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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.