Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Make someone feel

On a recent trip my Dad was telling a story which I guess everyone back home has heard numerous times by now, but was fresh to me, about a time he had to spend some time in jail. He got a weekends-jail deal, anyway grandma dropped him off once and to try cheering him up said something like (not sure of the exact phrasing) "Maybe you can make someone happier in there." Of course Dad then was like "No mom, it's jail! No one's going to be happy!" and slammed the door. But however she really said it, the sentiment is such a her-thing to have said. Maybe something like her life motto? She always tried to make people happy and was usually good at it. Super kind. It'd be nice if she were still around.

Despite not inheriting such great skill, I think it's a good idea to keep in mind especially for less than ideal situations for both yourself and those around you... If you can make someone happy, or at least try and think of some ideas to do so, that's often a lot better than many other alternatives like doing nothing or just wallowing. There may be other things you can do too though, so don't neglect them (and for some people kindness seems to hurt and they really would prefer you left them alone or expressed sympathy in less direct ways).

I think I recall reading somewhere of a parent making sure to ask their child after school over dinner what they did that day to make someone's day better, if anything. My immediate reaction to such an idea is that I wouldn't want to put this pressure on my own child as I sort of see it as a cousin to misguided philosophies about living for the sake of others, but I think that's more of an adult perspective and not really appropriate here, especially because such heavy-handed perspectives are cousins to other misguided philosophies about any form of sacrifice being evil. People are just trying to be more kind every day, that's typically a good thing. For a kid especially, the acts of kindness can be very small and still matter, like holding open a door, or a nice compliment, or giving up some table space at the cafeteria, or a hug to someone who needed one, or... it's probably good to engage a kid's creativity this way too.

Anyway just thinking about that grandma-ism and my own memories of her was a nice reminder to keep trying for more kindness rather than less, and made me want to reflect on these things, and a bit on the expression "make someone feel X", whether that's happiness, or rage, or love, or whatever. The idea that you can induce feelings in others is deeply embedded in our language, and not just English, either. And while the most powerful ways of making people feel things are with actions, even mere words can have an effect. Despite some sayings like "sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me", words can sometimes hurt, or bring joy, or inflame the passions... now what you do about those feelings seems significantly more in your own control than the feelings themselves, but that's another topic. Still, some nerds (like me) would prefer to act as if the "sticks and stones..." phrase was true at least for ourselves and so we blame ourselves for our own thoughts and feelings at least when it comes to reading or hearing things (I would certainly blame someone else for feelings of pain if they were torturing me); this is similar to the perspective of Crocker's Rules, and to declare we follow such we say it's ok to be rude to us, to not worry about (accidentally or intentionally) making us feel negative things with words. But this is an uncommon and weird thing to do and of course it should always be pointed out that it's one way only, not reciprocal. And again, there are other ways than words to make people feel happy, or sad, or in awe...

Edit: also just now recalled my trip from last year, which I thought ended well, but as I was going home I learned via email that I unintentionally made my Dad feel bad by not spending enough time with him (from his perspective) relative to everyone else I made time for (several I hadn't seen in many years). So many communication failures in this world happen from unintentional making people feel things, and I can't help but feel bad myself about my own mistakes, unintentional or not... If you're kind of bad at this like I am, I don't yet know what a general solution/strategy is, can only try your best. Being more incommunicado probably lessens the frequency but in itself at the wrong time can also be a problem. Maybe being bad at it is a reason to consider a minor (or major? I don't know) suicide of the personality by exploring some psychoactive crap... Like, sometimes when you unintentionally make someone feel a certain way, you're left confused why, but other times, you can understand, and even see a path where you really should have foreseen that consequence being probable. Those latter times are really mistakes to try and avoid again. If you do end up repeating the same mistake enough times, clearly the dominant common factor is something about the way you think, and maybe it's time for a sledgehammer approach if you really want to change that.

Posted on 2022-10-17 by Jach

Tags: fodder, morality, personal, philosophy, thought


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