Affirmations Psychological Services, LLC
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Humanistic Hummings

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Seeking the rhythm within untold stories ... hummings from a psychological Being.

Author, Dwight Tolliver, Ph.D.
tollyphd@gmail.com


 

Becoming a Receiver: Party Two

A conventional cultural saying goes, “the more we give, the more we receive.” I respect the spirit of this particular conventional wisdom. Unconventionally, an alternative expression could be; “the more we receive, the more we offer.” For example, if you visit my office; you would notice it’s decorated with offerings by clients, families, and colleagues. Over time, I have received their offerings to the best of my abilities and been intentional regarding where their offerings are placed. In other words, I have created space for the gifts and honored what I’ve received.

Speaking of honoring gifts, baseball is a different type of sport insofar as the ball starts in the hands of the defense. In other words, it’s one of the few, if only, sport where the team on offense doesn’t start with the ball in their grasp. Theoretically, the psychological idea of receiving is a different and unconventional way of moving through Life on a day to day basis. Like baseball, receiving has depths and layers. On the surface, receiving is characterized by taking in, accepting, or acquiring something given to you. As we honor more deeply, receiving can be characterized by bearing, enduring, or suffering something happening (done) to you.

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Receiving involves the process of tolerating (enduring, bearing) tension instead of ending tension prematurely

As human beings in the American culture (and maybe most cultures), we’re taught the idea that tension is “bad” or “wrong.” If you think about it, most of our routine movement in Life centers upon ending tension. For example, we pee when our bladder is full. Or we make progress (toward completion) on a project our boss gave us. Theoretically, the tension is externally driven (e.g., trash day, math test) or internally driven (e.g., hunger pangs, desire to talk to a friend). Whether by Nature or through prudish values handed down over the years, Life becomes a series of movements aimed at ending or reducing tension. 

In the half-inning baseball game, I could have positioned my catcher’s mitt on the outside corner and called for a fastball on any given pitch because the hardest pitch to hit in baseball is the low, outside fastball. Similarly, at any moment with a client; I could say “How does that make you feel?” In the game, I called two inside fastballs on the other team’s best hitter. Similarly with a client, I may say “I sensed a shift in your presence after you mentioned your partner and am wondering if a certain feeling emerged inside of you?” 

Let’s consider the second hitter in that inning. He was angry after the first pitch was called a strike. “With angry emotions running high in our opponent, it’s time to improvise. We don’t need a strike-out here. Let’s get him out right now.” When human beings feel excessive anger, we may become reactive. When we become reactive, we shut doors by ending tension prematurely. As such, we offered a change-up believing his excessive anger would cloud his vision. We improvised and responded situationally to the hitter’s anger. 

Even though anger may be the primary way human beings shut doors, anger may manifest aggressively (using strength as a weapon), passively (using silence as a weapon), and/or passive-aggressively (using power as a weapon). Interestingly, ending tension prematurely means one couldn’t handle the tension any longer and transmitted the tension onto something or someone else. In other words, the tension was absorbed and became overwhelming, which led to reactivity. Alternatively, the theoretical idea of receiving doesn't take a ‘Tit for Tat’ approach. Receiving doesn’t want to send ‘overwhelming’ energy back into the world. When we tolerate tension a little longer, we can typically respond differently even though the tension feels uncomfortable. 



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(For Matrix Trilogy fans, Neo took his time to seek clarity with the decision for he and Trinity to take the ship, Logos, to the Machine City while the rest of the crew took the Nebuchadnezzar back to Zion)


Receiving leans into confirmatory and disconfirmatory evidence or conventionality and unconventionality: 


In order for human beings to tolerate tension longer and find a different way to respond (send energy that’s not questing for justice), we need to remain open to alternative responses. In other words, we need to remain open to disconfirmatory evidence and unconventionality. Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing theories or hypotheses. Confirmation bias is normal and conventional. More significantly, confirmation bias ends the tension prematurely when the new information doesn’t confirm our existing hypothesis. In other words, we’re not open to adapting, adjusting, or changing our theories. 

Interestingly, when I defended my doctoral dissertation; one of my advisors, Dr. Dawn Szymanski, highlighted the excessive attention I gave to a research hypothesis that the data disconfirmed. She highlighted how I may have projected confirmation bias into the research. Uh, uhoh. Thank you, Dr. Szymanski! Even though I was on the path toward becoming a receiver, the pressure cooker of the dissertation and the power it possessed saturated my Being. I reacted with confirmation bias in my quest to “defend” the inaccurate hypothesis. More succinctly, I needed the hypothesis to make sense, confirming the idea that I was still “right” somehow. 

In the game, the second inside pitch to the team’s best hitter was unconventional. In the blog entry, I stated “Conventional wisdom would suggest a low, outside fastball or change-up on the next pitch. My gut tells me he knows this. So I mix it up and call for an inside fastball again.” On the surface, it was a mistake. The mistake pitch confirmed the reality that this hitter is really, really good and that we were lucky the ball went into foul territory. 

More importantly, the “mistake” pitch disconfirmed the hypothesis that we could trick this talented hitter. He could hit any pitch (even pitches a little outside the strike zone) our pitcher offered him. The disconfirmatory evidence led me to a new theory, which was that a well placed and low fastball on the outside corner would be the toughest pitch for him to hit for a double, triple, or out of the park. In other words, the new strategy wanted to minimize damage. Fortunately, on that day; our pitcher threw his best pitch of the game. 



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Receiving handles short-term movement with a long-term perspective:


The “Long Game” guides momentary decision-making. From a long-term perspective, becoming a receiver is unconventional and anti-American given our culture’s obsession with winning and/or being right. In the baseball game, I acknowledged the idea of “not losing.” I stated, “We may not win the game, but we won’t lose if we compete in this way.” Furthermore, it dawned on me before the half-inning officially started; “This is the most important inning of the game, which may sound strange given the fact we have five innings left after this inning.” If the goal is to win, it’s easy for human beings to cut corners or “teach to the test.” Becoming a receiver isn’t easy work. 

As the importance of that particular half-inning dawned on me, the specific threat struck like a foul tip to the catcher’s face mask. Specifically, the #4 batterer in that inning was dangerous and could threaten what were trying to accomplish that afternoon. Going further into the Realm of unknowns, I stated; “He’s talented and one year away from being the best hitter and player on the team. In this inning, he’s a threat; he’ll be the fourth hitter. If he bats in this inning, it means there will be one or more of his teammates on base. Yup, he’s a threat.”We didn’t face the #4 batter in the line-up that inning. We don’t live within parallel universes and will never know what would have happened if we would have faced that particular batter in that particular inning. As such, the unknown Truth remain unknown. 

At the beginning of this blog entry, I discussed the unconventional expression of “the more we receive, the more we offer.” For example, I receive clients daily, experiencing and enduring their Pain. I offer feedback as I bear their untold stories. The cycle’s complete, right? Not exactly. When clients subsequently offer small gifts as a gesture of gratitude for the process of bearing their Pain (and Beauty) and offering them feedback, the ball’s in my court to receive again. Like baseball, the psychological idea of receiving is confusing and disorienting regarding who’s on offense, who’s on defense, who’s the receiver, and who’s the giver (offerer). Becoming a receiver leans into unknowns for the love of the game (process) instead of needing to win the game. 

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More conceptually, handling short-term movement with a long-term perspective is divinely feminine. Feminine energy has been conceptualized by various psychological-minded human beings in various ways, meaning there are lakes of ambiguity surrounding the construct of feminine energy. Instead of trying to describe it fully in this blog entry, let’s simply consider the feminine energy for a catcher in baseball… being behind the scenes (literally and figuratively), being an active participant with each pitch, guiding the game indirectly, and being the only player on defense to face their teammates. Baseball is a different sport. Catching is a unique position on the team. Receiving is a Life’s journey.


Receiving experiences the space in-between:


As I recounted the half-inning baseball game in the previous blog entry, I was a tad bit surprised by all of the aspects of the game I considered before the inning officially started. I chose that particular game because it was a marker of personal growth; a red marking on the red trail of Life letting me know I’m heading in the right direction. Yet, I didn’t realize how much I received or the fullness of the process until I allowed the half-inning to roam freely in the blog. 

As it just dawned on me, the previous blog entry showcased the space in-between, how the details and specifics of the half-inning highlight the possibilities of the space in-between.

As the final out of the entire nine inning game happened, the two teams shook hands, as is customary in our sports culture. Uncustomarily, there were more hugs, half-hugs, and respectful chatter between some of my teammates, including me, and Dayton’s players. In that moment, we were not Division 1 or Division 3 baseball players. We were equally human and equally imperfect. We chose to cooperate, respect, and acknowledge the spirit of competition with the customary and uncustomary gestures. When we experience the space in between, we’re free to receive options and experience a deeper knowing of C   h o i     c e .        B eco m       ing ( a n y t h i n g   ) is an       e x p e r i m e n t a l      process ; t he r e i   s n o a r ri val                           point .



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Dwight Tolliver, Ph.D.