Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Idealistic Distortion
  • Idealism is the “act or practice of envisioning things in an ideal form.”
  • Idealistic Distortion is the tendency to see a relationship in an overly positive manner - i.e. seeing the relationship through rose-coloured glasses.

In surveys and inventories preparing couples for marriage, there is a scale called "idealistic distortion". It usually contains questions like: My in-laws will never interfere with our relationship, or My spouse could never do anything that would cause me to doubt his/her love for me. And we are all susceptible to Idealistic Distortion. We set unrealistic expectations and then "catastrophize" when things fall apart.

As a teenager I remember working the cotton fields in the South. One particular spot we picked cotton had a major highway running nearby. At lunchtime the "cotton patch stories" began. Several could remember picking cotton near a major road and a car stopped to take pictures of the workers. For this interruption the pickers were paid money. It varied by version of the story: $5, $10, $20. Any of these sums were unheard of riches to we who were working for $3.50 per hundred pounds of cotton picked. For me, that meant a 10-hour day pulling a heavy bag slowly filling with cotton and being happy to get $3.50 at the end of the day. A really fast adult picker could pick 150 or 200 lbs a day. At the end of that day, I'd go home to a partially-finished house which still didn't have hot water. After a cold shower, I'd cook dinner and fall into bed exhausted, only to get up and do the same thing the next day. (This was in the time after my mother's death.) My situation was different than some who brought the entire family and were putting food on the table by their labor. I was only putting clothes on my back. While my dad provided food, I worked every year to buy clothes for the year. No work; no clothes.

The lunchtime stories piqued my creative brain. I spent the afternoon dreaming that one of those "fancy" cars would stop to take pictures, then see that I was tired and miserable and carry me away to a new life in the big city. A life where I could live in a house filled with beautiful things, go to college, travel and see the world...and take a hot shower in a luxurious bathroom.

While my dreams have basically come to fruition, it was not in the manner in which I envisioned. My distortion was that it would just happen, magically, instantly. Instead, God has led me down a different path, but in the end provided most of the things of my dreams. (Except the luxurious bathroom...I've never had a large beautiful bathroom! Sigh! One of these days!!) At times I just didn't know what He was doing; I didn't like the path he was taking me.

Relations also mature with effort and hard work. About six months after we were married, we took a Saturday and went for a picnic to Half-Moon Bay, about an hours drive from our tiny apartment in Menlo Park, California. The scene was beautiful, romantic. We had the picnic lunch and were seated on the blanket when I asked, "Has our marriage been different than you imagined it would be?"

"Well, you're a lot harder to control than I thought you'd be," he replied. (You have to understand that we came from a conservative religious group and this was the 1960's!)

At that point, I lost it. This little girl wasn't about to be "controlled" by anybody. However, neither did I have the maturity to discuss the matter logically.

Needless to say, the picnic was over. I alternately cried, screamed and pouted for the hour's ride home, while he tried vainly to convince me he didn't really mean "control."

"And you're still married to him?" you ask.

Yes. In spite of my immature hysterics and his unrealistic expectations, we made it. We worked through it, with spit and venom sometimes, but we worked through it.

We both suffered from serious Idealistic Distortion. I could not believe that I had actually married someone who had those expectation. Prior to marriage my brain had been seriously asleep, under the influence of a distorted viewpoint.

My point? (I get lost in retrospect!) How often we suffer from idealistic distortion. We believe that certain things should happen, and happen now. We look through rose-colored glasses at all kinds of situations and people: spouse, friends, family, pastor, church, job, boss, school or neighbors. Seeing them in our view, they SHOULD do X Y and Z. It doesn't happen and we become disillusioned.

Even with God. These past two years have been difficult ones for me. I've been angry with various people, including God. Why did Victor die? Why did this or that happen?

Thinking back to the cotton field sort of put things in perspective for me. God really has fulfilled my dreams, given me the desires of my heart, but not in the manner I thought he should, nor in the time frame that I had set. this time of Harvest and Thanksgiving, I'm thankful. I'm thankful for life and health, for friends and family, for career and education. I'm grateful that God really has brought me a long way from the cotton patch!



P.S. On Thursday we will have been married 38 years. (Oh my!! That long??) And he beat me to the punch on Sunday...he actually told the "Control" story in his morning sermon. I had no clue he was thinking about that time; He had no clue that I planned to use it as an illustration in my devotion at the dinner. We were both laughing. In 38 years you'd think we could as least find different incidents for illustration!!! (And for those who wonder: He gave up illusions of control long ago...and I gave up most hysterical fits. Right now he's out getting me a Starbucks Grand Mocha Frappuccino! I'm the pampered princess!!)


Kyla said...

Hmmm, he's out getting you delicious coffee? I think I know who is in control these days. ;)

PJ said...

Shhh! You'll out my secret. The best part: I don't even ask, he just offers.


Bloggers Over 50

Personal DNA

Personality Profile

My Bloginality is ENTP!!!