Tag Archives: response

We Can’t All Be Ron Burgundy

ronburgundy

Good morning, and a very merry Monday to you!

Yet again, I find myself needing to apologise to you, you lovely and patient reader, for not having written anything for a while.  Truth be told, preparation for the Fringe is taking up an insane amount of time, and I’m afraid the whole blogging thing slipped through my incredibly disorganised net.  Today’s blog will be an extra 10% funny and uplifting, just for you.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from working in theatre is that everyone responds to emotional situations differently.  What makes one person cry will make another angry, and what makes one person laugh out loud will at best raise a small smile from someone else.  The bizarre thing is how drastically our emotional responses vary from those of our nearest and dearest.  Certain things that would put you into the Anchorman “glass case of emotion” might only dip your best friend’s toe into the goldfish bowl of vague discomfort.

This can be a very good thing and a fairly weird one.  It’s excellent to surround ourselves with people who can give us fresh perspectives, but sometimes it makes us feel less rational when our friends disagree with our responses.  When it comes to emotional reactions we are particularly vulnerable, because our feelings tend to be relatively instinctive rather than especially thought through.

This is something that has come up quite a lot during rehearsals for Chris is Dead, partly because the content is quite emotionally charged, but also because the people involved are all very different.  Despite his constant cries of “where are all the men?!”, our only male cast member is actually very sensitive to the most upsetting aspects of the story.  (In case you hadn’t guessed, the title of the show pretty much explains what it’s about.  You knew that already, right?)  One of the girls tends to be very good at distancing herself from her character’s grief, and the third is stoically open-minded about how different aspects of the story will affect her at different points of the rehearsal process.

The best and most rewarding aspect of working with these cracking people is the fact that they really respect each other’s views.  It’s hard enough working on a show about death without the cast disagreeing on their feelings about it, so I feel very lucky to be directing three such empathetic and lovely actors.

Although my head is very much stuck in a my-life-has-been-taken-over-by-rehearsals-what-on-earth-is-this-“sleep”-thing-you-speak-of-? sort of place, I can appreciate that the cast’s communal attitude is something that should be more prevalent in the real world.  It might be baffling or annoying to find that we are not on the same wavelength as others around us, but we should have confidence in the validity of our feelings.  We should also make the effort to try and understand where other people are coming from.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Monday.

“Assume” Makes People Donkeys (Or Something)

Chinandolar-Bong

Hello, and happy Friday to you!

Friendships work because two people discover that they enjoy spending time together, and the more time they spend together, the better they understand each other.  One of the best aspects of long-standing and particularly close friendships is that we take pride in our complete knowledge of the other person.

Knowing how your friends feel about certain things allows you to anticipate their responses to given situations in a way that reflects how you feel about them; remembering things about their preferences shows that you care.  Here’s a very basic example: my friends know that I can’t stand Keira Knightley, so when they look through a list of potential films for us to see at the cinema, they tend to skip anything with her name in the credits.

This understanding of another person is great for things like choosing how you spend your time together, picking out excellent birthday presents and preventing them from  ingesting things that they’re fatally allergic to.  We recommend books, films, music, websites and even other friends based on our understanding of how the people we love are likely to respond to stuff, and this can be an amazing thing.

Knowing someone really well can also be a bit of a trap, because after a certain amount of time we start to assume that we can anticipate their reactions to almost anything, but the thing is that people can always surprise you.  Think about it from your own perspective: you as a person are constantly changing and growing, forming new opinions based on your experiences of life, and developing your perspective on the world every single day.  Your friends are doing exactly the same thing, and what might have been true of them a year ago may no longer be applicable.  (“I thought you loved How I Met Your Mother?”  “I did, but Lily’s starting to grate on me a bit.  Can we watch Grand Designs instead?”)

It is a mistake to assume that you can predict with one hundred percent accuracy how your friends will feel in a given situation.  Particularly in extreme circumstances like bereavement or stress, people can react in all sorts of ways that do not reflect their day-to-day persona.  If we limit our imaginations and expect a certain type of behaviour from our friends, we are doing them a disservice.  Our friends deserve the opportunity to think and feel whatever comes naturally to them, and if it isn’t what we were expecting then we should just respond out of what we can still be sure of: our love and respect for them.

If it were you in that situation, you would want the same thing, wouldn’t you?  If you woke up tomorrow and decided that you want to completely change your career (for example), you wouldn’t want your best friend to cry “but you’ve always wanted to be a sales data analyst!”  You would want them to say “tree surgery sounds awesome”.  It does sound awesome, actually.  I may have missed my calling…

Have an utterly delightful weekend.

Phone Off for Friday

bj_phone_lrg

Good morning!  It’s finally Friday!  And it’s sunny!  What did we do to deserve such good fortune?  I don’t know.  Let’s just enjoy it.

I have decided to turn my phone off for 24 hours, as of 9am today.  On the one hand, this is a pretty big decision that will have an impact on my ability to contact people, check the time and look up travel plans, but on the other hand, it’s just a phone and it’s not going to kill me.  Let me walk you through this seemingly random decision, and then see whether you might want to do the same thing:

Distraction
My friend Andy told me recently that I seem to be really, really busy for someone who doesn’t go to work.  And he’s right.  (Let’s brush over the fact that I tend to work in my pyjamas, ok?)  The point is that I genuinely do have stuff to get on with, and having my phone on my desk is just a distraction.  You’re a  busy person with a lot of stuff to do too, aren’t you?  Exactly.  Imagine how much more efficiently you could work without your phone in the corner of your eye.

Responsibilities
Speaking of work, lots of my friends have several email, Twitter and Facebook accounts synced on their phones (because of all the theatre company stuff we get up to, you see), so whenever anything happens on one of those, we feel the need to respond immediately. However, I have made a life-changing discovery: we don’t have to do that.
If your work comes down to email messaging (i.e. you’re not a doctor, fire fighter, etc.), then it’s really not that urgent.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to work at the same speed as technology all of the time.  You don’t have to stop walking in the middle of the street to reply to a message, or halt a pleasant conversation to check your emails.

Social Skills
Which leads me neatly on to the next problem I have with phones: what the crap have they done to our social skills?  It has now become acceptable to get out your phone and tinker with it if you are in a large group conversation, feeling a bit shy or just bored while your friend is talking to you.  (I have a friend who does that quite a lot, and I won’t name and shame, but you know who you are.  Stop doing that.)

Rejection
There’s a bit in the first Bridget Jones book where she complains about the passive-aggressive role of the telephone in dating, i.e. that getting home to find messages on your machine means that you are loved, beautiful and popular, whereas having no messages means that you will die alone and be eaten by Alsations.
Sometimes we have the same problem with mobiles, don’t we?  The immediate response thing is an emotional issue as well as a work one: when our friends and beloveds don’t reply to texts straight away we feel wounded and wronged.  Let’s take a day off from that.

Rebellion
I’ve just started reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, and it strikes me that we tend to see our mobile phones the same way the characters in the novels see their daemons: embodiments of our souls which we cannot emotionally or physically bear to be parted from.  They’re not.  They’re just phones.
I know that mobile technology makes life a lot easier, but I also know that I was perfectly fine for fourteen years before I even heard of mobile phones.  Our phones do not rule our lives or define who we are.  We exist without our phones, and we are actually far more interesting without our faces glued to them.

Have a record-breakingly good Friday.

The Recovery Position is Not A Game

Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  Sorry this is being posted so much later than usual.  Last night I was networking, then catching up on paperwork, and then my friends and I decided to play a very long game of “Who’s had the weirdest/worst/most unbelievable day?” and I didn’t get off the phone ’til stupid o’clock in the morning.  Ay, as they say, caramba.

If you’ve seen yesterday’s post, you will already know that I have just completed a two day first aid training course, so I am now qualified (shiny certificate pending) to help people who are unwell.  Bizarrely, I had cause to use my first aid skills almost the second I got to Victoria station after training, which was very odd.  I did remember what I was supposed to do though, which was nice.

I also had this conversation with my friend David, whose girlfriend is one of my best buds from university (and is just a little bit strange, as you can see):

2014-05-07 16.20.24

And I am proud, but I also feel a bit sorry for David…being put into the recovery position when you don’t actually need to recover is quite bewildering.

I am not in the least surprised by my friend’s silly behaviour, because I’ve known her long enough to anticipate her responses to things.  This is obviously not one hundred percent foolproof, because people can always surprise you.  However, being able to work out what someone’s likely response to a given scenario (or blog post) will be means that you are very well-equipped to make people laugh, feel better about themselves, and generally enjoy their relationship with you.

It’s sometimes the case (and I’m definitely guilty of this) that you anticipate people’s reactions in a negative way, for example, assuming that you can’t tell a friend about a problem because they’re a story-topper, or assuming that your outspoken vegetarian friend will have no sympathy for your meat-induced bout of food poisoning.  Sometimes this may be true, but not always.  Sometimes the notoriously bad listener will pay attention, the wreckhead will suggest a quiet night in and the emotionally unavailable one will ask how you are.  With that in mind, let’s not put people into boxes.  They’d need air holes, for a start.

Have a Thursday of dreams, rainbows and, wherever possible, cake.

Fight or Flight (or Flail)

No_Room_At_The_Inn

Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  Yeah, I think I’m coming down with something too.  Do you want some Lemsip?

Last night was the Empty Photo Theatre performance Date Night, and I would like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to everyone who came, was in it or has listened to me wittering about it recently.  Also, thank you to everyone who has contacted me to say nice things about it.  You are far too kind.

For absolutely no good reason, today I am thinking about our instinctive responses to stressful situations.  In physical terms, the fight or flight response is pretty fascinating: did you know, for example, that under stress our digestion and immune systems shut down to allow more energy for emergency functions?  Me neither.  I’m so glad that we’ve evolved to be able to deal with a sabre-toothed tiger.  Our bodies are weird and wonderful.

Our brains are weird and wonderful too, but in a different way: our emotional instincts tend to mirror our physical ones, and when an emotionally or just cognitively stressful situation occurs, we tend to either confront it or flee screaming in terror (metaphorically, of course.  In reality we tend to smile politely and change the topic of conversation).   Most people would respond very differently depending on different situations: for example, the person who would calmly walk away from a bicker with their friend might pull a machete on their partner in the event of infidelity.

Having said that, there are some people who tend to respond pretty much the same way to most things, and we know about this because we have terms for them.  For instance, the people who would usually favour a flight response to emotional problems are referred to as “emotionally unavailable”.  (I love that phrase.  It makes it sound like we’re doing a nativity play, and the emotionally unavailable people are the innkeepers shouting “NO ROOM AT THE INN, I DON’T LIKE TO FEEL THINGS!” before slamming the door on an awkward conversation.)  Bizarrely, people who would rather fight in response to emotional issues tend to be drawn to those who would not, and the consequences are usually frustrating and confusing.  I know lots of outspoken, heart-on-sleeve kind of people (myself included) who are attracted to fairly stiff-upper-lip types, and that has yet to end well for any of us.

Weirdly, I think that that’s probably for the best.  People who would run away from confrontation need the argumentative types, and people who are easily upset need to spend time with those who are slightly less fragile.  No one has yet worked out a sure fire method of dealing with emotional stress, so we need to try to learn from each other.  If we balance out fight and flight we usually end up with a flail, and although that doesn’t sound very effective, at least you won’t be doing it alone.

Have a supreme Thursday.

You and Your (not) Stupid Fear

There is a very specific tendency among my generation to find parallels in the events of our lives with episodes of Friends.  Many times I have been explaining a situation to a friend, whether it be a work issue or a love life conundrum, and as soon as I say the magic words “It’s like that bit in Friends when…” the other person immediately understands exactly what I mean.  It’s a bit bizarre to use a sitcom as a semiotic conversational feature, but there’s no denying that it definitely works (with people who are currently aged between 20 and 30, anyway).

My current situation is no exception: I am now unemployed.  I am excited by the possibilities that my new freedom holds, but also very scared.  It’s like that bit in Friends (told you) when Chandler convinces Rachel to give up her job, and when she starts to panic about her decision and he tells her not to give in to ‘the fear’, she cries “You and your stupid fear!”  That’s how I feel at the moment.

I think that fear is a double-edged sword (quick side note – where on earth did that phrase come from? Surely ALL swords are double-edged; a single-edged sword is a butter knife!  Anyway): it can be an excellent source of motivation, but it can also demobilise you.  If you can be afraid of something and use that negative response to fuel an active stand against it, that’s wonderful.  But how many situations in life do we really and truly respond to with that kind of maturity?  For starters, it’s a lot harder than it looks.

The writer and lecturer Marianne Williamson said “Love is what we were born with.  Fear is what we learned here.”  I agree with that idea in principle, i.e. that being afraid is definitely a response that human beings develop over time, but surely as a species we have evolved to have fairly appropriate responses to circumstances by now?  The fight or flight response still applies to a lot of occasions in modern day life.  The original “Oh-God-it’s-a-sabre-tooth-tiger-should-I-run-away-or-should-I-throw-my-spear-at-it?” issue is not so likely to be the stimulus these days; in modern times it could be the split second before a car accident, or the moment you realise that a shady character is following you home late at night.   But the actual response, regardless of the stimulus, is pretty much the same as it was when we first wandered out of the caves and started making kitchen utensils out of rocks. If the response has endured, is that because we need it?

Lots of people (including me) endorse pro-active responses to all kinds of negative emotions: anger, hatred, fear and even regret (which I wrote a blog post about for Empty Photo not that long ago – you can read it here if you fancy) can be used for the greater good in your life.  But the aspect of fear that separates it from the other typical negative motivators is that it deals with the unknown: if you are angry, you know why; if you regret something, you know what you regret; if you feel hatred, it is definitely towards a specific thing or person.  Fear, on the other hand, can be as vague and wishy-washy as it pleases.  And it can be very difficult to be firmly and confidently pro-active in the face of something that’s so flipping nebulous.

So fear is a learned behaviour that we probably do need as a motivator, but actually motivating yourself with it is a tad tricky.  I’m sure that everyone has different ways of dealing with fear and approaching its possible solutions, and I count myself very lucky to know so many freelancers (in the ARTS, no less!) who I’m sure will have very inspirational and encouraging tales to tell.  That’s not to say that they are all perfectly fine and dandy all of the time, thank you very much, but I know that they are all braver, stronger and more ambitious people because of their experiences with employment uncertainty.  I hope that they will share their wisdom with me, and that even if we never entirely rid ourselves of it, that we can all learn to use our fear.

Have a marvellous Wednesday!