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Your Sense of Values May Need Revising
Condensed from the Woman's Home Companion (April '26) An Interview with Dr. F. Williams. Reported by Mary B. Mullett
psychiatrist of acknowledged repatation, and I were lunching at a famous New York hotel. Almost from the moment she came in we found ourselves watching a woman at the table next to ours.
"She is a very common type," Dr. Williams said. "Ever since she sat down she has been trying to get things done as she thinks they ought to be done. She has moved the dishes around because she didn't like the way they were arranged. She has told her husband not to talk so loudly and not to tuck his napkin into his waistcoat. When he ate his soup he got off on the wrong spoon, and she called him down for that.
"She hasn't discussed one thing that didn't involve little details about what 'ought' to be done; what time they 'ought' to have dinner tonight; what they ought' to wear; just when she 'ought' to do her packing; whether she 'ought' to report the chambermaid for not cleaning their room as it 'ought' to be cleaned.
"Imagine what she must be when she is at home. She is the type of woman whose house will always be neat; even painfully neat. Everything runs like clockwork; or if it does not she is miserable. If she
gives a luncheon she wears herself out getting ready for it. Her mind is so occupied with the mechanical details of entertaining that she can't devote herself to the human side of it. is busy thinking about doilies and dishes; hoping the cook won't burn anything; watching the maid; wondering whether goblets would have been correct rather than glasses. She is missing the only really vital thing in the whole situation. Unless the guests supply their own happiness and gayety and mental enjoyment all they get out of the affair will be a meal. They may go away and say she is a good housekeeper. But they won't say she is a charming woman and that they have had a wonderfully interesting time.
"As a homemaker she is a tragic failure. She hasn't the right sense of values. She has missed the allimportant thing! She is not a human being, opening her heart and mind to her husband, exploring life and having a wonderful time with him.
"These over-precise women began to 'get that way' when they were children; but not all from the same causes. Some of them, for example, are the results of the training given them by a mother who, herself, was over-precise. The little girl who has
been taught that disorder is almost a crime may grow up to be incorrigibly fussy in her own affairs.
"Of course this does not always happen. Two children having the same training may react to it in entirely different ways. Nevertheless, over-fussy mothers do succeed in training at least some of their children to be over-fussy men and women; missing the inner fruit of life because they are so busy with its outer husk. "If an overly precise woman realizes her failings she can overcome them. A psychiatrist could help her by showing her how she 'got that way;' but she can help herself to be different if she really cares about it. She should try to see her life as if she were outside of it. Which is more important in her home? Is it hearthappiness? Or is she absorbed in managing mechanical details? Does she laugh with her children-or only look after their diet? Does she know what they are dreaming, or only what they are doing? Does she have their confidence or only their obedience?
"When the family goes for a motor ride, does she help to make it a happy, amusing, entertaining experience? Or is she too busy thinking about the picnic lunch she is taking, the extra wraps, the scratch on the front seat, the squeak of an axle, the way her husband drives and a hundred other things which are not vital to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness?
"These women who are irritatingly precise and conscientious need one thing: a better understanding of life's values? Companionship, sympathy, affection, poise, mutual tolerance, freedom of expression-these are incomparably more important than all the thousand little things on which many women concentrate.
"We must live and let live. We mustn't be so frightfully serious about every little thing. Do the best we can-and then accept the consequences with satisfaction if they are good, or with good-humored philosophy if they aren't what we hoped for. We must learn to smile at our own mistakes and at those of the people around us. A sense of proportion, a sense of ordi
nary human weakness, a sense of hu mor-well, taken together these make common sense. They would help these over-particular women.
"Suppose that a mother sees her child developing traits we have discussed. For instance, suppose the child won't let other children touch its playthings, is too fussy about its clothes, irritatingly methodical and exact. If a child shows a tendency to keep its playthings sacred, hides them from other children, is a little miser about them, find out what is back of all this. It may be a 'defensive reaction.' A brother or a sister may be trying to 'hog' the child's playthings. A boy's new electric train may have been broken by the boy from across the street. A little girl's doll, the pride of her heart, may have been messed up by the baby.
"Patience and a calm determination to get at the root of the matter will unearth the cause. And when it is found the mother can set things right. If the child is simply defending himself she must see that he doesn't have to do it. And at the same time she can explain to him something about the give and take of life; something about the need of friendliness and tolerance; something about tact and how to manage people; something about how to defend himself and his rights.
"This can be done. It needs patience and understanding; but it may mean the difference between happiness and unhappiness when the child grows up. Not only its own happiness but that of husband, wife, children.
"It is curious-isn't it-to think that this man at the next table is reaping a harvest whose seeds were planted when his wife was a child. She is probably making his life miserable with her everlasting 'ought to do this' and 'ought to do that.' It could have been prevented, if her mother had seen this tendency toward overconscientiousness, had got at the cause of it and had helped her to a better sense of values. The woman could get this proper sense of values even now if she could see herself as we see her."