Dimming Memories or Lies?

When I was thirteen my mother sent me to a Catholic boarding school. She had to work and felt I would be safer and also get the benefit of an excellent education. However, it was analogous to a Marine boot camp! We had a strict regimen: up a five thirty, mass at six o:clock, back to our rooms to make beds, breakfast, study hall, than classes till three. After our classes, free time till 4, outdoor activity till five, dinner at 5: 30, study hall and then lights out at 8. The rules and regulations were to be followed without excuses or whining. If you tried to outwit the good sisters, you were “in for it”,

There was no corporal punishment. You were told the error of your ways, and either had to go to detention or say hundreds of “Our Fathers” and “Hail Mary’s” in order to gain absolution. You learned to not try to weasel your way out of things very early on.

My boarding school days flashed before my eyes when I read of the latest, greatest, scandal which centered around Brian Williams the CBS nightly news anchor. It seems he reported he falsely recounted a story that he was in a helicopter that was hit by ground fire in 2003. One of the higher-ups said he “misrepresented events”. Another word used was that he possibly ” misremembered”. Is it possible for our memories to dim or can we embellish them over the years? Absolutely! However we are now in the era of “doublespeak” where we create words that make the bad seem good, make lies sound honest, and negative events seem positive. Basic to doublespeak according to Kathy Kellerman is incongruity -“the incongruity between what is said, or left unsaid, and what really is.”

The first word I heard that fit the above criteria was “downsizing”. Corporate cultures decided that it would ease the pain of just being fired. I’m sure millions of people on unemployment felt soothed when they explained they were downsized. Doublespeak grew over the years. Some of it is quite comical. I would be considered ” vertically challenged” and ” horizontally impaired” instead of simply short and pudgy. A garbage man is now a ” sanitation engineer”. A psycho is a  “pathologically high-spirited” individual, “pre-owned” instead of used or possibly beat up, ” person of interest” instead of suspect in a crime, “ill-advised” instead of a very bad idea. One if my favorites “negative patient care outcome” which means the patient died. Oh, there are many more and I’m sure many more to come.

When is a lie, a lie, or how do we discern fantasy from reality? How do we create a moral compass for future generations if we continually “misremember” the direction we’re going in?

You can have it all but you will be exhausted!

There are so many books on how to get what you want as soon as you can without much effort. You simply “put it out there”, wherever there is, and voila it is manifested. Techniques include writing down your affirmation, imagining yourself doing it, and sharing it with those close to you. The later could be problematic because they will probably ask you if you did “it” until you want to avoid them at all costs.You also become at the mercy of those individuals who are hell bent to never address the possibility that you may not have the where with all to accomplish your affirmation, or a plan to execute it. Their primary goal is to endlessly cheer you on which leaves you feeling guilty and having a strong desire to throw them off a cliff.

Lately a few researchers in the field of Positive Psychology have begun to question the merits of thinking positive without a good dose of reality. After all I can write,” I am tall and thin” all I want, but I am short and somewhat pudgy and unless I put myself on a rack and reduce my calories it is unlikely to happen.

What seems to have lost traction is the idea that attaining a goal takes time and patience and the ability to assess ones strengths and weaknesses. The ability to tolerate frustration is also part of the process. Unfortunately “ the art of waiting has become less and less available in a society that loves instant gratification.

“ In the late sixties and early 1970s a psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University, created a series of studies on delayed gratification. Children were offered one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for about 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. The reward was  sometimes a marshmallow, but often a cookie or a pretzel. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and life measures.”

Once again, I feel that the research simply defines what is obvious. If we can learn to enjoy the process of reaching our goals, our ability to be patient and our anxiety levels are reduced. So much of our culture is predicated on going from one task to another in a mindless fashion. Stress is at an all time high since the motto, “You can have it all” became part of our cultural dialogue. Having it all is exhausting! The ability to savor each step of our journey toward a goal is as important as attaining it and it is certainly less frantic.


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