By DAVID PORTER
Rantoul Press columnist
I called my 4-year-old grandson on the phone. Here’s the brief conversation:
"Hi, Grandpa. Where’s Grandma?"
"She’s right here. Do you want to talk to her?"
He then proceeded to tell Grandma his big news of the day, which was that his best friend was changing schools but his mom had arranged for a play date, so they’d get to see each other again.
Apparently, Ben has already figured out that Grandma is the empathetic one. Grandpa, not so much. I’ve never been good at validating other people’s feelings, or so my ex-wife tells me.
But I think it’s OK as long as there’s balance. People need comforting in their lives, but at times, they need a little discomfort as well.
Maybe that’s why I went into the newspaper business, where one of our mottos is "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." We have lots of mottos depending on the situation of the moment.
Ben did chat with me after he updated Grandma, so he didn’t shut me out. That’s good. Just small talk, though: How are you doing? You being good? Are you sharing with your brother? Ben can take only so much small talk till he’s ready to move on.
It just amazes me how intuitive kids are at such a young age. Even if they can’t always verbalize it, they know what’s going on around them. They can read body language and eyes as well as anyone.
I don’t know why I tend to lack empathy. Maybe because I don’t have an empathetic family. We’re less "I’m sorry that happened" and more "suck it up, Buttercup."
My friend Mike says I’m self-actualized so I don’t need praise or empathy from others. I’m not sure what "self-actualized" is; I think it’s a polite way of saying "arrogant." I don’t know if he’s complimenting me or criticizing me, but I’m "self-actualized" enough to not care. Probably, it’s just an observation.
Another friend suggested that I have repressed memories and I should go through hypnosis to sort it out. Who needs psychologists with the friends I have? They’ve got me all figured out.
But another friend, who actually was a psychologist, told me not to bother with hypnosis. He took the long way to tell me that. He could have just said, "Don’t bother with hypnosis." Instead, he told me a story:
"When I was a kid, there was a dog on my block. And when I or any of the neighborhood kids walked down the sidewalk where the dog lived, we’d cross the street when we came up to that house, then cross back when we were safely away. Everyone knew to leave that dog alone. You know what that dog’s name was? His name was ‘Well Enough.’"
I thought that was a cool story, and I told him I was going to use it. And I just did.
I guess when you’re a psychologist getting paid the big bucks to fix people, you have to have stories like that. Stories that will stick with a person. You can’t just say,
"Don’t bother." That has no flair. That doesn’t imprint on the brain. Not like a dog named "Well Enough."
© Copyright 2019 by David Porter, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I was going to guess that the dog’s name was "Killer," because I’d leave a dog named Killer alone, too. Just sayin.’