told as a child that he was weak and was going to die.  So weak, in fact, that his parents were told not to bother sending him to school.  This man is now 80 years old, and still structuring his life around this very early childhood experience, still trying to prove to long gone parents that he is indeed, not weak.

This man has not reached out to his loved ones, and his love ones have not questioned his relentless behavior.  The conversation at the table had a  general air similar to describing a force of nature.  He just is who he is, always has been, and always will be.

I feel sadness for this man.  He has spent decades tormented by his fear of weakness while himself being too week to reach out for help.  In fearing his weakness, he inevitably developed a weakness when it came to empathizing with others and in turn having self-empathy for his needs and emotional pain. I feel even more sadness for those he kept around him, those he could not be open with, and those who dared not show their concern for fear of his reprisal.

Do you have someone close in your life with whom you do not discuss emotions?  Do you know someone who is single-minded and driven to focus on one specific activity at the detriment to all others?  Have you asked them why?  Are you curious where their motivation comes from?  Do you think they even know where their motivation comes from?

Just think, you could be the one to help save someone decades of fruitless repetition as they try to scratch an internal itch using external behaviors. Now that would be a true hero.

1 comment:

Mike said...

It seemed more like a story of triumph to me. I admire the old man for not submitting to an obviously flawed "authority". Also, the doctors said he was weak, but did his parents as well? Maybe the parents were supportive. Can't really tell from the article.