They also suggested
flagging' that she was going to say something important by starting assertively with a phrase such asI have a very good idea-would you like to hear it? ' This case illustrates that you can't change other people's behaviour - you can only change your own, but by changing your own you will get a different response. We have an emotional attachment to our core drives and beliefs, and when we feel that our core drives are not being valued, we experience this as a threat to our self-worth. When this happens our emotions kick in and we take steps to protect ourselves. This was extraordinary: while they weren't doing the things we think of as growth, like advancing at work or learning new skills, they were still progressing in more profound ways. One of his most striking findings was that older people seemed to live in the past and present simultaneously, blurring the distinction between memories and current experiences. They revisited old conversations, apologized to dead people they had wronged in the past, gave new thanks for old pleasures. Of course, Tornstam's subjects were Swedes and Danes, who enjoy a famously generous social safety net, but his concept of gerotranscendence has found some currency here. I was introduced to it by Monika Ardelt at the University of Florida, who studies wisdom and aging. Ardelt believes that some of the tendencies found in seniors, like accepting mixed emotions and moderating negative feelings, constitute a kind of wisdom that grows with old age. Wisdom isn't genius or omniscience--it isn't discovering relativity or solving the Middle East crisis--but a competency that comes from experience. Mozart was a genius; your mother is wise. My mother, anyway. There was the PTSD. ) He was intermittently available at the very best. But lovely when he was. Charming! 6
My twin sister and I readily agree, chewing over these issues as we have for the past many decades, that, alas, we were destined to be anxiously and ambivalently attached little beings. We were products, after all was said and done, of intermittent reinforcement, like the rats. We had all the hallmarks: Insecure. Anxious. Hungry for more. I suddenly realized this could be a terrible mistake. But I soldiered on, because I had signed a piece of writing contract that said I would run a half marathon. My pace during the first five miles wasn't so bad. I was sticking close to 9:30 minutes a mile, which, as a tall, large man, I felt great about. But at around mile seven, my body started to suffer. I took a break and walked for thirty seconds. I felt I had earned it, you know? Running in the sun on a highway for multiple miles makes you think you suddenly deserve little perks in life. When I started to run again, my right knee was killing me. Every step was agony. The typical initial reaction for people of all styles is firstly to push their own approach harder. We tend to exaggerate the strengths that we normally bring to an interaction and become tunnel-visioned in pursuing our own approach to the exclusion of the others. Mobilisers will push harder to get quick results, Navigators will retreat to sticking to the course of action, Energisers will frantically involve more people and Synthesisers will delay to gather more information. Unfortunately, this exaggeration of our strengths is counter-productive as it is experienced by others as a threat to their sense of self-worth and they in turn will push harder to fulfil their own drives and they will display an exaggerated form of their own strengths. This inevitably leads to conflict.
The situation rapidly becomes polarised, positions become entrenched and conflict escalates. And the possibility of achieving a good outcome recedes. The initial reaction to conflict for Synthesisers is to emphasise the importance of getting enough input and information. However, when the Synthesiser's strength in gathering and integrating information is exaggerated and overdone, they may be seen by others as indecisive, compliant and unpredictable. If conflict persists, people react in different ways - they may compete, accommodate, avoid, compromise or collaborate. To measure whether older really is wiser, Ardelt created what she called a three-dimensional wisdom scale, or 3D-WS, which plotted wisdom on three axes: cognitive (the ability to understand life); reflective (the ability to look at life from different perspectives); and affective (emotional wisdom). Individuals might be stronger in one dimension, but wise people use all three in ways that cause them to reinforce one another. Using this scale, Ardelt found that for those who start out wise, wisdom does indeed rise with age, and that wisdom corresponds with a greater sense of well-being. The effect was especially pronounced in her studies of people in nursing homes or in hospice, where there is a low sense of well-being. Those who scored higher for wisdom were more content with their lives--as content as people their age living independently. Wisdom leads to better decision-making and more realistic expectations, less disappointment when things don't work out. Old people aren't made stupid by lust for fortunes they can never spend or sexual conquests they can never consummate; they don't froth for vengeance over slights they don't remember. Quickly seduced by the promise of love. Never quite sure we could count on it. So, that has been a drag. But honestly, of the three insecure forms described by Dr Bowlby, Sandy and I have decided that ambivalence is probably the best one to experience. It's not the most comfortable one.
The most comfortable form would doubtless be the so-called stable, detached avoidant form--which we'll get to next. (A hint. It's basically this: just drop the project of attachment altogether and live safely detached from feelings. ) But as I have already said, Bowlby discovered that many insecurely attached adults can actually find another love object (not the parent) to whom they can become securely attached--and can thereby heal some of their deficits, wounds, and self-defeating patterns. They can, as we've said, discover the considerable satisfactions of earned secure attachment. At first, I hobbled along, but then after a minute, either it stopped hurting or my mind pushed the intense discomfort away, realizing I was, in fact, doing this dumb thing and wouldn't be stopping anytime soon. That's when I saw my first person pass out. I was running with this woman, about my age. She looked in great shape. We were keeping the same pace, moving along. I turned to see how she was doing, and I saw her stumble, then fall to her knees, then on her back. She started convulsing. Spectators rushed to her side. A thought ran through my mind: This is pretty stupid and dangerous. That woman appeared to be in much better shape than me. 1 The Synthesiser will often adopt the accommodate strategy - they will comply and submit to what the other person wants. This can lead to a lose-win outcome if they neglect their own concerns completely. Remember, you have a choice in how you interact with others. You can adopt a different style and energy pattern if you choose. Matthew was on a skiing holiday at the end of which his standard of skiing was graded.
He was upset with the grading as he felt it was lower than warranted by his performance. He was also annoyed that another person in the group who skied at the same standard had been graded higher. This person was someone who tended to push himself to the front and be visible in the group, while Matthew tended to fit in with the others and did not draw attention to himself. At first he fumed in silence, but after speaking quietly to one or two friends, who confirmed his view of his ski standard, he decided to raise it with the leader who had given the grading and he achieved the upgrading he wanted. Matthew had been stressed by not being given credit for his ability, had overcome his synthesiser instinct to accommodate and found the courage to be assertive in standing up for his own needs - with a positive outcome. A shortened time perspective, in young people as well as old, has a way of wiping away petty distractions, Ardelt said. There's a reduction of ego-centeredness. All the energies that went to shallowness now go to the essence, what's really valuable. Older people in general accept that there's not much time to live and they're okay with it. Not that they're afraid of dying. They're afraid of the dying process. Wise people are more accepting of the dying process. Jonas Mekas had a simpler explanation for why he was happy. I think it's normal, he said. Choosing happiness was actually the path of least resistance, much easier than the agitation so many of his friends manufactured for themselves--worrying about things that hadn't happened, striving for things they didn't need, overindulging in drugs, alcohol, or sex. Now here's a surprise: those of us who are ambivalently attached may have a leg up when it comes to earning attachment. Why is that? Well, if you ponder this, you can probably guess. Because of the fact that we've had a modest taste of attachment--of safety and soothing and alignment and resonance--we know what it feels like. Yes, we're still the rat, pressing the bar obsessively in spite of ourselves.
They also suggested