The girl and the dance

So much of what we respond to, and how we define the quality of our experience, is entirely subjective. The same incident can be perceived in entirely different ways, by different people, based purely on their own internal landscape.

I recall a friend telling me, years ago, of two women discussing their childhoods and the effects on them as adults. The first woman said that her parents showed no interest in her upbringing and gave her no guidance or boundaries. As a consequence, she was now a woman who felt there was something fundamentally missing in her psyche, leaving her incomplete. The second woman talked of how her parents had encouraged her to be independent by letting her make choices for herself and never passing judgement on the consequences of those choices. Now, as an adult, she looked fondly on her childhood as the basis for her strong will, spirit of adventure and independence. The two women were twins.

But back to the title of the piece. Picture a boy, contemplating the high school dance and a girl that he wants to take along. Fix them in your mind – got them?

Now, imagine if you will, the following scenarios:
1. He’s too shy to ask her to the dance.
2. He’s asks her to the dance and she says no.
3. He asks her to the dance and she later changes her mind and doesn’t go.
4. He asks her to the dance and she says yes but something unanticipated stops her going. (You can be creative here – localised hurricane in her back garden / swine flu in the house, whatever.)
5. He asks her to the dance and she says yes but when they get there the dance is cancelled. (More hurricanes or swine flu, anyone?)

Now, his objective – or desire for the emotionally literate among you – was to take the girl to the dance. In each case, his ambitions are thwarted but his experience of each scenario is tempered by his perception.

All of which suggests that, most of the time, we’re only responding to internal values. And so is everyone else. So next time you’re told the train will be delayed but some other smug sod is standing there smiling, you’ll know why!

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