“Obéir au doigt et à l’œil” (“to obey the finger and the eye”) is the French way to say that you’re at somebody’s beck and call.
I found out that it comes from “beckon call”, which makes sense, right? By the way, I learned a word : Beckon – “gesture to come”.
How do you say that in your language? In common use, what’s the radioactivity of “beckon”? Is it neutral like “to call over”? Or does in imply a little slice of servitude? What are the differences between to yield, to comply, to obey, to submit?
What are the dials and levers here? If you’re at somebody’s beck and call, what does it show? Is it about fear? Power? Is it about persons, or systems, companies?
What about the beckoning person? How come this person expects you to act this way? Has he enough power to get you back in “the right track”? Or does he have to understand that “people are not all obedient”? What a shock!
What happens, in a situation where you’re supposed to comply and you don’t? Failure to comply, disobedience, rebelliousness? Why would you? A frontier has been crossed? Did you change? Did you grow up? Has the whole system changed? Did you change your mind? Why?
In what territory to study this? Kingdom? Management? Spouses? Clients/employees? Politics? Parenting? What are the limits of beck and calling?
Erving Goffman explored it a long time ago in books like The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. I copy paste wikipedia :
Goffman believes that all participants in social interactions are engaged in certain practices to avoid being embarrassed or embarrassing others. This led to Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis. Goffman saw a connection between the kinds of acts that people put on in their daily life and theatrical performances.
So : life in society is a theater.
In relationships, there’s often a gap between an ideal and… reality. It can lead to drama, or to theater : wear a mask. Acting like you are supposed to do.
In management, it’s the same! One day you realize that your manager is managing as if he was believing his sh*t. And if YOU are the manager, well…
Everything is fine, right?
So what? It can be useful, to be “in peace”!
Where is our theater? What happens when masks fall, and why? Anger? Steam? Change?
Why and how can we become ourselves suddenly, and what would be the consequences?
When you have to work with people, groups, companies, you encounter… failure. Something went wrong somewhere, from your manager, or during a delivery, or in whole projects. This is a mess. You got the wrong thing, you’re under a stupid decision, you have not enough, or too much, etc.
This moment when you fall on your ass, saying :
“Are they really stupid or they’re doing it on purpose?”
…is interesting. Because from there you can do many things. You can act, you can try to fix, you can report and feedback, you can become sarcastic, you can realize it’s too late, you can laugh, or cry, or lament, or have revenge, or to be in rage, or resign…
“I’m taking a picture of you. Please smile. Nooo not like that! A big, natural, spontaneous smile”.
Everyone understands this example, right? When someone asks you to act… spontaneously, you’re stuck in an awkward grey nauseous mood. It’s called “the be spontaneous paradox”. It can happen anywhere, in a couple, a family, at work : one person requests something that can only be given spontaneously – love, interest, appreciation, desire, tenderness… You’re now stuck in a Double Bind.
Here’s a good dialog from the 2006 movie “The Break-Up” :
I busted my ass all day cleaning this house and then cooking that meal! And I worked today. It would be nice if you said “thank you” and helped me with the dishes.
Fine. I’ll help you do the damn dishes.
That’s not what I want.
You just said that you want me to help you do the dishes!
I want you to want to do the dishes.
Why would I want to do dishes?
Why? See, that’s my whole point.
Let me see if I’m following this, okay? Are you telling me that you’re upset
because I don’t have a strong desire to clean dishes?
No. I’m upset because you don’t have a strong desire to offer to do the dishes.
I just did.
After I asked you!
Imagine a club, a private club with big mellow armchairs. The boss enters the room and solemnly criticize the atmosphere, and then asks everyone to be a little more gay and happy, “a few more laughs would be perfect!” – Imagine the disaster!… (I saw this one day from a web forum administrator. I tried to explain him, but without any effect).
Tool 1 : Learn how to detect when someone asks you to “act spontaneously”. And beware of this when it’s meant but unsaid, perversely implicit : it’s worse ! Your answer can be multiple.
If you try, you just have to put a mask. But it’s not you, it’s theater. Maybe you will have to wear it!
You can just say no, of course.
Go meta-communication : talk about this, explain the paradox and that you will not stay stuck into this.
Tool 2 : Do you do it? Putting other people into these “Please change and act spontaneously like this and like that“? If you did, can you detect the desperate unease and awkwardness you put in the other’s brain? Can you see the mask?
I will always remember this example I got from Watzlawick, a father punishing his kid telling him “Go to your room, and come back when you smile”. Horror!
Kids made a hut in the garden. They joyfully scream stories like “Now we’re pirates ! We’re on a boat yeyy ! Oh, look : a whale is coming !”. Then it’s a castle in the desert, a cow-boy fort, etc.
When we become adults, we love and we have to play that game, differently. Instead of pretending to be pirates, managers gabbledygook empty glorious words to a groupe of inner-sarcastic employees. Instead of yelling in the garden, two friends rejoining after a long time fight and misunderstanding suddenly hug and cry together, forgetting their ruins, sobbing projects about strength and sparkling cleanliness. Friends again and forever ! And just spend five minutes in a political meeting, just to taste this energy…
As if, pretending, call it what you want. We all do that, and when we speak this way, we’re like kids : “Yeah, we are strong !”, “Yeah, we will beat them all”, “Yeah, it will be simple and beautiful !”, “Our company is the best !”. Hip hip hip hourra. Do you feel the heat in your heart, when you’re on that path ?
Uplifting ! That’s a good english word I learned recently. We all need it from time to time, after a crisis. Suddenly it makes things simple, or more likely d-o-a-b-l-e. Of course it’s not simple, nor even doable, probably, but we have to overshadow this. Let’s pretend we’re strong and OK and that we are on the good path ! Reality sweeping under the carpet…
The secret subtility behind this is : How much we all screaming kids BELIEVE in this shit ? Reason, we all know in the deep, is there in parenthesis. “Dinner is served, kids !”, we all fail, and snap, there’s no castle in the desert, it’s just our f… garden.
Think how funny it is to find yourself in a classification. En Astrologie, you have 12 boxes. Each sign has characteristics. If you’re a Pisces you are a dreamer, Gemini is fast, Cancer sensible, Taurus slow, etc. You can spend your whole life studying that, or just be funny casual about it, or lazy too : this is a good way to accept your own faults and flaws, no ?
There are many other tools in psychology, helping us to understand who we are, Enneagrams or MBTI, for example. Maybe you’re a leader, or a diplomat, an introvert, an observer, etc. It can be a good way to know yourself, some people around you, a group you’re managing, etc.
One day, you meet another classification, and you’re ready to have fun to put people in boxes ! I just realised that the “mental disorders classification” can be one.
And I would say : OMG ! In French : Oh la laaaa !
Do you have Dependent Personality Disorder Symptoms ?
“Dependent personality disorder is characterized by a long-standing need for the person to be taken care of and a fear of being abandoned or separated from important individuals in his or her life.”
Do you have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Symptoms ?
Are you obsessed by order, rules ? Do you have superstitions about signs and numbers ? Do you fear to lose control ? Focus on moral ideas and rules ? Do you organize to the level of perfectionism ? Do you obsessively dissect your relationships with friends ?
See me coming ? You see ? Of couuuurse you’re not that a sicko-weirdo ! But, well, maybe a little, non ?
Dials : Have fun in classifications. Find your dials. Watch yourself and grow and evolve… or smile and be lazy with “I’m like that, that’s me !”.
Tool : All these classifications are useful because they invite you to have empathy. We all do what we can, after all. On fait tous ce qu’on peut…