Valuable Insights From Dysfunctional People
|Have you ever engaged in conversation with somebody whose line of work differs from your own and found them using terminology you were unfamiliar with? I'm referring to the segment of vocabulary known as professional jargon. Virtually all professions have a set of words and phrases unique to them. Some have created slang, others use pre-existing terms whose definitions they modify to meet their job's communication demands.
When this language is spoken among members of the same profession it is commonly accepted and understood. Use of this terminology outside the bounds of the profession that created it frequently leads to confusion and mis-communication.
An entertaining example of this dynamic I've experienced personally involves the term "Lot Lizard". As car salesmen, we adopted the term Lot Lizard to identify individuals who spent considerable time at the dealership with no intention of making purchases. "Don't waste your time on that guy, he's a Lot Lizard". The same term identifies someone quite different when applied by those in the trucking industry. To the trucker, a Lot Lizard represents.....let me say this politely.....an individual who spends considerable time in the parking area of truck stops looking for drivers who are intent upon making a purchase.
It is my belief the situation I referenced in the opening of this article, use of professional jargon outside one's professional circle, indicates another communication gaffe: The notion that unique, job related knowledge possessed by the presenter is also possessed by his or her audience. This presumption, I believe, is fostered by the communicator being so immersed in their work they forget that information they access on a constant basis may be foreign to others.
Having spent the lion's share of my professional life in the addictions treatment field, I've been given valuable insight into the human experience. Insight others may not be privy to in their chosen field. Insight I believe all could benefit from sharing. And, rather than assuming these precepts I face daily are common to all, I wish to humbly offer some of them here. For the most part, they are in no particular order. Nor are they presented here as the result of scientific research, rather as beliefs formed from anecdotal situations occurring regularly over the course of a fifteen year career.
People we interact with daily are living, or have lived, through experiences many of us can't imagine. In most instances we have no idea what others we meet have been through. I can almost guarantee you, unless you are a recluse, there are people in your daily circle of human interactions who live in a version of hell on earth. Regardless of age, gender, socio-economic status, race, education level or any other factor, there are people within every group whose lives are affected by dysfunction. And that's a gross under-statement of the situation. I won't go into the details of the physical, emotional, or sexual traumas propagating the dysfunctions. Suffice it to say they are horrible, and far more common than most know. If you really don't know what I'm talking about here, consider yourself fortunate.
The most abrasive people are frequently the most traumatized or insecure. You know the bully, or the obnoxious loudmouth, or the class clown? You know the person who just seems so far from socially acceptable? These people are often extremely insecure and have very low self-esteem. These feelings often, but by no means always, result from the previously mentioned dysfunctional family or living environment. Not that this excuses these behaviors, but it may help to see them from a different perspective, leading to understanding, tolerance, or even compassion.
There is no such thing as too much understanding, tolerance, or compassion. Enough said.
Most people have difficulty identifying their own strengths and weaknesses. Along with this, many of us never try. However, if/when we attempt to evaluate ourselves we are usually quite inaccurate. Dysfunction aside, few of us relish the idea we have flaws. Conversely, we are often uncomfortable acknowledging our areas of strength or proficiency. Thus, we have a tainted view of ourselves. If we compared our honest self-assessments with those we would receive from the people closest to us, there would surely be disparities. I have been amazed how many times I easily spotted a defect in another person and failed to recognize I possess the same trait. Of course, in my case, there's a reasonable explanation.....
We ALL have a lot more in common than we we have differences. But for some reason we want to focus on the differences. In the field of addictions, the sub-sets often try to differentiate themselves from the crowd. Heroin addicts look down on crack-heads. Alcoholics look down on "druggies". Pot smokers look down on I.V. drug users. And on and on....Many (Most?) people believe it is necessary to have overcome an addiction in one's own life before being able to help others with this problem, another form of differentiating rather than relating. By the way, based upon my experiences I disagree with this notion, but that's a whole article in itself.
I don't have answers as to why these conditions exist, but they do. And they exist far beyond the reaches of addictions treatment centers and those involved with them. My list could go on, but for that you'll have to buy my book. When I have a book. Until then, thanks for reading my column.