Inanimate, yet sapient, sentient, and volitional…..Our Emotional Workarounds

Workarounds are interesting things. Most men, if they tinker with home or car repairs for example, have been shown some or even created a few. Painting corners or boundaries with trim for example, or nailing down the planks on a newly framed deck. There are workarounds. They are ways to NOT do it the textbook way. Sometimes they trade potential quality concessions verses the longer or harder way.

Emotional workarounds are different. They don’t risk sacrificing quality. They sacrifice honesty. They blur truth in the whole-truth-nothing-but-the-truth sense. They are not so much taught as learned. Creating them is a skill we learn as children. It’s a form of equivocation skirting up next to dissembling but as we get older and more sophisticated (or less) rarely crossing the line of outright lying. The worst thing we may be accused of, and its spot on, is being intellectually dishonest. Even that’s not a perfect charge because these workarounds are more emotional manipulation than overt attempt to bury truth. Some are even considered polite speech. Passive aggressive speech is an emotional workaround and some passive aggressive speech is considered good etiquette. “You probably don’t have time to help me with this this afternoon do you?” Or the always entertaining churchian, “We need to be praying for Patty’s husband Jim.” in place of “well, Jim’s gone off the wagon and is drunk by noon everyday again”.

Some of these are annoying, some are just the way we’ve structured etiquette in circumstances, but a few of these created ways of expressing things are lip glossing the pigs of social pathology. They are destructive in the manner they steal accountability from descriptors of sin. Divorce is my prime example.

Jen Abbas wrote a book nearly ten years ago called “Generation Ex”, for adult children of divorce. I’d come across her site before, maybe years ago, and had forgotten it. But this weekend Family Life incorporated some of her writing into their daily Moments With You articles (1,2) . In the first one they share a poem Jen wrote, then close with a paragraph that includes this:

This is the type of poem that breaks my heart because it represents so many children who are torn apart by divorce.

At first read, there is nothing wrong with the way they use the word divorce in that statement. It is not an overt workaround. But it still sort of imputes sapience on divorce where divorce is a thing capable of tearing, rending, doing something of its own volition. This is done more for expedience than to mask the fact that someone actually used divorce as the tool with which they rendered a family a family no more.

After reading that I went to Jen’s site and looked around. I read her bio and I downloaded and read the first chapter of her book where I found some basic solid statements.

After the late ’60s, marriage was seen as a choice of personal expression. With that choice came the freedom, even the right, to choose to leave the marriage if it was no longer bringing about the personal satisfaction a man or woman expected.4 Popular literature assured our parents
that divorce was like any other crisis and, after a short period of transition, we would all recover, if not be better for it. Happier parents made for better parents and, in a sort of trickle-down philosophy, happier children. As
a result of this shift in law and attitudes, the number of “expressive divorces” climbed steadily. (my emphasis)

I like the term “expressive divorces”. I also like the way she describes the fragmentation of a nuclear family as seen through a child’s eyes. I’ve written about the fact that family is a word with multiple definitions. On the one hand a definition that has permanence and on the other hand a fluid description of a potentially changing group of people. She describes it as a picture.

After a lifetime of looking up to Mom and Dad and
consciously or unconsciously viewing that marriage as a correct picture, they are overwhelmed by the thought that what they once knew as truth has been revealed as a lie.

She goes on the assert what family statistics reveal to anyone with the eyes to see truth, that being that those couples who stay together through even extraordinary trials look back on the block of years that is their marriage to date and see good, better, great, in the whole.

The athlete doesn’t quit practicing in the midst of pain.
He keeps at it because the goal of winning offers more satisfaction than any relief from his present discomfort. A mountain climber is not satisfied with attempting to climb Mount Everest. The pleasure comes with reaching the
summit. No one who’s been married will tell you that the union is easy, but any couple who has celebrated a fiftieth anniversary will testify that the sum of the ebb and flow of marital satisfaction is far more fulfilling than the
strain of any particular incident. In fact, it’s often through the trials, one might argue, that a marriage is strengthened. Few things are more deeply
satisfying than accomplishing that which was thought impossible.

But I was searching for some clue about what actually happened. What was the genesis of not one but two divorces. There is not a single intimation as to the cause, reason, or the identity of the person primarily responsible. The only thing in her first chapter that had any bearing on what specifically destroyed a marriage was a quote from a guy she calls Bob:

“I hated my stepmom because she was the one that broke up my family. And yet I had to visit and eat turkey
and mashed potatoes with her and always treat her as if she were an old friend of the family.”

Bob’s dad left his mom for another woman. Maybe Jen gets more specific in later chapters but the only clue I have to go on is something the second Moments With You said:

Actually, Jen experienced this twice–once at the age of 6 and again at the age of 18, when her mom and stepfather divorced.

This tells me she lived with her mom and step dad and that they divorced too. Its looking like the mom has a hard time staying married. She either chooses men very poorly and they have affairs, get addicted, use too much porn, or they leave her her for some reason.  Then again, she may be leaving them because she is unhaaaapy. These may be “expressive divorces”

Lots of workarounds are needed to discuss divorce in general in polite company. Even more are required to discuss a specific divorce (or two) and make divorce the bad guy in and of itself. That same second article from Family Life included these words:

Divorce had taught this young woman that if you’re not always alert, constantly scanning the horizon for warning signs, love could leave.

There it is. Divorce taught her. What’s odd about all this treatment of divorce as sentient, sapient, volitional even is that if it truly is that way, then why, if we took it up as a cause to kill that beast off, eliminate divorce, exorcise that devil, why do women go ballistic? What would Jen say to the idea that divorce be simply banned? I bet she’d suggest we slow down and reconsider. I say that because she goes on to say the thing that I consider one of the most family damaging empathy driven pat statements we frequently hear when a preacher decides its time he get tough on divorce:

Our parents’ decision to divorce was
sinful, but it is—like all sin—forgivable. God is compassionate and gracious.
He forgives all who seek to be forgiven.

I have never once heard any other sin pre-wrapped in soothing words of grace. Imagine, “a man’s decision to use porn was sinful, but it is-like all sin-forgivable”.

Rampant is a word often coupled with divorce. It means unchecked, out of control. Its a problematic word in that its used, correctly, to describe things that people do. “Violence is rampant.” I suppose so, but someone is perpetrating it. Would it not better describe something like disease or hunger, not violence and divorce? Yea, its just a word, and its being used correctly on technicals, but without it being followed with a description of who is doing what, its merely a newsreader version of the truth, long on sensationalism and short on accountability.

That’s what we have done. We’ve worked around the fact the people do things to other people. People use the thing called divorce to rid themselves of other people that they once promised and contracted and made a covenant to associate with in a formal group legally defined as a family and spiritually linked as one with a spouse before and by God.

When we have outbreaks of violence, some mad gunman goes berserk and shoots to kill, like that, we spend weeks grinding out every fiber of cause and effect we can postulate. We CRAVE blame. But even in those instances we cover accountability with intangible gibberish and pop psychology. If we can gloss over reality in those cases, is there any hope to have a proper postmortem discussion of the casualties when a family is blown up?

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16 thoughts on “Inanimate, yet sapient, sentient, and volitional…..Our Emotional Workarounds

  1. That’s what we have done. We’ve worked around the fact the people do things to other people. People use the thing called divorce to rid themselves of other people that they once promised and contracted and made a covenant to associate with in a formal group legally defined as a family and spiritually linked as one with a spouse before and by God.

    When we have outbreaks of violence, some mad gunman goes berserk and shoots to kill, like that, we spend weeks grinding out every fiber of cause and effect we can postulate. We CRAVE blame. But even in those instances we cover accountability with intangible gibberish and pop psychology. If we can gloss over reality in those cases, is there any hope to have a proper postmortem discussion of the casualties when a family is blown up?

    Thank you for refusing to dodge the issue here, Empath. I wonder if it isn’t just a matter of the fact that our culture has decided that in divorce, no one is really to blame. These things “just happen”. The heart “needs what it needs.” All that good stuff.

    The cognitive dissonance is astounding, really.

  2. But it naturally follows in our society that it should be so. Everything in our society is a commodity to be bought and sold, and overwhelmingly it is done through emotions. All commercials appeal to emotions on the basis of what is wanted, offering fufillment. Lack of fulfillment is one of our society’s few sins.

    This is why teaching on immorality is incomplete. Ironically, men are attacked for lust and abandoning the family, while women told they are in need of encouragement. But it is women who lead in sexual immorality, not men, while it is men who need other men to have their backs and encourage them to abandon trying to please women but rather to lead lives pleasing to God.

    I think that teaching women laissez- faire divorce is bad is like trying to teach men porn is bad. It’s too much the tip of the iceberg, too much has been taught and accepted for it to do much good. There would have to be acceptance of the idea that morality is more than how you feel before such teaching would have a hope of sinking in.

  3. There would have to be acceptance of the idea that morality is more than how you feel before such teaching would have a hope of sinking in.

    Good point. I wonder about the reception of a sermon that claimed, with no nuance, what you say there about morality not being about feelings. Would it not also stir the ire of the women in the group? well, yes, it would. i guess im wondering if there is another level up where the teaching needs to start since anything even remotely off putting to the ladies results in the same reaction

  4. I think you guys are stretching. I know some screwed up women, and I don’t think one would say that morality has anything to do with feelings. They would agree that there is an objective morality aside from feelings.

    I’ve seen women shout amen in a church at a sermon on adultery and then sleep with another woman’s husband later that day. The issue isn’t that women (or anyone really) believes that morality is about how you feel.

    The issue is that we tend to believe that our circumstances/feelings are extraordinary and God understands and will grant us mercy because feelings. The idea that “my divorce is not frivolous the way Susie’s was”.

    It’s narcissism, not a misunderstanding of morality, that is at issue.

  5. @ Empath: I think that part of the problem here is also that the average Christian is not terribly Bible literate, so that they get their Bible largely as sound bytes. Because of this, when I do teaching I often will start off with casual conversation, then will talk about a single word concept from the Bible, ask their definition, then discuss that, then talk about the biblical definition, then go on to talk about say a parable of Christ, a Psalm, what have you.

    Elspeth above says that people do understand morality. I hear this from some Christians and I think that they need to wake up. As long as the Church has the attitude that the average person in our community is just being stubborn when they wallow in sin, it will drag at us. I find that the scriptural understanding of the average Christian is incredibly shallow along with any other understanding of morality. Our society is IMMORAL. Until the Church wakes up and simply recognizes that we don’t live in anything resembling a Christian civilization people will continue to be confused by this.

  6. What a refuge marriage used to be! In contrast to the dog-eat-dog world, one could come home and kiss one’s spouse and all was right, right then, right there. A very temporal haven for very temporal problems: someone to whom you could give your body unreservedly.

    But women started wanting, then demanding, reservations, because women want to be in charge of their husbands’ bodies AND be in charge of their own bodies too.

  7. Of course they did. Our society made feminism possible, not the other way around. Our society encourages people wanting and getting. Feminism is merely one aspect of how that manifests, though it is a very influential aspect.

  8. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2014/05/28 | Free Northerner

  9. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/05/27/inside-the-manosphere-that-inspired-santa-barbara-shooter-elliot-rodger/?commentID=washingtonpost.com/ECHO/item/1401348359-970-278

    The WP closed the comments section, so I thought I’d continue here.

    You wrote:

    “May we know why it is relevant what you, in particular, believe or consider? Why must NAFALT and NAWALT be ubiquitous when women are discussing things? Why are personal anecdotes even raised in a national/international forum? What level of solipsism must one suffer from to even consider stating things like , I’m a feminist and I do do that”?

    The ONLY , repeat ONLY place where any of that would be relevant is when someone wrotes “Ophidia does X”.
    Its some kind of pedantic quirk of communications (and very poor forensics) when argumentation takes statements that begin with “feminists do ___________” and refutes them with “Im a feminist and i do not do ____________”

    To say that feminists do something is 100% true, even if it is only TWO feminists doing it. One may equivocate and say that most do not, etc., but your own personal litany is tedious and unnecessary”

    Gotcha. I misunderstood! And thank you for explaining things to me. It’s nice to find someone who agrees that Christians are pedophiles.

  10. I’m sorry Ophy that you cannot follow the difference between doing and being. People who can follow understood that what I said in my last paragraph, the one you failed to parody, was that they are DOING something. Not that they ARE something. You listed off things you don’t DO, while being a feminist. Not things that you ARE not.

    To be a pedophile is not an action, not something to DO. So, if you wrote “Christians practice pedophilia”, you’d score + on technicals because it is 100% true. But you didn’t do that. You smugly wrote something as nonsensical as the post I responded to.

  11. Divorce had taught this young woman that if you’re not always alert, constantly scanning the horizon for warning signs, love could leave.

    This view that love is something that happens to a person and therefore “love could leave” is extremely deceptive. In reality love is what people do and only is absent when people are not loving. Often what people think of as love is not really love at all, and at it’s base is a self-centered desire for something they want from another person or persons.

  12. Gotcha. I misunderstood! And thank you for explaining things to me. It’s nice to find someone who agrees that Christians are pedophiles.

    Feminist logic.

    More examples:

    “If women ran the world, it would be more peaceful.”

    “Women only make .77% of what men make, therefore the patriarchy exists.”

    “Women are more spiritually evolved than men.”

    “You can’t say that because it’s offensive to women.”

    “Men who are unjustly accused of rape can sometimes gain from the experience.”

    “All men are rapists.”

    “All marital sex is rape.”

    “It’s the mother’s body – she should decide what happens.”

    “There are already too many unwanted babies in our over-populated world. Why add more?”

    “Surely the woman, and her family, have rights, not just the unborn baby?”

    “Life doesn’t really start until birth, or at least until the fetus is viable.”

    “In the case of under-age pregnancy, the girl may not have really understood what she was doing, and should not lose her education and career opportunities over one mistake.”

    “He yelled at you? That’s abuse!”

    Coherent discourse requires some use of logic. Not everything requires logical discourse though. Sammich making comes to mind.

  13. Another example of feminist logic (see 2:08 through 5:03):

    Her arguments are classic feminist mantra based on fallacies.

  14. Pingback: A “couple” of clarifications; It is rare for “couples” to seek divorce | Feminism is Empathological

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