Thursday, October 13, 2005

Embracing the inner mule

Stefanie linked to an excerpt from Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch late last month. What is it with corporate inspirational types and their references to horses? And why are there so many people in the business world desperate for their advice?

At any rate, Ehreneich's experience with a career coach reminded me of a terrible workshop I went to two or three years back:

So A., my co-worker, mentioned in passing awhile back that the workshop on self-discipline and emotional control sounded interesting, and C., our boss, thought it'd be good to get out of the library for awhile, so today was the day we spent at a Holiday Inn across town attending a workshop designed to make people want to buy life-enhancing books (successful people read one and a half hours per day, at least four books per month, we were told; losers watch three hours of TV per day) and videos and audiotapes (available for purchase at the back of the room).

All of the morning stuff was the kind of stuff we lecture S. on all the time, so I was pretty bored, except for the fact that this program insisted on calling conscious thought the rider and the non-conscious part of the brain-- habit and emotions --the horse. The horse has magic saddle bags, since that's where all the auto-pilot stuff is stored! The horse almost always wins! The way the horse talks to you determines how you feel! We have to suffer the results of the lies our horses tell us!

The horse, I decided, must be Mr. Ed.

The afternoon was worse. We were supposed to train our horses to use an "awfulizing" scale. The scale had percentages based on the amount of physical harm we'd be willing to endure in order to keep bad events or people from upsetting us--ranged from small bumps and bruises to having all four limbs cut off. This was supposed to teach us how irrational thinking keeps us from keeping things in perspective, but I thought it was stupid and extreme and didn't assign percentages to anything, but some in the class said they were willing to endure having their dominant arm broken if the bad stuff would stop. I did share with A. that I'd broken my nondominant arm by falling off a horse when I was a kid, but A., Ms. Won't Even Tolerate Having a Papercut to Stop the Bad, said she was sure I was missing the point. C. was amusing herself by then by writing down the lyrics to "Horse With No Name."

I don't know if my self-esteem is too high or too low, but in any case, it wouldn't let me participate in the self-esteem exercise that consisted in moving miniature beer kegs along wires to demonstrate how much we believe significant others, co-workers, etc., care about us. Maybe I'd have felt more like doing the exercise if the horse hadn't gone awol all of a sudden, and the kegs could have been used for barrel racing.

The horse did come back for a demonstration on the wearing of blinders, and who knows what it did after the midafternoon break, because we were tired of writing silly notes in the back of the room by then and got the hell out of Dodge.

I don't think I'm cut out for self-improvement anyway. I mean, I'm sure it's okay for others, but if in the future I say neigh, it's because I'm okay with embracing my inner mule.

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