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Letter in Psychologies "Life Lab"; does this sound familiar?

Discussion in 'Friends, Family & Social Skills' started by Aeolienne, Oct 16, 2021.

  1. Aeolienne

    Aeolienne Well-Known Member

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    This letter appeared in the "Life Lab" [agony column] of Psychologies earlier this year. Does the unpopular woman sound like she could be autistic?

    “Our group excluded an unpopular person and I feel guilty”

    Three women and I who live near each other meet regularly for dinner and enjoy discussing our lives and work. Another woman joined us the first couple of times, but she is a little overbearing and dominated the conversation. Somehow, without it being mentioned, we stopped inviting her. We all know her and one of the others told me that it plays on her conscience because when she sees the woman, she mentions how much she enjoyed her time with us, and now I feel guilty too! What is the right thing to do? Should we include her, but spoil our great dynamic? Name supplied

    When you ask ‘what is the right thing to do?’ you are asking an ethical question, but I think you are mostly talking about emotions here. The dominant emotion is guilt, and that does not make a great basis for friendship or fun. I can’t remember where I first read that most guilt contains some resentment, but it stuck with me. Every time I hear the word guilt, I look for resentment as well, and it seems to unlock some insight.

    My point is not to dispute that you feel bad, but to enquire what type of bad. This labelling is what psychologist Susan David talks about in her work on emotional agility. When you can name and accept a negative emotion, it loses its destructive power. I like the analogy of getting caught up in an undertow while swimming: fight it and you exhaust yourself but, if you go with the current, it weakens and you can make your way back to shore.

    To put it more concretely: inviting her back might make her happy, but it would potentially make four people unhappy. Philosophers recognise this as the utilitarian argument, which assumes everyone’s pleasure matters equally. It doesn’t apply to every situation, but it seems a useful rule of thumb here. Accept the guilt, let it run its course, but don’t allow it to dictate your direction.
     
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  2. Judge

    Judge Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Quite indicative of Jeremy Bentham's "greatest good for the greatest number". Though to expand on it outside the parameters of your post would likely result in the thread being moved to another forum.

    "Food for thought", anyways. :cool:
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2021
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  3. phantom

    phantom Active Member

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    Im sure she would be happy when she eventually realizes all those people didn't like her that much and just faked it, it definitely can't cause more insecurity and paranoia in her, that she doesn't even know when people dislike her. Heavy sarcasm here ofcourse.

    I would much rather have everyone be honest about disliking me, so atleast i can be certain that the ones that do like me aren't just being nice.
     
  4. Aspychata

    Aspychata Serenity waves, beachy vibes

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    Sometimes we are a life lesson or the other person is a life lesson. I had a huge life lesson now l move forward slowly. Nobody has to do anything at this point. Maybe the social dynamics changed with her, and the collective whole decided no. She is perfectly welcomed to start her own group.
     
  5. Au Naturel

    Au Naturel Au Naturel

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    "Greatest good for the greatest number" is mathematical fiction as well as political mythology. It doesn't exist in the theoretical or real worlds. It always boils down to a majority justifying screwing a minority. You can always frame a question such that any given majority can benefit by disenfranchising any given minority. It was to put limits on this kind of behavior that we have the Bill of Rights. And a 14th amendment.

    How I would answer that letter...

    She might well be autistic. You've just confirmed to her she can't have friends. You didn't mention any attempt to discuss it with her, so she may not have a clue why she isn't welcome.

    What the group did was to deny the other woman a chance to grow. It is always easier to shove a problem away than it is to make an attempt at fixing it. But if the fix works, you've all gained. Not just the majority. If it doesn't work, you have lost nothing but a bit of effort. But the effort might be embarrassing, so you don't try.

    "Hey look, we understand you have a naturally dominant speaking style but it really crowds out the rest of us."

    If she gets it, wonderful. If she doesn't, she'll probably take herself out of the group. But there is a chance she might not genuinely understand what's wrong.

    Unless you fix what you feel guilty over, guilt is a useless emotion. Own what you did do and what you didn't do.
     
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  6. phantom

    phantom Active Member

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    In general i think it's not always safe to tell someone why you reject them, cause what if you are a wrong. You possibly send them on a path of changing/hating something about themselves that isn't even bad or doesn't exist. That could do a lot of damage. And anyone that doesn't have the ego of a narcissist would recognize that their judgement of someone could be off. It's much easier to silently reject someone. Something like "i just don't like you that much" is safer then a detailed explanation on what is wrong with them.

    I think that's definitely the main reason why people with autism are often not told what they did wrong and have to figure it all out on their own.
     
  7. Judge

    Judge Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Utilitarianism isn't about mathematics or politics. It's an existing philosophy of ethical theory. Not to mention that Jeremy Bentham lived in a very different era and country from 1748 to 1832. Yet there are still some who rationalize the concept of utilitarianism in part whether it can coexist with modern societies or not. Though some political ideals appear to have cherry-picked some aspects of utilitarianism from time to time.

    There are a number of such ideals which may amount to mythology or reality depending upon one's individually subjective- and national outlook. Certainly many Americans would reject it based on being weaned on individual/constitutional rights and civil liberties. And Utilitarianism as an ethical theory tends to skip over such things as law, justice and self-interest. But again it's an ethical theory- not a political one. One found existing in the very real world of academia.

    That all said I think it's fair to mention that politics tends to be mutually exclusive of ethics more often than not.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2021
  8. Au Naturel

    Au Naturel Au Naturel

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    You don't think that people can understand what went wrong and change?

    There are ways to explain to a person how something they do makes you feel unhappy that don't involve condemnation of the person. By this logic, we should never let others know when they hurt us.

    "I just don't like you" conveys no useful information other than "I am an unlikable person." Is that really the message we want to give others? I got that all the time as a kid. Didn't help me much.

    But one time in 9th grade I asked a girl who I had a crush on and who wouldn't normally give me the time of day, "Why the cold shoulder?" We were lab partners in science class. Instead of telling me that I was an inherently unlikeable person, she gave me suggestions on basic grooming that had never occurred to me. I had never figured out regular bathing, hair styling, brushing my teeth, coordinating my clothing. She was probably telling me this in order to make me a more tolerable lab partner but at the same time, I think it suddenly dawned on her that it wasn't a choice. I simply never absorbed such ideas that everyone else thought were givens.

    Fifty years later I am still absorbing things. The frequency is just greatly reduced.

    If someone had mentioned it casually at an earlier age, maybe I wouldn't have had such a miserable childhood. Opinions are just opinions but how something makes you feel is always the truth. The truth can always be delivered in a kind fashion. The most painful aspect of autism was going thru life perpetually wondering, "Why me? What did I do wrong?" and never having an answer. Just believing I was unlikable and unlovable and not seeing any way to change it.
     
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