Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A History of Cliche

Caliban’s Sister crafted a post which hit me square in the teeth.  She explained how Narcs speak in vague terms and in clichés.  I can't say that was the first time I've heard that though: my wife and I had this same discussion several times over, only it was about me.  Kicked in the gut.  Twice.

I speak in vague terms.  I always have.  It was an effort on my part not to be forced to remember details to then explain them.  I was putting in effort now to show lack of effort later, I think.   I would start out a sentence with “We” without defining who “we” were.  I explained that the mysterious We “had a good time, hung out, and stuff”.  And that was always good enough for my mother, and I brought that type of talk into my marriage.  Awesome, right?  When Truth is in the details and Love is lived in Truth, then Love is also in the details.  It’s logic.  It’s simple.  But it’s also foreign to me.  Rather, it was.  Being vague allowed me to give the basic idea of whatever it was I was explaining without having to get into the really difficult work of, well, thinking.  Being vague allowed me to be non-committal, giving me the appearance of being decisive, when I actually wasn’t. 

And here’s the segue –

Using clichés when I spoke gave me the appearance of emotional intelligence, when the opposite was actually true.  These clichés, already vague in nature, allowed me to speak as if I had something of substance to offer.  I am thinking specifically when I used to answer questions internet users posted on a particular forum.  I would scour the forum for math/science questions (I actually knew about that) and relationship questions (I pretended to know about that).  I thought that I could help these people somehow in my infinite wisdom.  “Trust is of the utmost importance!” I would say.  That was me also being a hypocrite.  Essentially, I could answer any question I came across with a handful of clichés, like: it’s always best to learn from past hardships; love can transcend all; don’t sell yourself short.  It wasn’t hard for me to come up with phrases that I knew would or should or could generate some hope or change in these people.  And if enough people thought that my answer was best, I felt that much better knowing that I was King of the Answerers.  Feeding on Narc supply much?  Yeah, I think so.

I’m sure that my mother was the Queen of Vague, especially during her decade of family defilement.  But even before that, I can hear her answering my questions (if I ever bothered to ask) of how she loves me with phrases like: oh, I love you in all the ways possible; there are too many ways to count; don’t ask me such questions; a mother doesn’t have to explain her love.  Or something.  My mother never went into specifics about anything really.  Not how her day was, not how she was feeling at a particular time.  Details didn’t matter to her.  She passed that onto me.  Or maybe perhaps, details mattered in that she couldn’t disclose them.  Or a mixture of both.  So I've got that penchant for falsities that my mother has been perfecting over the years.  Damnit.

14 comments:

  1. I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill. I mean really. There is no use crying over spilled milk. It's all water under the bridge.
    So don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
    Yeah.
    It's fun to baffle with bullshit.
    Not so much when it's you being bullshitted.

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    1. Supremely helpful and useless words, aren't they? It's like speaking in tongues.

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  2. My mother often passes on her "infinite wisdom" in tired cliches. She thinks she's so smart telling me to "keep my chin up" or "think outside the box". She posts endless cliched messages, artistically done up by others, about the importance of family, how family is the only thing you have, and family is always there for you. She posts them as if she actually said them. She repeats them to me as if she actually came up with them.
    My mother says these cliches because she actually has no idea how to express emotions. She uses these phrases to define herself as a person. Like if she posts them, they then make HER a good person.
    She always uses the vague terms, in order to lie. If she doesn't get to specific, it's easier to lie, backtrack, claim someone misunderstood her. That I misheard or remembered incorrectly. That by being vague she never has to actually account for anything: her behavior, her feelings (or lack there of), her lies, her abuse.

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    1. Omission of truth is one of my mother's (and subsequently my) greatest tactics. Of course people will misunderstand her (me), and that's the whole point. We didn't give out enough information to make an informed decision or gave out just enough to give the appearance of truth. I still struggle with that. It's interesting how some people with mothers like mine go the totally opposite direction. The appearance of emotion was important to my mother (and me) - so using cliches was T H E way to go.

      Also - Blood is thicker than water seems to be the go-to phrase for my parents and from what I've read, others as well. Funny thing about that phrase, is that it's origins are starkly different than how it's used today. Upsi over at You Don't Have To Dance For Them has an epically epic post on that phrase -- but I can't seem to find it right now. I just spent quite a bit time looking for it. It's there...somewhere.

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    2. That's because it's posted on my blog, for anyone who is interested - she made a comment on my blog explaining that particular phrase and I made her comment into a post of it's own because it was so fucking awesome.

      http://jonsi-jonsi.blogspot.com/2011/06/blood-is-thicker-than-water.html

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  3. Awww, lifesizevision, you are making up for that vagueness by working to transcend your own "indifference," which as you point out, is usually a cover-up for vulnerability. Unless we're talking about dyed in the wool narcs, for whom vagueness is cutting edge thinking. Cliche'd enough for you? Your honesty is moving to me. Details always matter. Because looking at details you discover patterns, submerged patterns. That is how you know you're onto the truth about something. It's paradoxical: you have to get into the filaments of a thing in order to zoom back out and actually see what it means. I try very hard these days not to fall back upon cliches, out of tiredness, or laziness, or even just out of a desire to sound like a 'good ole' girl." Cliches harm relationships, in my opinion. At least, I find it harmful when someone who is supposed to love me simply addresses me in Lego Language, ready-made pieces snapped together. Meals-Ready-to-Eat. Meaning-Ready-to-Ignore. I am glad my post about cliches struck a chord.

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    1. I feel like that's all I had growing up, was cliches. Cliched love, cliched living. So that's all I could bring with me to my life, my future. It was habit. But it was also choice.

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  4. Hadn't really thought of it that way before. I'm used to spotting the lies. Maybe that's why the vagueness: don't have to keep track of the lies. I'm still vague, a lot, but part of that is trying to learn to be discerning and not spill my guts, which isn't appropriate either. I have been trying to learn to be specific.

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    1. Good point! I think it matters who you choose to be specific with, and who you choose to be vague with. For example, you don't need to be "specific" with strangers, necessarily.

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  5. You also have a heart that is telling you to live a different story. Caliban's sister's post about a vague birthday card is an excellent example of why vague just doesn't feel loving.

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    1. It wasn't loving, even though I tried to pass it off as such. So did my mother.

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  6. I felt a little bit sad when I read this. I will try to explain why but I'm not quite sure how this will go so please forgive me in advance :-). Your post makes me feel (I may be way off mark here) like you have very high expectations of yourself and that you compare yourself against them and then aren't pleased with how you're doing. I say this because my mother has always made a nasty digging comment whenever I have talked about something I had done that I was pleased with or proud of. It has conditioned me to doubt myself too.

    I think that people contain a whole range of characteristics and that having a trait (like you are sometimes vague)... just because it happens to be a trait that someone else also has in their make-up does not make you them. I mean this with kindness but I also understand that some of these traits are learned behaviour from our parents. I see that you are trying to change because you see this behaviour in your mum but retaining a little bit of vagueness does not a bad person you make (argh now I sound like my mother - sorry). People without narc parents can be vague and it's not always bad. Thank you for your comment on my tiddly start to a blog :-).

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    1. I agree that people are (or should be) vast containers of emotion, however, my mother was not. She may have been born with the ability to have them, but it wasn't fostered when she was growing up. Then she made a choice to use people to get what she wanted, how she wanted. And her real demon came out. Using cliches infrequently is not a bad think in my opinion, but using them as a means to communicate emotion, constantly, IS a bad thing - and the latter is where I fit in.

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