Why I Squawk

From whistle-stop.com. May be copyright protected.

From whistle-stop.com. May be copyright protected.

My daughter, “Emily”, and I have some great talks. Today we talked about advertising, and blogging, and non-profits, and the dynamics of changing public perception and opinion. I suggested that opinion is changed at the deepest level by one on one sharing, when we come to understand and internalize the philosophy of another. Emily recalled reading interviews with close associates of Martin Luther King in the civil rights movement, who voiced their opinion that people don’t change their ways out of the goodness of their hearts; change has to be forced.

I can see it both ways. I doubt women would have the vote yet, if they hadn’t made some men rather miserable. And loud protests make issues hard to ignore. On the other hand, I voice the opinion that we can’t control others, and don’t believe we should try. I’ve also adopted the thought that we each have a circle of influence, and we can affect those within that circle – those we contact – either gently or with force. I, personally, am most likely to make opinion changes when I hear compelling evidence without manipulation from people I trust to be truthful and who can see different perspectives. And who walk their talk.

Have I talked about “cognitive dissonance?” This is really interesting! When we learn something, we put it into a mental category – a file folder in the mind, sort of – an organizational scheme to manage what we know. When we learn something new, we “assimilate” the information, or put it into an existing folder. This is easy. When we learn something really new – something that doesn’t fit into an existing folder or that conflicts with existing information, we feel uneasy…things don’t fit, don’t match…we are uncomfortable. This is called “cognitive dissonance.” We can decide the information is incorrect, or dismiss it some other way, and throw it out. Easy. Or, we can change and oversimplify to MAKE it fit an existing category. Easy. Some, like me, are fairly comfortable with cognitive dissonance, and can leave it alone pending more clarification. OR, we resolve the cognitive dissonance by CREATING A NEW FOLDER, a new category, a SHIFT in our system or paradigm to “accommodate” the information. More work, but voila…a new, more effective, perspective! Well worth it! .

This is what I think: When people hear facts about domestic violence (or other issues), especially if it challenges our sense of comfort, safety and order, it is easily dismissed – we may throw the data out after brief perusal (“she must be lying,” “it can’t be that bad,” “she JUST needs to….”). When we hear enough facts and stories through which we feel others’ feelings and share their experience, and we relate personally – hmmm, then we are getting somewhere. When we can relate strongly enough, and the information is compelling enough, then we can’t, in good conscience, escape the cognitive dissonance. That is when we learn that “she can’t just leave,” “she can’t just pray it away,” “telling her to submit to abuse is dangerous.” ETC. To humanely deal with the people and issues before us, we  create a new mental model or paradigm that fits the data.

As a kid, I used to get fired up and squawk loudly but ineffectively (sometimes still do). My mom used to say, “Diane….don’t sputter!” (Go ahead and laugh…I can’t hear you!). My way was to get mad and walk away in a huff, with dramatic, purposeful strides. (That really showed them! – Go ahead and laugh again – I do!) With Peter, nothing much gave me influence in my own life, without consequences I didn’t want to face or have the girls face. It did no good to squawk. As you know, I have asked for others to help, and often found that ineffective also. I almost quit squawking.

What I’m trying to learn now is squawk EFFECTIVELY. Just as we are to keep coming back to God to make our requests, we need to keep bringing this before others, not sugar-coated, not minimized…also not exaggerated or sensationalized. Just out there to see. Real. Visible enough to create cognitive dissonance. I squawk…in the form of my true stories, told with real swear words, to create identification with my thoughts and feelings as I lived it, and hopefully produce some “accommodation” that will equip someone to be a more effective helper/responder. Or maybe give enabling words to someone “running a gauntlet” so they can identify their own feelings and reality, and know they can have something better.

I want to GENTLY apply just enough FORCE (in words) to INFLUENCE those in my circle. It’s kind of strange, because I don’t think my readers include too many of the people who, in my opinion, need to change their views. Maybe this is just practice in putting it out there.

A sweet blogger friend recognizes such stories as “sacred.” Your stories are sacred also. Pointless suffering becomes meaningful. Victims become over comers and advocates. Maybe, weirdly, evil begets good.



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12 thoughts on “Why I Squawk

  1. theabilitytolove August 28, 2013 at 3:22 pm Reply

    “I’m afraid to make choices BECAUSE of the potential consequences that I seem to be so unable to predict well. It’s like I’m mentally/emotionally/spiritually challenged just enough to know I am missing something, but not able to figure out what it is!” this is profound for me. I’ve been the same way and still struggle with this. I’m not sure we can predict outcomes, actually….sometimes our choices, even when they’re positive, rely upon the free will of others. For example, applying for freelance jobs. Well, I’ve been praying a lot about this while also blogging and mentoring. No doors have opened yet. This would be perceived as as a positive choice, right? So when something doesn’t come up, then what? This is the struggle for me spiritually too. Why would God allow me to go homeless when I’m doing everything possible within myself with what I CAN control to avoid it? My faith is already shaky. This shakes me more. Then I feel angry and frustrated.

    The trolls- I can’t control their behavior. But I can control my reactions to it. When I discovered that I was being targeted by some pretty popular folks, it threw me over the edge. I LOST it. I have a close friend who was nearly destroyed trying to ‘get the word’ out about abuse. She has shared with me that it’s best that I not share so much about how I feel or so much personal information…..why? What’s the point of blogging if I can’t real about what’s happening in my life or in recovery? If there is something I need to learn, I will surely learn, but I’ve already learned that I’ll get nowhere in silence, or stuffing and pretending that what is happening to me isn’t.

    I’ve also discovered that people are very uncomfortable, if not blatantly unempathic and uncaring when they read about or see the suffering of others.

    There was a transgender woman, beaten to death in NY in front of the Harlem Police Station. And no one intervened….it’s actions like this that are prevalent everyday, as our society becomes literally immune to the suffering of others. i often feel that the message we receive are to look the other way, be dishonest about how shitty things really are in this country, and continue full bore with hate, intolerance, fear, bigotry, religious zealousness.

    If we believe that we can only control our own circumstances and behavior, how in the world are things ever going to change with these attitudes? The message continues to be, “You’re on your OWN’.

    I think it’s really sad when in trying to promote change, invoking love, speaking out and trying to change our hate filled existence means we are somehow ‘controlling’ other people, while we live in a society that is under the FULL control of sociopaths….

    Cognitive dissonance, Diane….great post….sorry for the ramble…er, uh, …sqwak!

    • ranthegauntlet August 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm Reply

      Hi, Kelli. No ramble! Do you think squawking can be done in two-part harmony???

      Outcomes. Yeah. No predictability is a given. What it comes down to for me is whether I trust myself and God for the tools/skills I need to cope…with whatever comes up (sometimes real crappy stuff). I didn’t trust myself or anyone else for too long, which meant feeling helpless, which meant frustration, which meant ANGER. At God (for not answering prayers, expressing His will, saving my family and dreams, protecting my sanity, allowing so many of His Christians to be such idiots…on and on and on). At myself (for not figuring it out, or being holy-smart-strong enough to….what?) To make life nice. To cope. To flourish. To help my children flourish. Then what is flourishing? Angry at my abuser. My abusive employers (yeah…my deal was to go back to school at 48, risk all $$$ I had on that, to market myself in my new husband’s small town, then to find 3 situations in a row with sundry effective abuses, and try to pay off a student loan on low pay with job gaps, and feel helpless at home and at work…). My confidence in every aspect of my life tanked, at a time when mega-decisions are needed on all fronts. Here is where I am now: I need a job, and am looking, like you are, for something on-line or freelance. I’m 57. I am not in danger of homelessness at all, but am still afraid of the unknown future, and feel shame without name (!) – though less so lately. I don’t like my choices, but love my people. I am not looking to God to solve any of it as I used to, but am trying to REST IN HIM, practice believing that Jesus/Diane is safe whatever happens – beyond limits of physical laws and existence (meet Star Trek Diane), and forgiving (NOT AS A BIBLICAL MANDATE OR IGNORING WRONG! BUT AS RELIEF FOR MYSELF!) – myself first, then God, then on and on. That last sentence would have ticked me off beyond belief a few months ago. Forgive for Good by Dr. Fred Luskin has been crucial, as has Hardwired to Christ by Graeme Schultz. I don’t know what it is like to face homelessness. And I don’t know how to overcome fear, or create belief. I hate it that I can’t articulate what is happening to me, especially when I want to pay it forward to you especially! Squawk. I do want to say this: I labor to write – even this response is taking SO much time; YOU are both prolific and articulate, with a marvelous “voice.” Screw the trolls, including your male parent; their lies are NOT THE REALITY – your valuable words ARE THE REALITY. You know that already; I don’t mean to patronize! I know nothing and can’t advise, but I’m hoping you pound whatever freelance doors it takes, with no loss of confidence, until the right one opens wide and the $$$ pours out. So there!! Squawk, squawk.

      The trolls got to you. Me too, a bit. Hate it when that happens. That’s what the delete bar is for. It takes practice doesn’t it? Not to let the things that trigger us have that much control over us. Practice and time, I think. For me at least. I have my triggers – CONTROL. Arrogance. Judgment. Whew. Temper, temper! I can be gotten to, for sure. But every time, I try to be more aware of how to step back first, and re-frame how I describe the situation to myself, in my own head, so that it doesn’t trigger and keeps my peace with me – not scattered to the 4 winds due to a psychopath or other trigger. I keep my power, choice and peace while they…well…just flap their jaws. Practice, practice…… And it’s ok that I haven’t practiced enough yet.

      You are right about people being detached (my word) from others’ suffering. That is a big deal in every area of human suffering. Man, what we could do if we could get past that. How do we, I wonder? Large scale. As for me, and many other survivors, it is hard to tune out enough suffering to bear it (I think you’ve talked about that, too). I’ve been there, and been suicidal. I have to shut some out. I don’t know how much I can and can’t do right now. One of the DV advocates here, passionate/compassionate/powerful, has been an advocate for 20 years, when the burn-out rate is 5, I think. She says she puts her all out for “her ladies” but shuts her phone off and shuts it all off in her head on her drive home, so she can be refreshed enough to put her all out the next day, and the next…for more years than most can hack. I have tried and failed to help, also. I see it this way: I used to work at a facility that could have required trips down a potentially gas-lethal manhole. We were trained that if someone went in (with proper gear) and was still overcome, we were NOT to go in too – but call for other team members to help with extraction – because if we are also overcome, we can’t be there to help OR to share the load. That voice is needed. Real, honest, loud and clear. Your voice. Squawk?

      If selling a product takes, what is it, 7 “touches” before the customer responds, and if other issues work likewise, then loud, clear, honest, REPEATED squawking, from multiple sources is at least a place to start – to maintain the pressure and information stream? We both know how much negative words have affected us…so let’s keep squawking good information and strategies, “touch” after “touch.” Relentless. Each in our own voice. And if someone has the “voice” to do something bigger, louder, more organized than blogging, like public protests or whatever, then good for them, too. Starfish on a beach? Squawk!

      Control. Wow. A toughie. Later. You sure got me going here. Diane

  2. MustardSeedBudget.wordpress.com January 17, 2013 at 11:05 pm Reply

    May your circle widen!

  3. mymendingwall January 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm Reply

    Hi Diane,

    What an interesting topic! I’ve never considered the theory of King’s associates that changes requires force. I’ll have to ponder that.

    I’ve also accepted that I am powerless to control anyone’s behavior, thoughts or actions, but that doesn’t stop me from trying at times. For me, I have to first examine the motives. Am I manipulating for my own personal benefit? Am I trying to run someone else’s life when it’s not my responsibility? Or am I trying to adhere to societal norms that crimes against others is not okay? Is my controlling a legal, moral, or ethical obligation to the society in which I am entrusted to the level of responsibility that I have? Is this person trying to harm themselves physically? So, for me, controlling someone to get what I want or to stir their pot is something that perpetuates an unhealthy life. But others times, it is a warranted responsibility that I must accept.

    Thanks for the clever post. I love reading posts that set me to thinking!


    • ranthegauntlet January 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm Reply

      Hello, N: Wow – what a great comment. How wise thinking of desire to control the way you expressed – unhealthy vs. warranted responsibility. Huge thought. I respect your focused sense of personal responsibility – for your motives and for human care for others. Quite a balance sometimes. You have me thinking, too. What a good feeling. Thanks for commenting!!!! Blessings, Diane

  4. barbarastanleyBarbara Stanley January 4, 2013 at 9:46 pm Reply

    I suffered the same confusion for more years than I would care to admit to. Sometimes, God says, “I told you what to do about the situation. It’s all there in the bible.” However, it took me a long time to figure out that He was telling me I had to make decisions concerning my life and those of my two children. He also pointed out to me that I had to suffer the consequences of my actions, no matter what decision I ultimately made. Too often in life, there are no easy outs. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

    • ranthegauntlet January 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm Reply

      Wow, you DO understand. You’re right about no easy outs….I’m tired of suffering consequences for actions I have done with good motivations, seeking God’s will, and applying hard work…I’m afraid to make choices BECAUSE of the potential consequences that I seem to be so unable to predict well. It’s like I’m mentally/emotionally/spiritually challenged just enough to know I am missing something, but not able to figure out what it is! I hear about individuals in the present and in the Bible who knew God’s will and felt his guidance and love, and I just don’t. And I REALLY do want an easy out!(smile) Very sad. A couple of lovely bloggers have stated their belief that when the time is right, I will understand. Hope so!!

      Thanks for sharing so openly with me. It does help.


  5. Barbara Stanley January 2, 2013 at 9:05 pm Reply

    Excellent post. I enjoyed every word!

    • ranthegauntlet January 3, 2013 at 7:26 pm Reply

      Thank you, Barbara! I so appreciate your comments!

      Blessings, Friend!

      Oh, by the way. I DID go to Church after we talked online and DID think of you..so it really is kind of like we attended church together.


  6. Joe Pote January 2, 2013 at 9:02 am Reply

    Another excellent post, Diane!

    Like you, I strive to communicate effectively while also staying very aware that “we can’t control others, and don’t believe we should try.”

    I like your thoughts on the positive aspects of creating cognitive dissonance. I’ve heard that applied mostly to negative aspects, such as being in sin. You make a good point that the same concept can be applied to positive changes in perspective.

    Keep squawking! 🙂

    • ranthegauntlet January 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm Reply

      I’ve never encountered cognitive dissonance related to sin! How did that apply? (Just curious) I heard about this in relation to early childhood language acquisition in the late 70s – neutral connotation.

      Thank you for your input, Joe!

      May I discuss ideas from your book in a post – with full references?


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