I’ve been listening to a great podcast called Invisibilia. It’s all about the things which inherently connect us, but we never really think about or see, and it’s totally fascinating (aside from being well researched and produced, which is always a plus).
The episode I listened to on my walk to work today was about individual frame of reference, and how important it is to how we see and process the world around us, and after a couple of other conversations today, it has really struck a chord. The first section focused on a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, and their realisations about their perceptions of the world vs the perceptions of those around them.
It got me thinking, because while I don’t have Asperger’s, I know I process the world differently from other people. I really struggle to find commonality with my peers, and regularly catch myself thinking of myself as outside of the conversation. These things don’t belong to me, I don’t understand these experiences, they are not for me to engage in, enjoy, bear witness to. It’s not active, or purposeful, it’s just part of my psyche.
And it’s not that I think my experiences are different necessarily, not in a way that is more valuable than someone else’s. It’s the opposite in fact – I feel like I have not had any experiences to the level whereby I can use them to help define myself.
My personal frame of reference is quite broad. I have experienced a range of different socio-economic environments, a range of political viewpoints, an international family and upbringing, and diverse lived experiences. But maybe because of that diversity, I feel like my experience is very shallow. Without meaning to be offensive to any readers, I’d say my life has been consistently mediocre and unremarkable.
So, what are you rambling on about then?
Part of what I realised today, is that due to my own perception of the mediocrity of my existence, and my tendency to other myself, I diminish many of my experiences simply because they are diminished within my own frame of reference.
Here’s my example. A number of times in my life, I have been sexually harassed. It’s never been extreme, I’ve never felt fundamentally unsafe, and I’ve never lost control of the situation. I’ve told my harassers what I thought of them, or ignored them, and I’ve moved on with my life. It has not massively bothered me.
I don’t know why it hasn’t bothered me. But there’s something about my personal frame of reference which means that I haven’t reacted to it, other than to say that it wasn’t a big deal, plenty of people have it much worse, I was probably perfectly safe.
And then today I listened to my podcast, and realised that just because I don’t think it’s a big deal, doesn’t mean that someone else will feel the same way. Which is not to say that if you have an experience you are in any way required to disclose that. But if it makes no difference to you, but might make a difference to someone else, then maybe it’s a thing worth considering.
I do not feel like I have a place in the #metoo movement, and writing this post hasn’t changed that. I still feel like my experiences are vastly diminished in comparison with those of many people. But we live in a world where we perpetuate negative activities by pretending they are a one-off, or that they are unimportant, simply because they don’t feature in our personal frame of reference. And our inability to stand in another person’s place and have empathy with them is allowing people like Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh and hundreds of others to get away with unspeakable things.
So you know what, #metoo.