Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Rosie – A Red-headed Character I’d Like to Be

The African Queen was released a year before I was born, so it’s not exactly of “my time.” However, I was an old movie buff early-on, watching the Dialing for Dollars movie every day after school from junior high through high school and that’s where I first saw Katharine Hepburn portray Rosie, a prim missionary in World War I period East German Africa, who is rescued – sort of – by Humphrey Bogart’s Charlie, a drunken owner/captain of a broken down small steam boat. 

When her brother is murdered by a German soldier she has no choice but to leave her native parishioners behind and try for safety with Charlie, who she already regards as pond scum. Charlie’s rickety old boat is their only means of escape and their battle onboard in the first days is epic - the clash between morality and immorality. He gets roaring drunk in spite of her disapproval, or maybe because of it, and while he’s out like a light she finds his stash of gin – quite impressive – and dumps it all overboard.

It’s all-out war until she proves to be quite a brave lady during their wild ride down a raging river. Here’s where Rosie’s character gets really interesting. She began this journey without much trepidation, with an attitude of “whatever we have to do.” With her initiation into adventure, Rosie gets a pitter-pattery heart and flushes with the excitement of it all. A heroine is released. 

They go through a number of challenges, from being swarmed by mosquitoes to surviving a barrage of gunfire from a ridgetop along the river and finally a horrendous expedition down a claustrophobia-producing swamp where Charlie must literally get out and drag the Queen through the mud. Rosie comes to his rescue repeatedly, never once whining or complaining no matter how awful things get.

Things get really spicy between Rosie and Charlie, especially for those times, and you can see Rosie sizzle on screen for her Charlie. So she transforms from a repressed woman of her time and station to a passionate adventuress and Charlie is smitten. In 1951, this film indicated that they had had a night of unmarried passion. 

Rosie convincing Charlie to sabotage the Louisa.
Finally, they emerge from the reed and see the German gunboat Louisa, which Charlie has explained to Rose rules the entrance to the river. 

Rosie hatches a plan to sink the Louisa by turning the Queen into a vehicle of sabotage, with her and Charlie attaching a torpedo below the waterline and ramming the Louisa. It’s complicated but before the plan can work, the German captain captures them both and is going to hang them when Charlie asks to marry Rosie first. 

This is one of the most romantic scenes in movie history. They are married by the captain just before he intends to hang them, but they survive when the Queen finally rams Louisa. 

So, what makes Rosie so special? Well, she’s a red-head – always big points in my book. She allows herself to grow, defy convention and ultimately put her life on the line for her country and the man she loves. She becomes a woman of big passions, but she retains her sense of principle and honor. Most of all, she is fearless. Rosie is the woman I want to be. 

I also love Katharine Hepburn, but I’m not talking about her here. I speaking of the extremely well fleshed-out character of Rosie. I still think she and Charlie are living somewhere off the coast of Africa, surrounded by grandchildren and taking a new African Queen (my own creation) out onto the river. Essentially, Rosie and Charlie still exist – at least, in my mind.

Who wouldn’t aspire to being this fiery red-head, to being so heroic and courageous? When the two of them are about to be hanged, Rosie looks at Charlie and you know she’s thinking it was all worth it, even dying with the man she loves. Of course, I’d rather not die, but you get my meaning. 

If you haven’t seen this film, make a point of it. I’ll bet you fall in love with Rosie too. And Charlie ain’t bad either!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

When a Narcissist Rules Your World

I’ve had more than my fair share of narcissists in my life, but it was not until the news story about therapists diagnosing Donald Trump as a narcissist that I felt it was worth talking about – publicly. In talking about it privately, it seemed to me that most people had never heard of narcissism as a personality disorder, so it was like talking to a blank wall the few times I attempted it. 

Now, I think maybe, just maybe, talking about it may help someone else. Perhaps, if I write out my take on how narcissists affect a family, someone out there will recognize the narcissist in their life and be able to cope a little better. I say cope because really that’s all that can be done. There’s no changing a narcissist, at least according to what I’ve read and my own experiences. 

At the end of this post, you’ll find a number of links with the benefit of professional advice and information, so please be aware that the opinions I express here are just that - opinions, rather informed ones, but still opinions without the benefit of any professional training.

Recognizing a Narcissist

1 – In my opinion, the number one trait and the easiest to recognize is the complete and total requirement for others to comply with the desires of the narcissist. This can range from demanding a certain lifestyle to having partners, spouses, parents and children that perfectly reflect the image the narcissist has of her/himself. Or insisting on eating at their choice of restaurant or agreeing with their opinions (thereby being on their team). Not going along with those desires can result in outright arguments or simply passive/aggressive behavior, all aimed at ultimately bringing about whatever it was the narcissist wanted in the first place. 

2 – The second dead-giveaway is the total lack of empathy. An article from Psychology Today defines empathy as follows: “Empathy can be defined as a person’s ability to recognize and share the emotions of another person, fictional character, or sentient being. It involves, first, seeing someone else’s situation from his perspective, and, second, sharing his emotions, including, if any, his distress.” (click here for the full article). 

While narcissists can express and feel sympathy, they cannot put themselves in the place of others. Things like gift-giving can be excruciating for them, and in fact, they are usually very bad at it because selecting a great present for someone requires being able to know intuitively what another would like.

They will often make outrageously insensitive remarks because they cannot understand what a comment’s effect will have on another and in many cases, just don’t care. 

3 – Narcissists cannot accept fault for anything. It is too painful because they are so emotionally fragile. In fact, in my experience, a narcissist cannot be wrong. Even if they occasionally mouth the words, “I was wrong,” they don’t really believe it.  Some narcissists will have learned key phrases that are socially acceptable and even how to use them at the appropriate moments, but seldom mean it if the phrase reflects “badly” on them. 

4 – Lying is just another in their bag of tricks for narcissists to get what they want. Often, the story will change several times, according to what makes them look the best and again, get what they want.

5 – The traditional description of a narcissist includes a sense of grandiosity – their own importance. This can be a bit deceiving, I think, because while that’s certainly descriptive of someone like Trump, some with apparent insecurity may not display this trait or sometimes, it appears as a sense of entitlement rather true self-importance. More of “they owe me this” rather than “I’m better than so and so”. 

6 – Because the under-lying sense of self-esteem is so low for narcissists (although they may display high self-esteem), they tend to collect imagined slights. Things that are not intended as a put-down may be interpreted that way with obsessive over-analysis. Narcissists have long mental lists of people who have “done them wrong” and keep a full accounting of all the things each has done to the “victim.” There is usually a shifting “scapegoat”, the person most at fault with them at that moment. Most people in their lives will eventually be given that position at one point or another. The one exception is the person who is most fulfilling their needs, which leads into the last attribute I will describe in this piece...

7- Narcissists are basically big bags of emotional needs which can never be completely satisfied and in their pursuit anyone is fair game. They are ultimately users who demand rather than ask for their over-sized needs to be fulfilled. If you’re deeply involved with a narcissist you’ve noticed that you seem very, very important to them until you’ve provided their current need. Then you may become invisible until the next time they need someone to go to the movie, they’ve selected, with them, or to agree with them in an argument against someone else, etc. Remember, that you can never, ever truly satisfy a narcissist, because the minute you’ve fulfilled one need (without acknowledgement in most cases) another arises.

In a family or work situation, narcissists wreak havoc. To say they create dysfunctional situations is a complete understatement. They are like whirling dervishes, (from Urban Dictionary):

(n.) A person whose behavior resembles a rapid, spinning object. These actions are often spastic fidgeting and incessant babbling. The actions of the whirling dervish are irritating and annoying, often exhausting other people in the immediate vicinity.

Once you’ve accepted that the person in your life is indeed a narcissist (a very difficult realization if you happen to love them) you have very few options. Even the most positive assessments for the prognosis of narcissists don’t hold out much hope for treatment or change. Therefore, the choices are 1) go along or 2) get out.

Sometimes, there is only one choice – to go along because of family circumstances. If that’s the situation you’re in, consider getting help. A therapist or support group can give you tips on how to best handle your narcissist and if nothing else, someone educated to understand that with which you’re dealing.

Narcissists tend to develop co-dependent relationships and depend heavily on those to survive. This is too simple an examination to go into this at length, but since I can think of three of these situations off the top of my head, I will say that if a person has been co-dependent with a narcissist for any length of time the chances of that person recognizing it is very slim – again, in my humble opinion – but there’s always hope with therapy.

I sincerely hope that this post will assist someone in spotting a narcissist that is killing their chances of a happy life and maybe figuring a way out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Shared Languages

I’ve been in four countries now where very few people speak the same language I do and even when I do come together with someone who speaks English there are challenges, either from accents or the meaning of words. 

However, I’ve had reason to think about this – communication, that is – long and hard over the past few days and I’ve realized that in my own country, I really don’t speak the same language as many of my countrymen and they don’t speak mine.

What I mean by that is that we aren’t hearing each other at all. And I fear we never will. I see things everyday on my trusty laptop that concern me, either through news reports or social media. I watch as both conservatives and liberals – I am a very liberal liberal – speak their truths and then I watch the commentaries afterwards – again, on both social media and new sources. These are not conversations. They are diatribes against whatever is the news release of the day, or anything anyone has on their mind. There is no attempt to understand another viewpoint and frankly, that includes me, too.

Recent studies have shown that we are becoming more and more isolated within groups of our own persuasions. Liberals read and watch liberal outlets and Conservatives do the same thing. And thus we are being pushed further and further apart.

So here’s my beef with turning everything into a battle of politics or religion. What’s the point? If we are not listening to each other, it is simply a vomiting of opinion. My opinion isn’t going to be changed by the fact someone I have heard of or even know believes something. What I think and believe is formed by experience and true information. I don’t accept things at face value, either. Here follows an example:

I was on Instagram and a picture of Jon Stewart was posted next to a policeman with the caption “His only crime was”…(then an explanation that he was supporting continued care for 9/11 first responders). This would lead you to believe that Jon Stewart had been arrested for something. Not true at all. And these types of provocative messages appear all day long on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. from both sides of any issue. Had I not looked further into it I would have been irate and fuming. 

So what is the point, really? If you just want people to know where you stand, I get it. But let’s not pretend there’s any higher purpose. Change only comes about when both parties are open to change. Period. When I meet someone I feel will listen to my point of view without judging me, and I do sometimes, then I open up about how I feel. The furthest I’m willing to go in an open forum is to support those who do express an opinion I agree with by clicking "like" or the heart sign (whatever), and in truth there’s no actual benefit to that either, except not letting that person hang out there all alone. 

So this is an open question to all, feel free to express yourself here, because that’s what this post is for.

Hopefully, someday we’ll all speak the same language again. I’m usually an optimist but I don’t hold out much hope.