We’re going to London and I’m asking my daughter what we should do while the others are hanging around in the viewing gallery at the top of the The Shard.
“We can go to Borough Market and buy chocolate brownies,” she says.
“For ninety minutes?” I ask.
“We could go to the Tate Modern and have a look around” I suggest, injecting the day’s proceedings with a bit of culture.
She scrunches her nose up and says, “I’ve never seen a piece of art that I’d just want to stand to look at. If I want to to see art I can find it online.”
I laugh because I’ve come to realise that the idiosyncrasies of my children are incredibly precious.
Earlier this week she was finishing an essay she’d written on the difficulty of persuasion. Reading through it I was drawn to the part where she talked about reactance and the way in which attempts at persuasion tend to make us angry about the loss of control and dig deeper into our existing positions, no matter how senseless they appear.
It made me think about how important it is to get the balance between protest and acceptance, and why it saves us enormous emotional energy to know when it’s time to let go and stop talking.
As she was writing the references for the essay she listened to a recording of her tutor explaining the way that they needed to be formatted. His voice, soporific and sounding like a West Coast AI went in meticulous detail through all the requirements.
Huffing and raising her eyebrows, she says, “Who decides this shit?” Before following his instructions diligently.
There’s really something in that point about reactance and the futility of trying to move someone towards your perspective when they don’t want to go. Frequently people tell me about how troubled they are, how much they want things to change, how hurt they feel, but they rarely believe that I can do anything to prevent it, much less have any desire that I might try to tell them “Things aren’t as bad as you seem to think”.
Mostly we benefit from giving ourselves the chance to acknowledge our pain and difficulty, and all that is required is some emotional “holding” from the people around us.
One of the biggest issues in communication is that the male psyche is obsessed with “fixing things” when the feminine psyche often just wants to be understood. There is no need for a “fix” just a recognition that discomfort exists will often do. Silence can feel impotent but there are times when it is the most powerful of responses when combined with a genuine emotional connection.
Looking at the weather forecast it seems that we might be spared the rain I thought was coming, so maybe we’ll just walk down the river being quiet together, and I’ll take a bag, for the chocolate brownies.