“Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.” – Ambrose Bierce
#WARNING: This post contains language and imagery some may find offensive; if that is the case, then tough titty said the kitty.
Human communication is a funny thing.
We speak, we inform, therefore creating bonds, relating, sharing; words intertwine with meaning, emotion, and intent.
From the beginning of time, we have grunted our wishes, yelled out our aggression, announced our intentions, moaned out our pleasure and pain, through sound, symbols, gestures, and the occasional middle finger or two.*
*How ironic that just like creatures in the animal kingdom, humans do not necessarily need opposable thumbs to wreak havoc; one middle finger is enough to instigate gang warfare, so yeah, take THAT pesky lemurs, bears, and raccoons!
The universal communicator needs no translation, ladies and gentlemen.
So why is it that now, in an age of technological advancement, of electronic miracles gifted to us by the gods of invention and innovation, have we become so….damn….regrettably….STUPID.
Ok, so maybe the word stupid is a tad harsh.
Snowflakey, perhaps? (Snowflakey is an actual word; go look it up. I swear it’s real! )
No. That’s not it.
The word I’m looking for is desensitized.
Taking out cultural differences, language barriers, and all sorts of myriad variables and complications out of the equation, there is one all-encompassing, crucial component to effective communication, in my humble opinion:
A blessing that many mentally ill individuals sadly do not possess the way most healthy members of society do (and unfortunately take for granted).
I have struggled most of my life with social communication. I was a very awkward child growing up due to my senses being all out of whack; I was a quiet kid with an itchy trigger finger when it came to emotional response, especially in stressful situations. Being bilingual didn’t help matters much since I would think in two languages; a lot of things would get lost in translation. I would stutter, hesitate, become confused very easily, which would lead to anger, frustration, desperation, and finally, backlash. I would constantly get into fights and confrontations in school, in my personal life, and especially in my family life – every day was a constant struggle to keep control, keep myself in check, or get smacked around like a Mexican piñata.
Yep, just another normal day at school for me.
That struggle followed me throughout my teen years, where it was amplified by puberty and rebellion, hormonal imbalance, and the constant desire to fuck almost everything in sight.
And then I graduated high school.
Oh boy, did the fun begin there!
You see, I entered college, and then -BOOM- the freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted, however I wanted, was granted to me, except I didn’t count on one simple detail: actions have consequences, and the only sense of consequence I had ever experienced growing up was violence.
You could get away with a lot when you’re 13 – the age I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder – but not so much when you are legally bound to take it up the ass from Chucho El Horrible* after you’ve broken quite a few laws while disturbing the peace getting into drunken bar fights because your mouth wrote checks your body could not possibly cash.**
*I have withheld Chucho’s picture out of respect and fear; needless to say, imagine if Sasquatch and a rhino had a baby, that baby would be eaten alive by Chucho.
**What can I say, I had the need; the need for speed. See what I did there? Twice? Whatever.
I was lucky, though; I never served a single day in jail (though I have been institutionalized many a time), nor have I ever been convicted of a crime, and I am still here, living and breathing because the All-Mighty Lords of the Universe decided I misbehaved, yet learned my lesson so I could tell my story.
You know, communicate.
Other people, unfortunately, are not so lucky.
That is why it is so important to be mindful of everything you say, every gesture you make, every syllable you utter – it is exhausting to scrutinize every last detail, but it is a burden that is worth carrying if it means better living and better relationships with those around you.
For someone who suffers from mental illness, even the slightest twitch equals an alien invasion, so if a situation arises, here’s what you do (mind you, it’s worked miracles for me, but please feel free to try your own variations):
1) Speak clearly and intently: No, this does not mean “Heeeeellloooooo Biiiiilllyyyyy, I am heeeeeere toooooo heeeeeeeelp youuuuuuuu” – that’s just being a condescending jackass. Just be clear with your intention if the person seems to be confused or taken aback; when in doubt, explain once again.
2) Be assertive: Translation – this is not the part where you insult someone to the point of chemical meltdown; just get your point across, firmly, affirmatively, with respect and consideration to the other person’s feelings. You cannot control how someone else reacts, but you can sure as hell control how you say things. The second you include a curse word or a combative phrase, it’s game over.
3) Avoid aggressive gestures: Yeah, gesturing is a fine way to emote your displeasure with dramatic flair, but this ain’t the movies nor Broadway, so if you want to avoid getting popped in the kisser, or avoid a confrontation that you will surely regret later, keep your hands at your sides and to yourself; do not fist up, or, better yet, you may try hugging yourself by clutching your elbows or clasping your hands. It’s a self-comforting technique I’ve been advised of many a time, and it has worked wonders when I feel I am losing control of my temper.
4) When in doubt, shut it down: When all else fails, and the communication breakdown is imminent and irreparable, it’s time to pack it up and go home. The situation will only escalate to the point of verbal aggression, or worse. I highly advise to use the first three steps mentioned above when closing an argument; clearly state why you are ending the conversation, do it in a concise, respectful manner, avoid making angry gestures, throwing insults, etc. and most of all explain that the reason you are walking away is PRECISELY because you don’t want to engage in hurtful behavior. Hopefully, the responding party will react in a mature manner and leave it be; if not, fuck ’em – just walk away anyway, but you can be proud of yourself for attempting to diffuse a sour situation and not being an immature jackass.
I have lost many people, and burnt many a bridge, in my life due to miscommunication. It makes me sad when I realize that usually they were just silly things that could have been avoided if I had just kept an open mind, identified and assessed the situation, and addressed it accordingly.
That being said, the beauty of it all is not to look back on past failures with regret; I look back with melancholy, yes, but I also use it as a learning tool, another experience, another opportunity to become wiser, to take one more step towards serenity and peace with myself and with others.
Playful banter, witty sarcasm, cynical jokes, and a satirical outlook on life can be a healthy choice, but like all good things, they must be kept in moderation; not everyone will see things my way (though they should, dammit), nor yours, and that is perfectly fine.
In summation, as two wise men once said:
Be excellent to each other.