|Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them
||[Dec. 19th, 2003|09:03 am]
This is the book I mentioned in my last message. Unlike other books (and seminars) that try and help people cope with "difficult people", this one starts with a different premise:
"In certain stores you will find a section of merchandise available at greatly reduced prices. The tip-off is a particular tag you will see on all the items in that area. Each tag carries the same words: as is.
This is a euphemistic way of saying “These are damaged goods”. The store is issuing you fair warming: “This is the department of Something’s-Gone-Wrong. You’re going to find a flaw here: a stain that won’t come out; a zipper that won’t zip; a button that won’t butt – there will be a problem. These items are not normal.”
“We’re not going to tell you where the flaw is. You’ll have to look for it. But we know it’s there. So when you find it – and you will find it - don’t come whining and snivelling to us. Because there is a fundamental rule when dealing with merchandise in this corner of the store: No returns. No refunds. No exchanges. If you were looking for perfection, you walked down the wrong aisle. You have received fair warning. If you want this item, there is only one way to obtain it. You must take it as is.”
When you deal with human beings, you have come to the “as-is” corner of the universe."
That is the opening page of the book. Chapter one is entitled "The Porcupine's Dilemma"
“The North American Common Porcupine is a member of the rodent family that has around 30,00 quills attached to his body. Each quill can be driven into an enemy, and the enemy’s body heat will cause the microscopic barb to expand and become more firmly embedded. The wounds can fester; the more dangerous ones, affecting vital organs, can be fatal.
As a general rule, porcupines have two methods for handling relationships: withdrawal and attack. They either head for a tree or stick out their quills. They are generally solitary animals. Wolves run in packs; sheep huddle n flocks; we speak of herds of elephants and gaggles of geese and even a murder of crows. But there is no special name for a group of porcupines. They travel alone.
Porcupines don’t always want to be alone. In the late autumn, a young porcupine’s thoughts turn to love. But love turns out to be a risky business when you’re a porcupine. Females are open to dinner and a movie only once a year; the window of opportunity closes quickly. And a girl porcupine’s “no’ is the most widely respected turndown in all the animal kingdom. Fear and anger make them dangerous little creatures to be around.
This is the Porcupine’s Dilemma: How do you get close without getting hurt?
This is our dilemma, too. Every one of us carries our own little arsenal. Our barbs have names like rejection, condemnation, resentment, arrogance, selfishness, envy, contempt. Some people hide them better than others, but get close enough and you will find out they’re there. They burrow under the skin of our enemies; they can would and fester and even kill. We, too learn to survive through a combination of withdrawal and attack. We, too, find ourselves hurting (and being hurt by) those we long to be closest to.
Yet we, too, want to get close. We meet neighbours, go on dates, join churches, form friendships, get married, have children. We try to figure out how to get close without getting hurt. We wonder if there isn’t a softer creature out there – a mink or an otter, perhaps.
And of course, we can usually think of a number of particularly prickly porcupines in our lives. But the problem is not just them. I’m somebody’s porcupine. So are you.”