My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

How to explain ERE, arranging family matters
AxelHeyst
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by AxelHeyst »

"Do what thy manhood bids thee do; from none but self expect praise." Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton

But more helpfully, no, it's basically just not okay to talk about anyone's weight seriously. At least in North American culture. When people bring it up in conversation to me, my strategy is more or less to pretend I didn't hear them and talk about something else as quickly as possible. I sort of do it in an obvious way, without subtlety, because I want them to understand that I don't appreciate them bringing it up as a topic and that I'm not going to be baited into being a part of their emotional justification support group. But you have to do it without explicitly addressing it, to maintain face-saving plausible deniability.

Regarding the "dude-fixer" thing, I've trained myself to just ask if the person is interested in my thoughts on a method for improvement, or just wants to be listened to, and make it clear that I think both needs are valid and I'm happy to contribute whatever is most appropriate (some people will say "well do you want me to help you fix it? Or do you just want to sit there and whine about it?" which is not very constructive).

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Bankai
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by Bankai »

Sclass wrote:
Thu May 13, 2021 11:24 am
After she left I realize this may have been one of those girl conversations where they want to talk about their awful problem but they just want you to listen. The minute you go into problem solver dude mode they freak - because now they have to actually fight.
You nailed it - she came looking for some empathy and you gave her solutions. Big mistake. The only people I ever talk about weight are 1) close male friends with demonstrated distance to themselves and ability to keep ego in check; 2) my wife if she wants to tinker her diet and shed few pounds. Anyone else, and that includes family, other friends, co-workers and random people - just nod and agree to whatever they say. This subject is a trap and usually backfires big time.

ertyu
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by ertyu »

Imo, regardless of topic, going into fixer mode without being explicitly asked to do so is both rude and uncaring/unempathetic because it

-implies that you think you know better than the other person how they should solve their problem (which you did)
-creates an implicit hierarchy which disempowers them
-implies that you think the other person isn't capable and resourceful enough to solve their own problems
-might be based on an erroneous assumption of what the problem is. what you think the problem is might not be what they think the problem is. You might think the problem is that she's in the grip of a fentanyl-like habit, or that she's not as hot as she used to be; she might want to share with a fiend that she feels discouraged and disheartened and be reaffirmed in her own abilities to find the right solution before she's ready to pick up yet another battle.

in general, i disagree that conversations where one seeks reassurance, emotional support, or just to bond through self-disclosure are "girl" conversations, or inferior conversations to those that solicit information or brainstorming of steps to a goal (problemsolving) as you seem to imply. I also disagree that people "freak out" when you problem-solve "because then they'd have to fight." There are many things wrong with unsolicited problem-solving that one might take offense to. Someone sharing a problem with a depressed tone does not constitute soliciting problem-solving.

As I have said elsewhere, I am also fat, and as a part of dealing with my own dependence issues have been reading r/StopDrinking to see what they know that I don't about changing habits and dealing with cravings. It's in their forum rules to use, "one thing that worked for me was" instead of "you should do X" when giving advice. Another helpful tip is to ask questions - not just questions that explicitly ask what the person needs from the convo ("what makes you bring this up?" - would have worked well enough for you to judge the emotional tone of the convo), but also questions that search for strengths (what are you thinking of doing about it? have you had moments when you've had this thing under control? what worked for you back then? etc.

I wasn't present for the convo with your friend so I don't know which part of the conversation hurt her, but god, how humiliating and hurtful it must have been for her to discover that this is how you see her.

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Alphaville
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by Alphaville »

Sclass wrote:
Thu May 13, 2021 11:24 am
Is it even cool to talk about somebody’s weight?
depends. not with insecure people. also, there is the case as you describe that weight can be used to one-up people in competitive settings.

as @ellerose was saying in her great little journal (just a few pages, quality stuff) a lot of people don't want agency. they want excuses to remain always as victims. and i'll add: they may also want denial. or they may just want a shoulder to cry on.

in the case of no agency, i have an obese friend who will describe in full detail their bodily disaster and medical problems and needed surgeries, but whenever presented with some possible way out.... it's just not possible. only unaffordable failed surgery can help. except... circular arguments.

if you were in the role of a shoulder to cry on, she'd probably have wanted commiseration: oh, me too, look at the size of my clothes, how terrible to be at the mercy of this fate, life is so tragic, i wish it were different etc. boohoo, emotion vented, relief achieved.

but since you were a former admirer of her looks, a more probable scenario is that she wanted you still in that role, saying "no! you're as gorgeous as when we were teenagers!" or something along those lines--beautiful lies to prop her ego for a moment. a little anaesthetic to endure the hour--a whole day, with the right poetry you could have made her day.

but instead you said "yeah, you're fucked up, but i'm here for you in this battle" which... not wanting a war comrade, she didn't hear your loyalty--she just heard the part where she's busted.

but who knows, maybe it can take some time to process and she might get back in touch and take you up on the offer.

it is possible to do this with certain people though--my wife is both the one whose beauty i admire AND my war comrade. i am not the best shoulder to cry on, and she knows this, but i have also learned to allow for a bit of whining before i start "solving." eventually i'll say "ok that's all i can handle im not your girlfriend" :lol:

and anyway so we exchange commentary freely on our physical condition, but only with the full understanding that we have each other's best interest in mind, and that we promise to take up arms against each other's enemies. actually, i sometimes have to demand her feedback--she is not blunt enough, and i must have the truth with both barrels! :lol:

anyway not all marriages can handle that sort of exchange though, e.g. sitcom couples, people who behave like sitcom couples, people who are stuck in a certain role, people who compete with each other instead of cooperating with each other, etc.

ah, best wishes with your cousin. i don't know or understand her, but it looks like you gotta handle that situation with great tact.

--

eta:
ertyu wrote:
Thu May 13, 2021 2:09 pm
Someone sharing a problem with a depressed tone does not constitute soliciting problem-solving.
[...]
but god, how humiliating and hurtful it must have been for her to discover that this is how you see her.

and shit, ouch, yeah, very much this too.
Last edited by Alphaville on Thu May 13, 2021 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

jacob
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by jacob »

First determine whether the X issue is something the person IS or whether X is something the person HAS. Resolving IS issues can take a looong time of therapy/debate/etc., whereas HAS issues can proceed pretty fast by adding to their scope (because they're helping rather than resisting). Determining who is which is 80%+ of efficacy.

(Think OO programming. Resolving HAS-issues means adding a few more methods. Resolving IS-issues means rewriting the entire program because the initial design is limited by a developmental ceiling.)

To rephrase ... quickly determine whether someone['s issues] IS-a problem or HAS-a problem. The former wants empathy or debate (usually to fit things into their pre-existing paradigm), only. The later wants to learn solutions. Depending on what you can/will personally deal with ... you can/should pick accordingly depending on what you like to divert your life energy towards.

Add: To make it more concrete. Weight: Do you have it (I weigh 180 or 260lbs) or are you [the weight] (i.e. fat or slim). Religion: Do you have it (I picked my beliefs) or are you (I am a Christian, Atheist,... ), Political Party, Career, Identity, Class, Race, Nationality, Sex, Gender, etc.

Add2: IS-identity is a slog. However, a HAS-identity can create change rather speedily. It can even become an obsession: Shedding IS-a as fast as possible. It's a different OS.

Add3: For controversial forum issues (see viewtopic.php?f=21&t=11971) I'll entertain HAS-a issues all day long. IS-a issues not so much anymore. If someone can't step aside/out of it (adopt the third person perspective), best not talk about it, because I don't/no longer want to play the third-person reconciliation role. I'll just ignore it or clobber it if gets too bad.

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Ego
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by Ego »

@Sclass, Your reaction was perfect. Happy to help. Unwilling to enable.

There is a fine line between empathy and enabling. Enabling red flag: a requirement that you avoid hard conversations.

Also, therapists get paid good money to sit quietly and listen empathically. They are paid a lot because it is extremely hard on them. The profession has a high burnout rate. If you are not getting paid to do it and they are not your spouse, child or parent, then in my non-humble opinion, they need to go elsewhere for that. But that's me.

She will come around. And in the future she will look to you when she wants truth and/or the help you are prepared to give rather than the unhealthy enabling she desires.

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Sclass
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by Sclass »

Thanks for the advice. I shouldn’t have walked into that minefield.

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

If its any consolation I probably would have responded the same way (not sure if that is right or wrong). I frequently have to remind myself to try to figure out if people want help/advice or someone to listen.

ertyu
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by ertyu »

I think a good rule of thumb is to assume that when people share problems, their needs are emotional. If their needs are practical, they will let you know. This has the benefit of dealing with the emotion if the emotion is the problem, but also even if it isn't the problem, a person with a clear head is much better at dealing with practical matters, so dealing with the emotion first helps practical problem-solving, too. It must be that pesky F in my INFP, but for me the emotion and the practical problem solving are two clearly defined parts of a problem and dealing with either in exclusion isn't effective.

It's easy to see why dealing with the emotion without dealing with the practical will not result in a solved problem. However, dealing with the practical without dealing with the emotion often means you aren't addressing the obstacles that people have to putting the practical in place. Let's spin a weightloss example: someone who has been sexually abused has glommed onto fat as protection: being fat makes them unattractive makes them safe. A classic for women, but also for too many men who keep quiet about things like these.

An example that's less therapy grade and much more common: discussions around food and eating make a fat person feel inferior and humiliated, food (especially in its industrial chemistry enhanced variations) is psychoactive, person finds themselves reaching for that ice cream. I personally often find myself reaching for the ice cream after family of origin interactions. I guess I'm lucky that's my poison and not booze.

If you focus on the emotion, you've covered all your bases. People who want practical advice will quickly redirect the conversation to things you're doing that might also work for them or to practical tips you have in general. It is at that point one can indicate further commitment to help, e.g. through helping with therapists etc: the fentanyl-level approach to weight loss, if you'd have it.

I also really like jacob's approach: establishing the extent to which a problem has become a part of the person's identity as a means to determine what would actually be helpful.

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Sclass
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by Sclass »

@ertyu thanks for sharing your perspective. It has been an eye opener.

I’m coming to the realization that these problems are not mine to solve.

ertyu
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by ertyu »

Too right: you never know what is actually going on for someone or how deep it goes. Not only are they not your problems to solve, you also can't solve them for someone else. Even if you know what to do, you can't solve them for someone before they are psychologically at a place where they can solve them. Also, and we tend to forget this, it's a legit choice someone can make about their lives that they don't want to solve a given problem. They might have problems A and B and decide that putting their energies towards B is more worthwhile. Problem A would still be a difficult problem to have, and they might still want to tell a friend, "bah, it sucks having this problem," but it's not on you to decide which problem they should work on with the limited resources they have available. I hope your friend finds what she needs at this stage. Also, that you hold onto that lightness of realizing other people's problems aren't yours to solve.

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Alphaville
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by Alphaville »

ertyu wrote:
Fri May 14, 2021 12:46 am
It must be that pesky F in my INFP, but for me the emotion and the practical problem solving are two clearly defined parts of a problem and dealing with either in exclusion isn't effective.
not to make you self-conscious or anything, but that's what makes you a good thinker and a good writer. you can grasp an abstraction and express it in human terms. the renaissance ideal of universality, after all, was embodied by artists.

and while i'm not the one who asked the original question, i just wanted to say i appreciate your answers also.

ellarose24
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by ellarose24 »

I'm not supposed to be here... anyways

Being overweight is a symptom of addiction. An addiction is the sign of mental health issues and/or trauma. (look up correlation between childhood sexual abuse and overweight women)

That's why I think it's harder to parse how what someone is and what they have. They have a weight problem because they are (in their minds) worthless/useless/traumatized/etc. ( this is incorrect, and jacob is right that it will be hard to talk them out of. Your place is to reaffirm to them that they are not)

I would have responded the same way as you by the way. My SO gets extremely annoyed because when he comes to me with problems my mind moves in 101 ways to solve his problems. That's just how I work, I like problems, and I like the thought exercise, and my mind jumps to solutions--even if most of them don't make sense.

However, I imagine if I told someone I was depressed--and they told me "Okay all you need to do is take cold showers, eat extremely healthy, do yoga 3x a day, and pray to god" I would want to hit them over the head with a 2x4 (especially because I have been told that way too many times). The problem is in "I am vs I have dialogue"--it kind of stems back to "people first" language which makes me gag. You aren't Bipolar, you have bipolar! Yeah, but being bipolar impacts literally everything I do and dictates my life more than anything else does.

And where all those things actually do HELP, they don't help unless the underlying issue is fixed. I mean, it is very well established in medicine and science that I need medicine, but people still like to tell me all the ways I can cure myself without it.

So I imagine she was telling you a symptom of a larger problem. That symptom might be her own feelings of self worth, and she may have taken offense because you were now agreeing that she is worthless (just the way her brain may have taken it) and told her she needs to change to have worth. I know that's not what you said, but brains are weird! Especially brains dealing with mental shit.

I wonder if you had framed it "(Cousin), no matter how much you weigh, you are an amazing person, but I know how hard being overweight can be and I'm here to help"

The fact that your thoughts are already, paraphrasing and hyperbolic "she used to be hot I dont know what happened"--I could see that sort of feeding over into the way you talked to her?

Ultimately, she needs a therapist, and being a therapist isn't your job nor should it be. But being a good friend/cousin is. you don't have to listen to her gripe for 200 hours, you can set boundaries, but you can also be supportive and kind. It doesn't sound like you were UNKIND, it just seems like a difference in communication--she was exposing vulnerabilities/fear for support. In her mind you may have been reaffirming those vulnerabilities.

Point is to see the human first, empathize, then offer to work together.

I know A LOT about talking to humans. You would not believe what prefacing what you say does. In my line of work it is "client, I need to ask you some questions that might seem personal, the reason I am asking these is because they will give me a better idea of your overall financial situation and help me come up with a plan. Is that okay?"



In the same way, learn to preface before you talk. "Cousin, I want you to know I care about you no matter what, would you like us to talk about ways to work on this issue that seems to be bothering you?"

I may not be an expert at a lot of things compared to most of you, but communication, empathy, etc I have to say I kill it. The problem was lack of communication--by solving her problems her brain took it as "he also thinks I'm worthless" if you had upfront told her you care about her and asked for permission, she may have been more on board, or she may have said no and avoided issue altogether.

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Alphaville
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by Alphaville »

yo, check out what i just found while watching something else

"the function of emotions"

https://youtu.be/tR-O12A78hw

--

eta:
ellarose24 wrote:
Fri May 14, 2021 3:40 pm
I'm not supposed to be here... anyways
haha! that was great though

7Wannabe5
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

What Jacob said about “have” and “is.” My note would be that a human can have or is “fitness” and/or “fixing” just as much as “fatness.” For instance, a human who just has some “fatness” can out strategize a human who is “fitness” and “fixing” with the Pygmalion Play.

Frita
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Re: My theory is better evidence than your lived reality

Post by Frita »

Speaking as an in-shape middle-aged female: There is another variation with female-to-female interactions: The overweight/obese person bringing up my weight and comparing. A typical comment would be, “I just don’t understand how you stay so thin and fit while I do everything right and still look like this.”

The “right” answer is to reflect feelings with something like “That’s so frustrating” and keep the focus on them with more variations of looping exchanges. If I am really lucky, the person will start giving me tips how things are done for “normal” people. (Note that I how to work at this and have had to lose 30+ pounds four times in my life. My mother is obese, obviously knows me, and does this.) The irony is usually that I walked/biked to the event and am drinking tap water with healthy food in reasonable portions while the person is pigging out and/or liquored up.

Sometimes I have more tolerance of these one-sided exchanges than others. Jacob’s “is” versus “has” is enlightening, something to ponder. A nice birthday gift to myself would be to nix the emotional labor of engaging even if it is supportive. It does not seem to assist them see the situation any clearer. That is when I start to disengage. My tolerance level being lower could benefit everyone.

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