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Birds of a Feather Stick Together

One New Year's Day, my mother and I had a long discussion about how we treat each other. When she hears me talking in a manner that upsets her, she would use this argument to get me to behave:

"You talk as though you're smart, but you are not."

After she repeated this three times, I replied, "You know how this makes me feel? Like I am really this small."

I also told her that saying such things is like a form of brainwashing (emotional abuse).

When a person in authority, such as a parent, repeats such phrases, s/he is engaging in psychological warfare, even when it's within the family. The purpose of repeating such phrases is to break down the walls of defense of another family member, usually the child.

This is how a parent tries to control the behavior of her child. However, When a parent talks this way to her adult child, he will try to get her to understand the family dynamics by explaining to her how her words make him feel. For the purpose of getting a parent feedback is to help her see that her words do affect his self image.

In the case of my mother and I, her words may have made me feel as though I am weak and helpless when I was a child. Now that I am an adult, it just makes me feel small. Such belittling by the parent is done to help her feel as though she is in control.

During our discussion, my mother vowed to stay silent but broke that vow until I pointed it out to her. Finally, after I finished my New Year's Day dinner, I thanked her for it.

Later on that evening, my mother apologized for her bad behavior, and I reciprocated by apologizing for my bad behavior. Our mutual behavior during this long discussion would be called an argument by an outside observer.

In my eyes, "argument" implies a long discussion which two people engage with both sides presenting each other's main points. Such a discussion is engaged in so that each side is able to see the other person's point of view. The colloquial term for this aspect of the discussion is called "walking in my/your shoes".

Though the purpose of discussion is to communicate effectively, often through challenges such as inexperience, old age, social isolation and other factors, we see things solely from our point of view alone.

In order to "get the whole picture", it is necessary for people to communicate effectively and present differing points of view so that empathy is shared.

Hopefully, my mother will be aided by our discussion in understanding the family dynamics. For her bluntness is known to "rub people the wrong way."

While I admit that much of my parents' behavior has influenced me, I try not to be blunt and take my time in speaking since getting to the point abruptly tends to upset group harmony.

For now, I feel that New Year's Day was full of moments that enlightened me as to how I view myself and how that view has affected me.

Although my present circumstances reflects such a view, I do not believe that it is a permanent result of "how the way I was raised" but rather a temporary situation I call "dysfunctional self-image."

Additionally, I feel that my mother and I often have long discussions so that we are able to grow close to each other. My way of maintaining the familial ties that bind us together is to engage in argument with my mother so that we both respect each other as individuals.

I recall mentioning to her the phrase "birds of a feather stick together". However, I called this phrase a myth as it implies that like-minded people form a group based a mutual interest when often it is used to imply that a group are all alike.

It's a myth when used in this way because it also implies a "them versus us" mentality. For such a mentality arises when we confront an imagined adversary called "them" who we feel is not the same as us.

This is another case of the "self versus other" dichotomy which I have been writing about in previous articles.

Self and other are not actually adversaries at all.

Rather, when emotions arise, be it anger, hate, love, and other passionate feelings, a person encounters the "fight or flight" response to perceived threat from another person. This threat may be real or imagined, but the result is the same. To counteract this threat, each other engages in a "battle of words" so that the other side is provided with information that helps to determine the ultimate course of "the battle".

This battle is called "argument". Its purpose is to present each person's side in a manner that helps the other side become empathetic towards the other side, whilst helping the other side become of like mind.

In doing so, both side of an argument benefit. Rather than continuing with the myth of "them versus us", it is possible through reasoning and understanding to become like "birds of a feather" who "stick together".

For this is what long discussions I have with my mother are all about!

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