23 December 2007

The Announcement And The Metamessage

Yesterday I placed two posts on this page which I had actually written more than a year earlier.

The subject was alcoholism, "The Great Imitator" - and the extent to which symptoms of alcohol abuse [or any other addiction, for that matter] can mimic neuroses or personality disorders - to the point that even trained professionals may fail to recognize alcohol abuse as the most significant problem for some of their clients.

The subtext was my own astonished realization that many different people whose behavior baffled me, in many different settings, over a period of several decades, were in fact telling me all along exactly what the problem was. But I didn't know how to interpret the signs, or didn't give their messages enough weight.

In nearly all cases, the primary problem had to do with alcohol abuse [or similar abuse of another substance or activity]. And in nearly all cases, the folks with the problem were most definitely telling me, loudly and constantly, the precise nature of the actual underlying problem. But they were doing so with a 'spin'; self-deprecatingly, self-pityingly, half-slyly, half-amusedly; so that the announcement 'this is due to my alcohol abuse' was tagged with the metamessage 'don't take this message seriously, and do feel sorrier for me than for yourself'.

When I wrote these posts a year ago, I had been just as stalled in my understanding and perception of The Announcement and The Metamessage as the people I describe were stalled in their alcohol or substance abuse, their gameplaying with loved ones and therapists, etc. The point at which these posts were written was the point at which, for me, things fell into place, and decades of puzzles were puzzles no more.

As I've worked on applying and developing pattern recognition for these behaviors, I have ceased to be astonished when I encounter them. Instead, when I encounter baffling, arbitrary hostility, sudden explosiveness followed by adamant denial of any explosion, lying, evasion of responsibility, pot stirring, etc., I detach and wait for The Announcement and The Metamessage.

Detachment and waiting, used together, are a powerful tactic. The Announcement is usually made very quickly when someone detaches from the person who is behaving abusively or destructively, then waits quietly, offering no explanation or intervention. And The Announcement won't always be about alcohol abuse. Now that I've learned to recognize The Announcement, I've observed that it comes in many different forms. And in fact, there are usually at least two Metamessages conveyed with it.

The Announcement, Basic Form is: "I behave as I do because I do, have, or am afflicted with X."

Metamessage One is: "Don't take this information seriously enough to do anything about it - but feel sorry for me."

Metamessage Two is: "Don't expect me to take it seriously enough to do anything about it either - but don't feel concern for yourself."

In other words, The Announcement And The Metamessage are just another variant of The Official Excuse. The person broadcasting them is telling you that he or she knows on one level what he or she is doing, and has no intention whatsoever of accepting responsibility for it.

The illusion of candor [I do X because I have Y] is intended to rope you back in; the metamessage of dismissiveness [but I'm not taking it seriously and I don't want you to either] is intended to absolve the Announcer of any responsibility for having misled you about his or her true intentions.

Really, this is all you need to know. You can then decide for yourself what degree of contact you wish to maintain with the Announcer, and you can do this with your eyes and heart appropriately open.

I have moved the two earlier posts about alcoholism to a blog page closer to the date on which I actually wrote them. You can find them here.

[Next post: distinguishing The Announcement and The Metamessage from a genuine Apology and Amends.]


Anonymous jordie said...

Thankyou for this stormchild. I say again, you have a gift for writing. I enjoy reading your stuff for your use of words as much as the message which is clear and precise. I sound like a grammar teacher, sorry.

I look forward to the next post.

25 December, 2007 21:11  
Blogger Stormchild said...

Thank you kindly, Jordie... and please accept my apologies as well. I thought I had thanked you here; I was wrong, and I'm sorry.

Blessings and peace, and I hope you had a wonderful holiday season.

03 January, 2008 19:43  

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