Cartoons of Significant Others

You know how cartoonists draw a picture of a prominent figure (usually a politician) that seems to typify them or characterize them in some way (usually exaggerating certain features)? I’m starting to get the sneaky feeling that we do that in our heads for our significant others.

I did a drawing course a couple of years ago when I decided I needed to exercise my right brain a bit and we did an interesting exercise called “blind drawing” which of course has nothing to do with drawing a blind person, as you would a naked person if you were doing a nude drawing (which I think would be enjoyable depending on the model).

Rather, blind drawing is where you look at an object, and draw off to one side, without looking at your paper, or removing your pen from the page. There’s a bunch of reasons why it exercises the right brain which I won’t go into, but we were asked to first up, draw our hand.

Now of course we all know what our hands look like don’t we? After all they’ve been attached to the ends of our arms for some time. And drawing hands are easy. We’ve done it before, so it should be a piece of cake. Everyone knows you draw a hand like this! But blind drawing forces you to really look at your hand without taking your eyes off it. You begin to study it and notice veins, textures, flaws, nails, blemishes, knuckles, wrinkles, colors and shades and the way the light falls on it casting shadows. Take a look at your hand right now and really look at it, and you’ll see what I mean. It really looks nothing like the way we would draw it.

The brain basically likes to take snapshots of things and turn them into cartoons, capturing the main elements and ignoring the subtleties and detail because it’s easier. Seen one hand – seen them all. No need to look anymore or think about it. It’s basically an approximation of the actual object. It stops the brain from going into sensory overload and allows it to focus on what you need it to, rather than noticing everything everyday afresh.

But this causes problems for our relationships with significant others because we cartoon them as well.

I’ve been married for ummm seventeen, no eighteen years now (maths isn’t so good anymore) and sadly, I think my wife and I are entrenched in the way we see each other. Over a period of time, I think we “characterise” our experience of the other person – their actions, behaviors, words, cobbled together with our own assumptions, ideals, values and expectations and we draw a mental cartoon of them (exaggerating certain features, approximating or ignoring others), and then have a relationship with the cartoon.

So I have come to see my wife as being fun-loving, spontaneous, extroverted, slightly disorganised, but at the same time insecure, fearful, lacking in self esteem and clingy. She on the other hand has come to see me as domineering, driven, goal oriented, uncaring, unsympathetic, over bearing, critical, negative, unfeeling, analytical, and unloving.

The problem is, that I worry that she may be more or less of those things than I perceive. And I definitely have softened particularly in the last few years, but her cartoon of me remains the same. I think when it comes to significant others, having caricatures of them is counter productive. Everyone is on a journey, and everyone is changing. It’s unfair to relate to them according to our mental-historical cartoon of them and not only unfair, but dishonoring and it leads to a static relationship, not a dynamic one – which is what we’re all longing for. Not only do people need to be on a journey to become the best they can be, but our relationships have to be free of cartoons, to be the best it can be.

For the fans of James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar out there, the Na’vi greet one another with “I see you” which is the direct translation of the Sanskrit Namaste. Which doesn’t just mean I can physically see you, it literally means “the God in me sees the God in you.”

I wonder how we can really begin to “see” our significant others again, and not just a dodgy, approximated, static, exaggerated cartoon of them.

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Mothers day disaster

Today is mothers day. I’m lying in bed after 11pm and my wife is snoring at about mid volume next to me. I’ve rolled her over so she’s facing away.20110508-114141.jpg
My overwhelming feeling is one of pain and distress. I’ve just downed half a coffee cup of cheap tawny to take the edge off.

Mothers day went badly. She’s been so stressed lately that the kids thought they would go all out on mothers day. Unfortunately for them she had expectations of how the day would go – and they didn’t meet it.

Somewhere throughout the day she grew horns and the kids excitement rapidly deflated. One said he wished he was two years old again. Another said he wished mum was back in bed.
They all felt like they’d failed because mum wasn’t happy.

Despite trying I couldn’t get her to reign in the black dog. I could see their little spirits slowing wilting but couldn’t seem to abate the fallout.

Here’s what I know:

Parents shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations of little people.

Parents shouldn’t make it the responsibility of kids to make them happy.

Parents should be honest with kids and explain if they’re not well.

Parents should be responsible for their own emotional wellbeing because the alternative damages kids.

When parents are suffering anxiety or depression they are in fight or flight and have tunnel vision and interpret kids actions as disobedient, willful, dishonoring or disrespectful that is, the kids behaviors are interpreted in relation to the person who is unwell. It’s personalized. In fact it’s usually just kids being kids. Tunnel vision by parents in survival mode doesn’t afford the greatest perspective.

Kids need to be leveled with. They need ways to understand what they’re experiencing.

Lastly never use rice flour to make Gyozai skins and try and find out if your wife hates Tom Cruise before you rent a DVD featuring him as leading actor for mothers day night.