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Awareness

The current chapter in Stumbling on Happiness deals with awareness. It's one thing to experience a thing, and another to be aware of that experience. One example Gilbert offers is of reading a newspaper and being so distracted by the sounds of birds and the smells of baked goods that you read a paragraph without being aware of reading it. If you reread it you'll recall many of the words and realize that you did indeed read it and in fact you may retain some knowledge from it.

There are people with a type of brain damage who are not aware of their experiences. Or their feelings. They show a physiological response that is like a normal person's but they are not aware of the feeling itself.

I got to thinking maybe Paul has something like this. When we used to go on hikes he would trot along like a marine, forward, forward, unaware of his surroundings and presumably only aware of his breathing because he's a smoker and it sometimes was hard. Similarly, I have never heard him say anything like "I love wet weather" or "Great weed!" or "I feel cold". It seems like he processes experiences after the fact, analyzing and then saying whether it was good, bad, neutral. I can't remember ever seeing him look either happy or sad, and I've lived with him how long? Four years? Five?

Sometimes, since I told him I need him to move out, I get the sense he is debating about whether he should enter the living room and watch television with me or if he should cook meals for himself when I am around (it seems like he usually waits until I have gone out somewhere), as if he is asking himself, "Is this what is bothering her?" Of course I am likely putting my own construction on it, just as years ago I sometimes assumed my children's father resented my intelligence (I think I was right, looking back, but there were times at the therapist's when I wasn't sure). Still, my sense is that Paul works everything through intellectually. Where is that other part? I told him shortly after we first met that I was trying to find a way into his inside and now, years later, I still don't know where that path is. I don't make any effort to find it now but I don't think that negates my experience.

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