What Do You Mean, You Didn’t Notice?
Paying Attention to What You’re Paying Attention To, Part 1
The Green Wallpaper Incident
Dr. A is a fifty-two-year old psychiatrist who began the hour saying: “I’m satisfied in most areas of my life, but for some reason, every long-term relationship I’ve been in blows up. I’ve been divorced twice and have had four other live-in boyfriends that didn’t work out.”
Dr. A: “I think it’s because I choose immature men who don’t know how to keep the romance going past the infatuation stage.” **(see below)
Me: “Can you give me an example?”
Dr. A: “Trust me, I have plenty of those. Plenty. Take this last loser. I met him at a meeting of the Inter Faith Singles ministry here in town, so you’d think I’d picked a sensitive one for once. We’ve been dating about two months, during which time he’s been in my house lots of times, including the kitchen.”
Me: “Okay . . .”
Dr. A: “So, last Saturday we go out to dinner with the plan to come back to my place for a nightcap. I’d set the evening up that way because the week before, I’d spent hours and hours and thirty-two hundred dollars on new cabinets and this really special green wallpaper. I wanted to show him what I’d done.”
Me: “Okay . . .”
Dr. A: “Everything went great until we went into my kitchen.”
Me: “What exactly happened in the kitchen?” .
Dr. A: “Exactly nothing, that’s what. He didn’t even notice the new cabinets and wallpaper. Can you believe anyone could be so hopelessly self-centered as this jerk? I told him I deserved someone who appreciated me and sent him packing. He didn’t even notice!”
Outside, I mumbled something very psychologist-like. Inside I’m thinking, “Wow. I might not have noticed the updates either and that would have more to do with the fact I pay little attention to house-decorating and am lousy at decorating much more than Easter eggs. My lack of notice would have nothing to do with my caring for a person.”
The more your sense of well-being is dependent on the responses of others, the less joy you will experience. The more you are dependent on the responses of others the more time, energy, and angst you will put into manipulating the what others think of you.
**Listen to how people account for relationship troubles in their lives—romantic, family, and friends. If people do not claim any responsibility, know that you will end up on their lists of people who have failed them.