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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We *trumps I

First lesson of going to graduate school is that, unfortunately in our society, it's an elitist thing to do. I never realized that until I strapped myself with over $100,000 dollars in debt to go. That on top of working 3/4 to full time the entire way through it, which actually helped me apply the lessons I was learning because I made sure I took jobs related to organizational psychology. I was one of only a few students that had to work at all. That is when I realized that it was not for the smart or bold enough person but for the wealthiest or stupid enough person who would take on so much debt - like me.

Second lesson of the applied graduate program in Organizational Psychology I attended was:
We trumps I.

This is one of the major things I learned through the 5 years I spent chasing my Ph.D.

We trumps I.

What I mean by that is that the dynamics of the group are more powerful than the dynamics of the individual when the individual is physically within the group and sometimes outside of it, especially on the extreme ends of experience either positive or negative. This doesn't go over well in the Western individualistic society (versus Eastern collectivist society), but I have seen it again and again. And you know what, everyone reading this blog experiences it on a regular basis. It is this powerful dynamic that I was talking about in this post, versus me being a god. Much as that would be fun (for those Neil Gaimon fans out there) it's simply not the case and there is no one more aware of that than me.

Here are some examples to illustrate my point:

The Mob or Group Think.

Mob mentality has been widely studied, written about, been the subject of many a movie, Frankenstein comes to mind. The dynamics of Group Think are documented very well in that movie, 12 Angry Men and also were the dynamics that were going on in the Cuban Missile Crisis which almost ignited a WWIII.

In graduate school we did a great many exercises with our group of 21 over the course of four years to teach us the principles of group dynamics that come into play when you are working with any team or company. Part of those lessons were about looking at yourself and understanding your natural preferences.

Bottom line is the group effects people's behavior and perceptions of themselves and reality. There is an impact in all of this that is profound. And though we trumps I, a single person can influence them as well. This is NOT about anyone being the victim of anything. You can influence your environment and in doing so influence other people (add - scream - this is what I meant!!!). When I wrote that Ellie is our dream child, it was these dynamics that I was referring to. Of course there is an individual component in life. What we do while under the pressures we feel from society is based on our individual natures, unique gifts and personality. It's all part of it.

Before graduate school was even a wish, I used to work with juvenile delinquents at a house that did not do physical take downs or any sort of physical restraint - which is why I worked there. They relied on the peer pressure to keep the kids in line. And it worked. That is not to say the kids did not do things like every now and then try to leave, because there were no locked doors there, or misbehave or talk back. But it was remarkable how they came there somewhat hardened by life and would become kids again. They were ages 13-19 and almost all members of gangs, all committers of crimes, and all survivors of an unimaginable variety of child abuse.

It was great to see them get to start acting their age when they knew they were safe and could relax a little. And their backgrounds were as diverse as the readers of this blog. They weren't all from the inner city and their ethnicity's were equally mixed. It was the group dynamics that helped them achieve GED's, behavior change, see the world in a new way. It was their individual make ups that determined the extent of what they could achieve in the positive environment. I stopped working with them and going down that career path because after 4 to 6 months of being with us and doing great work they were just thrown back into the same system that made them. The recidivism rate was high. It was a horrible cycle to watch. That was when I made my decision to work with systems to try to change them versus working with the individual.

In this post I struggled between using the word constructivist view of reality and creationist view of reality, choosing the later in the final edits. In under grad I majored in Philosophy, and minored in Ancient Philosophy so the lessons of Aristotle and Plato are deeply ingrained in my thinking. So in the dream child post I was using both terms in an epistemological sense, NOT a religious sense. I can see now how misunderstood I was by at least one angry commenter. And that is the risk in blogging. You are really talking to yourself and letting people listen in. However, if you don't explain enough about where you are coming from you just become a mirror for other people's issues and sometimes anger. That is never fun. It sucks to be misunderstood and then negatively judged, but, I'll live.

So in light of what I have written above, Ellie is a product of the positive home environment and positive school environment. Both are assisting her natural determination and stubbornness and the intelligence she retained despite the injury's to her brain. To try to compare how she is doing to anyone else's kid is like trying to say apples are the same as oranges and a stupid line of thought to go down. To attribute what Ellie can do to any one cause is also folly. To forget that there is an element of chance and destiny and a level that I will never know the entire truth of is another pitfall that can fule some of the gravest feelings of pain and guilt in parents who bust their chops and their kid still may not have a great outcome (medically speaking).

Could we be doing more - definitely. Jacqui and Billie are two great examples of mother's who do more for their kids than me and I take notes from their pages on new things to do and try with Ellie all the time. So if I have been sounding a bit shallow in the posts it's because I am overwhelmed with all the things on my plate and because Ellie has been doing some great things. It is what it is and if reading about it makes you angry, then don't read Ryn Tales. Because this blog was not meant to hurt anyone but as an outlet for me, a running conversation to help me figure all this stuff out and share some of the things I have learned with other parents in the same boat as well as learn from the readers, most of whom have left the most informative helpful comments. So it's not really, go Kathryn and Dave! It's more like, Go Ellie and hope that her parents can keep up! I am happy with whatever she does and with her in general as she is in the moment every moment. I am really happy and forever grateful that she is here. I will be happy as long as she is here. After that all bets are off.

But from my world view, we definitely trumps I. If that is arrogant and elitist, so be it.

* when I say "trump" as in we trumps I, let it be known I am not talking about The Donald but am using in a poker/card playing sense.


Bird said...

You put this so well--there isn't much to add. We really are just cheerleaders and the kids and a degree of fate are in there. Like I said, so well put.

Disability Blogger said...

"Bottom line is the group effects people's behavior and perceptions of themselves and reality."

One sort of group think phenomenon has been demonstrated on the website, Digg. At its core, Digg is a way for people to share items of interest, including news. Many thousands of items are submitted, perhaps on a daily basis, but few make it to the front page. What determines which items get to page one is how may "digs" (i.e. votes) a particular item will receive from other members of Digg. Most news items, or videos, or pictures, will typically get 2 or 3 digs. However, dig members that have more social contacts within digg will be more likely to have their submissions noticed and, as a result, will receive more votes. This is what they've found. Once a news story (or other type of submission) gets about twenty votes/digs, it then begins to pick up digs from individuals who vote for the submission...simply because other people did. Subsequent votes may be gained from people who didn't even read the news article, but simply voted for it because a substantial number of others did. A completely adolescent group think behavior. The story submissions that are being voted on may have substance, or not. But that's not the fundamental issue driving the popularity of submissions within Digg. It's whether "other people" liked something. If members A, B, C, D, E, and F, liked something, then user G feels compelled to say he liked it as well, even if he did nothing more than simply read the headline of a story that was submitted.

"They were ages 13-19 and almost all members of gangs, all committers of crimes, and all survivors of an unimaginable variety of child abuse."

Between being a caseworker and a disability examiner, I was a teaching parent at a group home. The kids ranged in age from 10-17. Most had been abused in one way or another. The most dismal aspect to this was the high statistical probability that those abused would later become abusers themselves.

Anonymous said...

It's funny because I was a bit lost for a little while reading your post as I was reading it as we trumps one. I was trying to work out what donald trump had to do with it;-) Just goes to show different cultures.

You have made excellent points and it also puts an interesting spin in my head on why the discrimination happens so frequently. Is it not, the group perception of persons with disabilities? The group mentality. I'll have to keep thinking about this.

And lastly, I think you and Dave do a lot for Ellie. Who else has read every book known to man on nutrition? Not to mention flying half way around the globe for Advance? Ellie is doing so well and you focus and encourage her intelligence to shine through, so much that we as readers can see it. I think that our kids take us for a ride and it's just a matter of holding on as tight as we can.

Great post.

Kathryn said...

Bird - thanks!

Disability Blogger- INTERSTING! Great analysis!

Jacqui- muHAHAHAH! That cracked me up that you thought I was talking about Donald Trump - I have to go in there and make it trump not Trump!

But - to your more serious point - YES I do definitel think this type if thing is behind all types of discrimination! Some of it is classic ingroup/outgroup behavior which always makes the one who is different the "other" and not to be trusted, credible, safe, valuable (accept for specific purposes that server the outgroup) etc.

I hope your trip to Avoca was productive!

Anonymous said...

on this note I will say : "Go Kathryn & Dave" even if you won't! Anyone within our small family unit can see how brilliant you guys are both to Elle and for Elle so you are well entitled to say it from time to time.

give Elle a big hug and kiss from Aunty Sue xxx