Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nice Guy or Savior Complex

This week I have found myself in many situations that caused me to deeply question my own motivations. I have always considered myself a very flexible individual; a real "go with the flow" character, if you will. However, more than any other time in my life I had to literally stop in my tracks and ask myself the question:"Why are you doing this?"

In one instance, a close friend, who shall remain nameless, was having difficulty with an appliance (which I will simply refer to as a "washing device" of some type). Well, I have fixed many an appliance including several types of "washing devices"; a skill I picked up from my grandfather and YouTube. So, my natural instinct was to ask a few basic questions (pre-diagnostics) in order to determine what should be the best solution to a possible repair. I didn't realize until later that perhaps my questions could have appeared as "prying". After hearing that the "washing device" was leaking from below, I came up with two likely reasons for the leak and offered a suggestion for repair. In addition, I offered my services to at least take a look. I figured the gesture might have been received as one friend looking out for another. However, my offer was instead received with a momentary look of surprise and perhaps caution as if I had entered her private space (I tend to over-analyze but body language never lies). My friend said that she had been wanting to buy a new one anyway. I politely and humbly excused myself and stated that I meant no imposition at all.

At another time a friend was having car trouble. I am no mechanic by any means. However, I have had enough trouble with  vehicles to know a thing or two about the causes of certain clicks, rattles and squeals. So, when my friend had car trouble, again a felt an overwhelming need to lend a hand. Asking pre-diagnostic questions I offered some suggestions which ,in this case, were not greeted with hesitation, but with appreciation. I was happy to know that there was already a plan in place to look for a new car.

A third situation I found myself in was with a friend who was suffering terribly with allergies. As an allergy sufferer myself, and former pharmacy technician, I know of many non-prescrition rememdies that usually yield incredible results.  So, I offered again a solution to someone else's "problem". Unfortunately, I couldn't find a miracle cure but I felt satisified knowing that it at least alleviated some of the symptoms. It may have been time to see a real physician. On my way to the pharmacy to pick up these miracle pills I stayed at the red light a few seconds longer as I realized that I willingly woke up 30 minutes earlier just so I could pick up medicine for a friend. It never seemed strange to me until I looked at myself in the mirror.... I was smiling. I was actually delighting in the fact that I was helping a close friend. But, I wondered was "helping" or was I "saving"?

I am all too familiar with the basic personality types. No matter which scale you use I am the Melancholic, the Golden Retriever, or even the Rider (from Compton's Basic 4). I like to help simply because "I want to make you.....happy". So, is it to a flaw? Do I smother people with attention just so that I may have their attention? ....hmmmm.....maybe.

A Savior complex is in many ways likened to a God-complex. The difference might be in the motivation. A person a Savior/God-Complex has a nassicistic agenda: He KNOWS that they will do a better job, he KNOWS that you KNOW he will do a better job and he wants the world to KNOW that he KNOWS that you KNOW so then they will KNOW he will a better job than anyone else in the world.
A Savior, on the other hand, just wants to offer a way out. He KNOWS you need a way out, he KNOWS that you need his help. But, he can only stand at the door and knock and wait. I would say, though, that whether a "savior" or not, the world needs people who will step up to the plate. Do I think I am a Savior? maybe not...I prefer to think...I'm just a nice guy.

This week, though it may not be your inclination, offer a hand to your fellow man or woman. Someone needs an extra dime for the coke machine, instead trying to suppress the jingling from your pant pocket, reach in and offer what you have. A truly kind gesture is just that...kind, no matter how it is received.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Anticipation and Dread

While sharing pizza, a friend and I exchanged some ideas about the positive and negative influences we face daily. I came up with an analogy about plants that seem to respond to being "talked to" daily. It seems that we too respond accordingly to our surroundings. My friend and I were able to identify two basic states to which we respond: either Anticipation or Dread.

Dread which is commonly translated "terror" in spanish, causes one to throw in the towel before the ringing of the bell. With dread, we are fully aware, based entirely on our previous experience that what awaits us is unfavorable, inconvenient, threatening and dreadful. This is the classic example of acquisition response conditioning that read in Biology I. A flatworm is condition to contract its body to light by first being repeatedly exposed to light paired with an electric shock. Yes, it is cruel and a very crude way establish a point, however, that basic response to protect oneself is in all creatures. The question is: "Are we more advanced than the flatworm simply because we have a higher threshold for pain?" Or "Are we above the flatworm because we feel we can control the level of conditioning by consciously removing ourselves from the threatening situation?"

Anticipation on the other hand has a completely different connotation. Coming from the Latin which means "to come before", anticipation another basic conditioned response where we are delighted to engage in a repetious activity because we know that we will be rewarded for our participation. A prime example is the mouse that is conditioned to finish the maze knowing exactly where the cheese awaits him (much like the gleeful delight we feel every 1st and 15th). Other stimuli for anticipation may be that friendly face and wonderful smile that awaits everyday or simply the absence of dread. From my experience knowing that it will be a dread-free day becomes a day of anticipation. Even nothing spectacular occurs, it will still be a day to be remembered with fondness.

Before you begin your next day: stop and categorize your day. Is there something you are dreading? If so, don't contract your worm-like body. Instead, get it over with ASAP. If there is anticipation, get to work early. Then take your time; the cheese isn't going anywhere.

Heritage vs. Culture

These two terms are often used interchanegably. However, I see a clear distinction between the two. Keep in mind, I'm really no authority on the subject....and this is just a blog.

Having grown up in the multi-cultural city of Houston, I have always been drawn to the Chicano Culture. Although I actually lived in the 'burbs, attended a school in Midtown, and did not speak spanish, I always seemed to gravitate toward things latino. The sweet smell of a Refresceria (refreshment stand) and the sounds of cars blaring latin music tell me I'm home. Which brings me to Culture or Heritage: Chosen or Given.

I believe that Heritage is given to the individual, whether they are aware of it or not. It's not by choice as no one gets to choose their genetic make-up or family environment. So, the heritage I "enherited" was given to me, like it or not. The comfort I do find is not only the positive aspect but that in the negative I see that the challenges I go through today have been tackled by others before me. Some met success others did not. I have learned that no matter what comes my way I am not the first and certainly won't be the last but in everything,... I am not alone because of my heritage. At every opportunity I share my heritage with my children so that they too will never feel alone.

As for culture, I feel that it is more about chosing which group to belong to. Whether my children like knowing that they come from a family of circus clowns or not that is what has been given to them. However, they have all the control over which culture to embrace. As for me I consider myself Mexican in terms of ethnicity and Latino in terms of race but those are merely political terms. The culture I embrace is Latino culture. What means is I speak spanglish, my friends are loud and talk with their hands and music is ALWAYS playing somewhere. Oh, and where there's music... there's food. Mostly culture is how we grow up. Those unspoken, unwritten "principles" that govern how to raise your children, how often you go to church, what you do when go out or entertain guests and of course the dilect you speak. This is culture.

Either way you see it, you have a heritage it or not. Yet, you should have a culture. Please don't entertain that thought "I'm an American" that's my culture. Nah, culture is not limited to race or ethnicity. Culture can be LA, ATL, NYC, or a Jersey thing that no one else understands. As for me, a native Texan I know all about culture, H-Town, D-Town, East Tex and Sananto ...represent your stomping grounds. >- (the peace sign for 'peace out')

Saturday, April 14, 2012


From the get-go the word curiosity takes on a few different meanings. Our first inclination may lead us to the most common use of the word to mean a "desire to know something" or as with the curiosity that killed the cat a "tendency to pry" that which usually bites us in the end. However, I like to use it the way Spock does when his "logical" mind comes across something that is outside of the paradigm. Another way to look at it might be the way Arsenio Hall referred to "things that make you go 'hmmmm'".

Recently, my outdated "dumb-phone" had gone on the fritz and so have all my other outdated, back-up cellphones. I am currently using my daughter fashionably pink phone and even this one has it's "curiosities." But, it got me thinking about the problems that we have with communication today. When someone doesn't text back or return our call, within what could be considered a reasonable time, we start wonder, "Did I press send?" or "Did I forget one word said the exact opposite of what I meant to say?" However, in reality, I think it speaks more to my impatience and arrogance to expect someone should stop what they're doing and tend to my co-dependent needs.

And that's what I believe to be the first step to self-improvement. Recognize that I have faults that need to be corrected. Look at yourself in the mirror and admit that you're not perfect, no one is. If you can accept that you're not beyond reproach, then make yourself a better person if for no one else do it for yourself. Don't be afraid to be your worst critic (as long as it doesn't lead to self-loathing).