I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am grateful to these teachers.
How many things have you learned from dissociation?
A bad example is often times the best teacher, if for no other reason than witnessing the exact opposite can illustrate the massive fallout of, and ramifications of, making a wrong move.
Going beyond the extremes like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin, and drilling down to less blatant, but equally offensive in their own right examples, we are exposed to behavior that demonstrates zero moral turpitudes. The United States has always been, and continues to personify, a unique selection of morally reprehensible examples from which to choose.
These are moments for dissociative learning. By watching the clearly immoral behavior of another, we are ever more likely to make note of what they are doing that we find so objectionable, and thereby formulate our own behavior directly disparate from that which we have just witnessed.
I had a client who really helped to make The Illusion Factory a giant success at our nascent stage. He was one of those personalities which was charming, magnanimous and gregarious. That said, he clearly enjoyed calling his female executive assistant into his office with me sitting in the room and he would tell us both a joke that would make a drunken sailor blush.
As the joke ventured into X-rated territory, it became excruciatingly uncomfortable to sit in front of someone who was our main source of income and watch how clearly offended his executive assistant would get during the telling of the joke. It made me want to melt under the table and hide. In the 12 years that we worked together, he was hit with six sexual discrimination lawsuits. This was an attorney who had run a couple of the large studios, so clearly ignorance was not the excuse. I think that he was one of the greatest examples I was lucky enough to encounter in the formative years of putting together my company. On one side, he was an incredibly loyal and faithful client, treated us very fairly, and was always singing our praise…. on the other side there was clearly an issue that turned a meeting with him into one of the most uncomfortable appointments I could have during the week.
Many similar lessons are learned through fiction. A great fictional account is capable of fully flushing out a despicable human being from whom we are intentionally repulsed. One of the best examples is the character that Christoph Waltz played in Inglourious Basterds. Christoph earned his Best Supporting Actor Academy Award by portraying one of the greatest screen villains of all time. (Taratino did not let Christoph rehearse with the other actors in advance of the scenes, so they could have a gut reaction to how Christoph had crafted his horrific character.)
As we watch the character progress through the plot, we are silently making notes about behaviors that we would be entirely unwilling to adopt ourselves.
In parallel to this lesson, Kahlil Gibran also references learning silence from the talkative. We have all spent an hour listening to some blowhard talking about nothing for an hour. They go down a rabbit hole of their own choosing and from that point forward, we feel as if we have been cast as an unwitting audience, forced to nod our heads politely and chime in with a yes or a uh huh in order to prove we are actually still listening. In reality, we would be doing anything shy of sitting and listening to nothing rambling on incessantly ad nauseum.
Lessons come in many shapes and many sizes from many different kinds of people and other forms of stimuli. Sometimes, the most dissociative learning can be the most advantageous as it instantly cements the negative association with that choice of tactic or behavior and infuses us with an internal desire never to behave in that manner.