PLEASE OFFEND ME! My Identity Protective Cognition Makes It Impossible (A Lesson on Emotional Intelligence)

I am inviting the entire world to attempt to offend me or hurt my feelings. You can attack my appearance, my personal beliefs (like religion, politics, or my crazy vegan lifestyle), or you can even question my motives for doing this in the first place.

You can accuse me of being conceited, as some might say it would take an arrogant person to claim no other person has the power of his emotions to offend him.

But I would actually submit the opposite…

I propose that pride is the root of being offended. I have learned that most people, by default, think this about themselves:

“I’m a good person.”

Therefore, a “good person” deserves (that’s a dangerous word!) to be treated better; to be treated with more respect.

So when another person comes along and implies that “good person” is not as good as they think they are in their own mind, it is an attack against their identity.

Let’s talk about Identity Protective Cognition for a moment.

It’s the concept that when a person has an idea or belief that is so well-rooted in their identity, any information that someone hurls against them will only reinforce that person’s preexisting beliefs.

So whereas the default for most people is, “I’m a good person, therefore, my identity as a good person can constantly be under attack; from anyone to strangers on the highway to my spouse…”, my identity is different:

“I’m not a good person. I’m a flawed person who is aware I’ll ultimately never please everybody on a daily basis. But I’m confident in my identity in knowing that I will always disappoint someone no matter how hard I try.”

Imagine if that were your identity.

Not to mention, I have Identity Protective Cognition on the belief that I fundamentally can not be offended and that no one can hurt my feelings.

Therefore, anyone who even tries to offend me will only reinforce what I already believe:

No one controls my own emotions but me.

But please, try. I beg you.

It will only prove my theory to everyone else reading this today.

I believe Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: ”

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Sometimes in Life, I Play the Villain

And so do you.

I am a mild-mannered, well-behaved, law observing kind of guy.  Yet still, if I was part of your daily life, I would at some point be the person to introduce conflict.  Your arch nemesis, your foil.  Because no matter who you are, you can’t always agree with everyone about everything.  If you could, you would have no opinion or personality.  You would be a life-size cardboard cut-out (like the supposed ghost boy in the movie Three Men and a Baby).

If every new day were an episode in the long-running series known as your life, the villain could easily someone different each time.  Some days it would be a coworker insulting your intelligence, some days it would be the policeman that caught you speeding, sometimes it would be your own spouse who you love more than anything but who somehow found a way to hurt you by something off-hand remark they made, unaware.  At some point though, we all play the villain for someone else.  But what if the same “jerk cop” who gave you a ticket two months ago happened to also catch a drunk driver the next day, preventing a possible tragedy in your own life?  The cop would be both a villain and a redeeming character.

Actual picture of me playing Prince Charming during the Snow White play during the summer of 1991.

During the summer of 1991, I played Prince Charming in a community play version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I remember how after the first performance, when it was time for the girl who played the evil stepmother to walk up to the stage and take a bow, the audience cheered especially loud for her and she was given a bouquet of flowers by her dad.  As a ten-year old boy, evidently still trying to understand the concept of reality, I thought to myself, “Hey!  Why are they cheering for her?  She’s so mean!” I couldn’t separate her the actor from her the person- though in real life, she was very friendly.  But at the time, I couldn’t see past her good acting.

Now as an adult, I think it’s funny when people who hardly know each other but who are in an isolated conflict often immediately assume that the other person’s character is morally flawed.  They make “right or wrong” issues out of political issues, or often just simply a matter of opinion.  Sadly, the lines have become blurred between healthy debate and emotional arguing.  For me, when observing a debate, I often privately award the winner as the person who refrained from speaking sarcastically and in a demeaning manner, yet still remained focused on the actual topic enough to simply counter their opponent’s offenses.  Emotion shouldn’t be the main drive for a debate; principle itself should be.  I fully realized this lesson after while writing “The Blog Sniper”.  (Whenever you see something on here both underlined and in bold font, it’s a link.)

I couldn’t have been on the debate team in high school.  Because at that point in my (lack of) maturity, I would have refused to debate in favor of abortion if I was assigned to do so.   Back then, I wasn’t able to look beyond the emotional and moral side of it, and realize that in a professional debate, like Spy vs. Spy, the goal isn’t to prove the other person to be a classless idiot.  It’s to disprove their theory, opinion, or perspective through logic and consistency.  Today, even though I am an extreme pro-lifer, I would not have trouble debating in favor of abortion, because if nothing else, it would be an exercise in which I could gain a new perspective from looking at things from a different perspective to help my bank of knowledge on how I truly feel on the issue.  In the process, my efforts as the devil’s advocate would cause my opponent to strengthen their thinking tactics as well on the issue.

Being that this post is my 447th post  here on Scenic Route Snapshots, chances are, no matter what your political, religious, and cultural backgrounds are and how similar you are to me in those regards, if you were to read all of my posts, there’s a good chance you would at least disagree with a few.  And that’s okay.  Because despite me being perceivably misguided on a few topics, I’m still the same good guy that wrote the things you did agree with and appreciate.  I am a debater, not an arguer.


Popular (Yet Subtle) Songs Dealing with Abortion

Pop music finds a way to safely put into words what we sometimes can’t easily speak.

Yesterday as I was driving home, a song came on the radio that I had never heard before- “Red Ragtop” by Tim McGraw.  I’m the kind of person who always listens carefully to the lyrics of a song; and part of the 2nd verse caught my attention: We were young and wild; we decided not to have a child. So we did what we did and we tried to forget and we swore up and down there would be no regrets.”

It’s important in songwriting to say something without actually coming out and saying it.  In Aerosmith’s 1989 hit, “Janie’s Got a Gun”, the words “rape” and “incest” are never used, but for anyone who has halfway listened to the song before, it’s pretty obvious it’s a story about a girl who is sexually abused by her father and eventually takes revenge by killing him.

Abortion is such a heavy and delicate topic; laced in political, moral, and religious factors.  It’s an extreme thing- typically people are either hard-core against or for it, while there are obviously some in the middle who believe abortion is excused from their opposition reasons in the event of rape, incest, certain death of the mother, etc.  But to never bring it up in the entertainment genre of music would be odd, given that it’s an event that happens every day- an event that has affected many people, most of whom I am not personally aware of who they are.

So I find it very interesting to see songs become hits that deal with abortion.  Aside from “Red Ragtop” which went to #5 on the Country charts, there are two particular songs I want to examine.  It was only a few years ago I found out that in these songs the protagonist’s girlfriend gets pregnant and has an abortion.    They were both performed by alternative rock artists and were popular while I was in high school.  And the songs both have a strong emotional tune to them while straightforwardly telling their stories with lyrics that evoke shame, sadness, and a sense of regret and guilt mixed with the realization of the need to move forward in life, despite their personal choices.

The first of these songs is “The Freshmen” by The Verve Pipe which rose to #5 in 1997.  While this song is officially about a guy dealing with guilt after his girlfriend commits suicide, I can’t deny the fact that some of the lyrics paint the picture of abortion as well- which according to Wikipedia, is the actual story behind the song: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Freshmen_(song).  Here are some lyrics from “The Freshmen”.

When I was young I knew everything
And she a punk who rarely ever took advice
Now I’m guilt stricken, sobbing with my head on the floor
Stop a baby’s breath and a shoe full of rice

I can’t be held responsible
‘Cause she was touching her face
I won’t be held responsible
She fell in love in the first place

For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and we’d never compromise
For the life of me I cannot believe we’d ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen

We’ve tried to wash our hands of all of this
We never talk of our lacking relationships
And how we’re guilt stricken sobbing with our heads on the floor
We fell through the ice when we tried not to slip, we’d say

The other song, more surprising for me, is “Brick” by Ben Folds Five, which also was a hit in 1997: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brick_(song).  Below are lyrics from the 2nd and 3rd verses.  After reading them, the reality of this song becomes much clearer.  I had always thought of “Brick” as a decently happy song; at worst, a song about a happy guy and a depressed girlfriend.  But it’s obviously much more than that:

They call her name at 7:30
I pace around the parking lot
Then I walk down to buy her flowers
And sell some gifts that I got
Can’t you see?
It’s not me you’re dying for
Now she’s feeling more alone
Than she ever has before

As weeks went by
It showed that she was not fine
They told me son, it’s time to tell the truth
She broke down, and I broke down
Cause I was tired of lying
Driving home to her apartment
For a moment we’re alone
Yeah she’s alone
I’m alone
Now I know it

So beyond our own personal convictions on abortion, the songs mentioned here give us the gravity of it: Even dressed up in a catchy song, the truth is, the subject of abortion itself leaves a feeling of sadness and regret.  The narrators of these songs have been deeply affected by their decisions.  It appears they’ve learned to forgive themselves, even if under the guise of “we were young and irresponsible”, yet they aren’t able to forget; as consequences resurface.

Why Tap Dancing is Officially Masculine (And Most Other Kinds of Dancing are Feminine)

Le tap dance; la clog.

Unlike the French and Spanish languages, English doesn’t have masculine and feminine nouns.  Yet still, there are subtle gender clues and accents if we look closely enough for them.  Like the way that Coldplay is masculine, while The Fray is feminine (because they got famous by having their songs featured on Grey’s Anatomy). And the way a Dodge Dakota is masculine; while a Nissan X-Terra is feminine (this was referenced in an episode of The Office).

During dinner a few weeks ago I happened to catch 20 minutes of So You Think You Can Dance.  It was a results episode so they were mainly filling the air time with professional tap dancers, all of which were male.  Mainly dancing solo, but there were a few duos.  Interestingly, after each of them danced, they were briefly interviewed.  I couldn’t help but notice that none of these male tap dancers were the least bit effeminate or sexually questionable in any way- they were ordinary, straight dudes.

I’m okay with being politically incorrect in stating this fact that we already know and recognize: It’s common for professional male dancers (especially on reality TV shows) to not be straight.  Which is ironic because as we watch these couples dance, the male is being represented by a man who in reality may not be sexually attracted to women.  Typically, straight men are not the ones representing the guy in the relationship in these dances.

Why are straight men typically inclined not to be good dancers?  Because group dancing and dancing in pairs, as a whole, are more of feminine acts.  Dancing as we know it today is free-spirited and emotionally expressive.  It often shows the ups and downs of relationships and/or life in general.  That doesn’t work for most men, because a man’s mind is wired to be formulaic and often emotionally repressive.  Most men have to “learn to dance”.  Tell me what to do so I can get this right. It’s more about straight memorization for a straight guy to learn to dance.  He’s learning to dance to make his girlfriend or wife happy- not to express himself in a new exciting way.

When I think of famous tap dancers throughout American history, I think of classy Italian, Jewish, and African-American men wearing black suits like Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gregory Hines, and of course, the legendary Tony Danza.  Although, this isn’t to say that all or even most tap-dancing men are straight.  But what I do recognize is 1) that because tap dancing is simply based on rhythm and formula (which are masculine elements- famous female drummers are a rare thing), and 2) that tap dancing only really evokes one basic emotional feel, which is always positive and upbeat.  I never remember seeing a tap dancing routine which went from happy, to sad, to angry, back to happy, to a feeling of loss, to happy, to acceptance of grief, to contentment, the way a typical 2 minute dance song on Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance typically does.

Clogging, on the other hand, though similar to tap-dancing, is not masculine.  It often involves groups, costumes, and festive music- therefore making it a feminine art form, since there is room for “artistic expression”.  But square dancing is masculine because, like in tap-dancing, the mood is always the same (upbeat) and there is no guesswork on how to do it, since the instructions are typically spoken to music.

So how could a man and a woman dance to music and it realistically represent them and their relationship?  I’m picturing a guy tap dancing in his own little world while the woman ballet dances around him, and the guy is seemingly oblivious to what is going on.