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Learning

January 21, 2009

As another example of the not-always-gentle pushing that’s been going on lately, the online language class I ran across has already been very helpful. I found it a couple of days after the new session had begun, and all the sessions are archived. Even handier, given my PTSD reactions, I was able to sign up for a flexible time, pre-recorded option, though this is probably the least threatening formal learning situation I’ve encountered. It’s not being marked, either. I may try to do a live session tomorrow, so I can ask questions if needed. Yes, I’m fairly sure nobody is going to jump on me if I do!

The instructor, Ed Fields, is particularly interesting, in that he also provides some philosophical background to help students understand why things are expressed in the way they are. (With cultural renewal as a goal, this is even handier.) I have been watching all four sections of Cherokee I, since each one has different explanations and side anecdotes.

One thing really struck me today, watching the two sessions I didn’t get to last night. Instead of expressing things in terms of “being sorry”, it seems much saner to express them as “not doing things on purpose”. This is a very important distinction, which ties in nicely with my Nana’s slightly punning “I know you’re sorry, now what are you going to do about it?”

I am aware that I have developed a harmful apology habit, and have been called on it multiple times. “I’m sorry” too frequently translates as “I can see you’re upset, and it’s scaring me. Maybe if I reflexively say this, it will mollify you so that you will stop scaring me.” That is really all it means, in too many cases. This is not very helpful.

OTOH, “I didn’t do that on purpose” covers the sentiment well, in cases where apology is actually appropriate. If I have inadvertantly done something which has harmed or upset someone, trying to fix the problem is much more appropriate than trying to gloss over it with by now largely meaningless words. “I’m sorry” will not help me find out what has hurt the other person, either. An apology over something one doesn’t understand does not really help either party.

A decent example from last night: DH was on call, and found that his phone charger cord had somehow gotten severed, so that he was not assured of being able to do his job. He got understandably upset, and yelled at me when I tried to give what little help I could. (Yeah, I reflexively trotted out the old “I’m sorry”.) The salient point there was that he did not intend to hurt my feelings, and I understood this. People yell when they’re upset, and it’s ridiculous to make them feel guilty about it. Sulking about it is just puerile. If they do this regularly without trying to find other ways to deal with upsetting situations, that’s a separate problem, which did not apply in this case.

Indeed, this is not a new way of looking at things for me, I just badly needed a reminder. “I’m sorry” belongs on the trash heap, especially if I am going to follow a more pragmatic philosophy. “The focus is on a desirable outcome that benefits everyone” sums things up nicely.

I also had another small enlightenment moment. Finding out how to say “I am called Goose” (as I used to be), I finally thought to look a bit further into the metaphorical value there. Sorting through the fluff (vegetarian geese???), this piece triggered some useful insights. One point I hadn’t considered: “For those that carry Goose medicine, its also very important to regularily examine one’s values and see if one is trying to fit a square self into a round hole. Have you been imprinted with values, ideas and beliefs that do not serve you well?. . .Sometimes these two imprints mesh well together and yet for others, it can be a difficult challenge to determine which set of imprints one really needs to follow. ” Yep, I’ve managed to imprint on a slew of things (and people) which were actively harmful, and often conflicting, to the point that it has become a theme. There are other useful metaphors there.

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