Thursday, April 10, 2014

Environment variables

Recently, I made an observation about myself that got me thinking. After more observation, which included watching others, I began to form a conclusion, at least so far as the initial observation is concerned. I think this behavior is key to understanding certain adaptive settings as well, but for now I am intrigued with what I have seen to this point.

Namely, I am talking about how some of us change behaviorally depending upon the setting, the people, the music, the sub-culture or the language. To understand this clearly, one must consider his or her own behavior from a certain base point. A base point for indicating behavior would be found by pinpointing where a person spends the majority of their time, or who a person spends a majority of their time with. For instance, in my case one could simply observe my behavior at home with my wife and kids. After a certain period of time, specific behavioral elements could be obtained. For some people, a workplace can also be an excellent spot to determine behavior, but not always.

Once a base point is established, regarding common (or expected) behavior, the next step is to watch someone in a setting that is not normal or is outside of routine. Some good examples would be a family reunion or any function that involves a setting and people that are not familiar from the base point. A company holiday dinner party or a professional meet and greet for business purposes where spouses are invited or a school reunion are just a few more examples. In any of these cases, it is common to observe individuals behaving differently than they would if they were in their daily routines.

Using myself as an example, I occasionally travel to spend time with my two brothers, my sister, their respective others and their kids (my niece and nephews), as well as my mother. From the moment our conversation begins, I am different. My speech patterns change, as does my vocabulary, even my demeanor. These are not subtle changes either, they are indeed quite noticeable. I use words, mannerisms, figures of speech and gestures that are not part of my typical daily routine. My desire for specific food and drink changes as well which ultimately leads me to feel as if I am on some distant planet every time I see them.

Determining if my actions are the result of a choice or if they are due to programming is something I wrestle with. Mostly, the way I react feels intrinsic so I am led to believe this is something I am hard wired with but I don’t like the idea of being unable to control these patterns so naturally I want this to be an act of choice so I can correct it. The trouble is that I have been travelling up there for many years and it has always been this way. Changing this is going to require a tremendous amount of focus on my part. I’m positive it can be done but then it leads me to wonder if anyone will notice, and if so, what will the reaction be?

I also believe that it may be possible to have had a base point at an earlier time, only to be replaced by a newer base point. In my case, I grew up and remained in the same area for 25 years and then moved away. For the last 18 years I have been living apart from my immediate family. To some degree, I have lived nearly 2 different lives. Initially I was surrounded by brothers, a sister and parents who all sounded, acted, thought, ate and lived the same. I was surrounded by similar speech patterns and behavior that was distinct to my family, introduced by parents who came by their own distinct personality traits from their own respective upbringings. There can be no doubt that even though I moved away, I maintained some piece, some part of me that was built, so to speak, by how I was raised.

After I moved, I became surrounded by new influences. Over the last 18 years I have been changed based on my surroundings and most certainly by my wife and 2 kids. The mannerisms I have today are a direct result of them as well as co-workers, friends and even acquaintances. Therefore, all of this makes for an interesting dynamic when I go back to where I am from and visit family. There is a bit of a clash at first, between my current personality and my old one, but before long I talk and act like I had never left. It feels uncanny, to be certain. I have begun to wonder if there will come a time, when after spending enough time in my new surroundings, I will not be affected by my travels.

Interestingly, even when I talk to my family on the phone, my voice and speech are influenced by what I hear. Consciously, I have been working on deliberately sounding like myself (which is very weird since it should be natural) and I am making some progress. The last few phone calls have been better and I believe that in time I will simply talk like I usually do and there won’t be any sliding towards what used to be. It’s the difference between that initial base point of behavior and speech patterns to my current base point that was established nearly 20 years ago.

Have you experienced anything like this? A tale of two lives perhaps, with distinctly different sets of personality traits, behaviors and speech patterns? I find it all very fascinating and wonder how a person could change their innate and early speech patterns and behaviors that would conflict with newer, more adopted patterns. Share with me if you have.

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