Monday, July 13, 2009 it Possibble I Have Been Mistaken?

In my appointment on Thursday I talked with Dr X. about how I think people think bad things about me all the time. One example of this is when I am walking my dog I always feel other people are judging me as a dog owner, and my dog as a dog breed.

My dog is not that common. he is a white boxer and you don't see very many of them. Because of his odd colour and his very square jaw people often mistake him for either a pitbull or an american bulldog. They seem scared of him and avoid us if we are walking.

Given I spend almost every waking minute with my dog by my side I feel, by association, avoided and repugnant.

In my appt Dr. X. asked me if I could challenge some of my thoughts about people thinking bad things about me; challenge them in the moment. So this morning, when an opportunity came up I tried it.

I was walking my dog in my neighbourhood. I know I looked both a bit disheveled and maybe a bit unapproachable ( I was almost completely inside my head thinking about how much amorous fun I had last night;.)) I looked up and saw an older Sikh woman (maybe 65-75) staring at my dog and I.

The woman kept looking furtively at us, and then away from us like she was dismayed to see such a person, and such a dog on her street. I could feel myself suddenly becoming extremely self conscious and defensive. I suddenly wished I had taken the time to put a bra on, to wear more modest clothing, and to look a bit more conservative. I became annoyed that she was looking at me and my dog the way she was.

Feeling defensive I decided to show her I was a nice person...and I said hello. As I did, she smiled brightly and said, "He is so gorgeous, your dog".

When she said that I remembered Dr. X. telling me to challenge my beliefs and thoughts in the moment. I had challenged them, but not consciously...I was flabbergasted at the words that came out of the woman's mouth. She wasn't judging my dog. She was admiring him.

I felt very humbled by what was really happening. I believe some of my perception was coloured by my own prejudicial beliefs about how "conservative" thinking, and/or judgemental of me an older Sikh woman might be. I like to think I am more open-minded than this, but I think at times we all make assumptions based on not necessarily correctly held beliefs about others, other cultures etc.

So based on my experience today I have challenged two possibly wrongly held cultural and one very personal. I can see how my judgements about others, and how others perceive me might reflect back in how I expect them to perceive me, and in fact how my expectations might actually influence their perception of me.

For example, maybe I act standoffish if I feel I will be judged.
I get stressed out that people are judged, maybe they misread my fear and stress as danger, or threatening and act accordingly. A while ago Dr. X. spoke to me of something called, (I think) "projective identification". It is where how you expect others to treat you actually becomes how they treat you...not magically, but because you send out signals to others about what you feel and they interpret/misinterpret how you are. I think this happens to me.

I will address this phenomenon in my next post.


Harriet said...

Good for you, for actually trying your doctor's suggestion! And seeing it works too!

One of my favorite quotes is by Anais Nin, "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."

I know it's so true for me. But knowing it doesn't it make it easier for me to fix it!

Hannah said...

I'm really glad you got such a positive reaction from the lady!
I was thinking you could tie a big pink bow around your dog's neck - he wouldn't look scarey then!! but he probably wouldn't be very impressed!
Hann xx

C said...

I go a little nuts admiring other people's dogs and always give the explanation that "I am currently dog deprived." White boxers are so beautiful. I had several encounters with one in particular that touched my heart deeply. This dog just patiently peered at me and his face seemed so expressive. It must be a true delight to have such a creature in one's life.