I am trained to listen. Like any mental health professional I am trained to set aside my own prejudices, to be open, to empathize. I can sit there, totally focused, open, completely absorbed by other people’s issues. It is a trap. People tend to confuse empathy for agreement, for support. I can support how someone is feeling, but at the same time totally reject, disagree, or just generally not give a fuck about what is causing that feeling. Far too often I am in this odd position where people just assume because I sat there, focused, listening, making all those understanding, reflective statements that I somehow agree with them that I am on their side.
And yet, I hardly ever am all that convinced of my own rightness. I cannot forget the rest of the world. I hear the echo of other perspectives. I tend see the big picture. But I must confess, I do get fascinated by other people’s passion. I suspect that fascination makes it look like I care as well, perhaps even agree with their issues, drama. I suspect my interest is confused with agreement to their arguments.
People love to come to me and tell me about their little dramas, pour out their guts to me. I am sure they think they have found an ally. But there is this part of me that is reserved, judgment reserved. I wonder at anyone that is so passionate. I wonder what it must be like to be all that sure of yourself and sure of others.
Last month I went to a local writer’s gathering. When I asked about the absence of another, I got a long story of a disagreement. There had been a parting of the ways. The way it was told, it sounded like the teller believed they had banished the other. But the little voice in my head wonders who left who. The issues were couched in political terms like censorship and freedom and rights, but the cynic that lives in the back of my head, wonders if it was less of an issue of what was said and how it was said. The teller does not impress me with her diplomacy or flexibility so much as her passion.
I wonder if I am in the same room as the other, the missing one, if my affect would be any less supportive, open, interested… fascinated.
And in reality, it is not my argument. I am not sure I even really care all that much. How much play is appropriate at a munch? That is hardly an issue that has much influence on my life. I know I would have some limit, some expectation. But I am well aware and tolerant of the fact that my limit would not, could not be the same as everyone else’s and I guess I have a natural sense of consideration for other people’s sensitivities. I see it as an issue of establishing mutually agreed upon guidelines in advance, much like negotiating play with some new and unfamiliar partner. You can go this far, but no further.
And when there is a public reading of erotica, is it appropriate for the owner of the establishment to set some limit on the content or is it censorship? Is all censorship evil, just because it is censorship? I guess I would say they get to censor anything they want… in their house. But I am not passionate about it… I would modify my behavior to meet their rules. I would expect the same of others who came onto my turf… my turf… I think I could find some passion there. But I suspect I would just as passionately defend someone else’s right to set their own rules on their own turf.
And now as the argument grows to open battle between factions, I get this random message, about support and solidarity… and I cannot help but feel…
I am sorry but you must have confused me with someone that cares.
And I am not so sure about returning to the writer’s group if it is just going to become one person’s forum for garnering support for her own political issues.