Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Speaking Toddlerese to the Left

If human beings communicated only from conscious mind to conscious mind, they would be computers, not human beings. True, some communication is purely informational, such as a weather report. But not always. For example, when Al Gore talks about the weather, it is largely unconscious emotion that is being conveyed and stirred, not objective information that is being transmitted. In short, it is group hysteria for the benefit of providing a means for the weak-minded to externalize and articulate their existential anxiety.

Conversely, when a Bill Clinton sounds as if he is communicating unconscious emotion, he is simply manipulating you. That is, just like an actor, he has consciously mastered various techniques to stir unconscious emotion in his listeners. In his case it is pure sham, but one could well imagine cases in which this skill could be put to good use, for example, in the rhetoric Churchill used to rouse his nation during World War II. The problem with Clinton is that his techniques are so laughably transparent to anyone who is not seduced by his sociopathic charms -- the pointed finger, the bitten lip, the squinting eyes, the hands over the heart, etc.

One could even say that one of George Bush's greatest faults has been his inability to rhetorically manipulate citizens in a positive manner, which most any great leader must do in order to be great. Although the content of Bush's speeches is often first rate, the speeches apparently do not communicate from unconscious to unconscious, which truly powerful rhetoric must be able to do in order to speak to the "group mind." If a leader cannot speak to the unconscious, he will generally be rejected.

The psychohistorian Lloyd deMause writes of how a political leader is actually a "fantasy leader" who must articulate and contain the fears and anxieties of the group. To the extent that he fails to do this, he will be attacked and vilified, just as a psychotherapist is when there is a disconnect, or empathic failure, between therapist and patient. While people can be in touch with reality, groups tend not to be. This is why, for example, the economy can be performing quite well, but the group can be living the fantasy that things have never been worse. Since this is an irrational fear, it generally cannot be combated on rational grounds, as anyone who has tried to have a rational conversation with a leftist quickly realizes. The leftist lives in a fantasy world that is quite real to them, and unless you find a way to speak to their fantasies, you'll get nowhere.

This reminds me of a technique we've employed with our son that works like magic, that is, speaking to him in a language he understands, "toddler-ese." This idea was developed by pediatrician Harvey Karp in his book The Happiest Toddler on the Block. It probably sounds like a gimmick, but it's worked for us. As the reviewer says,

"Viewing toddlers as primitive thinkers akin to prehistoric man, Karp divides his patients into developmental groups: the 'Charming Chimp-Child' (12 to 18 months), the 'Knee-High Neanderthal' (18 to 24 months), the 'Clever Cave-Kid' (24 to 36 months) and the 'Versatile Villager' (36 to 48 months). Parents may find the toddler years so frustrating, Karp suggests, because they don't speak their child's language. To deal effectively with the undeveloped brains of toddlers, one must understand 'toddler-ese,' he says, a method of talking to youngsters that employs short phrases, repetition, a dramatic tone of voice and the use of body language."

Another reviewer writes that "Although the analogy to prehistoric man is overdone a bit, there are so many sensible, clear strategies to try with 1-4 year olds that really are working for us. Talking toddler-ese has really made a difference in the cooperation we are now getting from our 2 and 3 year olds. Mirroring their feelings and 'wants' with short, repeated phrases that reflect the child's words, tone and body lauguage has quickly and almost magically stopped much of my toddlers' defiant, annoying behaviors. Karp emphasizes that what you say to someone who is really upset is less important than HOW YOU SAY IT. And his theory has proven itself to be correct in our home."

When a child is angry or frustrated, you will notice that a parent often talks to the child like he's a subordinate adult. Now that I speak toddlerese, I notice this all the time. For example, a child might be playing in the sandbox at the park. The parent says it's time to go, and the child says "no." The parent then says words to the effect of, "let's go. You can come back tomorrow." But this only escalates the child.

Instead, you need to acknowledge what the child is feeling inside. For example, let's say Future Leader is immersed in some enjoyable activity, but it's time for a diaper change. He starts screaming and protesting. What doesn't work is saying, "c'mon, it'll just take a few minutes, then you can get back to what you were doing. Stop complaining, and cowboy up." What does work is saying (with the appropriate emotion) something to the effect of "Tristan's really mad! He was having fun! He doesn't want a new diaper!"

As I said, it works like magic, but once you think about it, it's easy to understand why. First, it puts their otherwise inarticulate emotions into words, thereby containing them. Secondly, it is empathic, demonstrating to them that you know how they feel. Conversely, to say in effect, "shut up, grow a pair, and quit complaining" is to completely ignore and devalue their experience. After all, you wouldn't treat an adult in this authoritarian way. Let's say the husband is engrossed in a ball game on TV, but the wife wants to go shopping. I know of a certain wife who might have said something like, "let's go, it's just a stupid game. There'll be another one tomorrow."

Suffice it to say that they are now divorced.

Speaking of dictators, the other day I was reading a book by Carl Jung, in which he discusses the appeal of Hitler to the German people, which was purely on this level of fantasy leader. He was able, like an oracle, to articulate the group fantasy of the German people, and to speak to them unconscious-to-unconscious.

As Jung said in a 1936 interview, Hitler was a sort of "medium" who had an uncanny ability to articulate what the nation was feeling at any given time: "German policy is not made; it is revealed through Hitler. He is the mouthpiece of the gods as of old. He says the word which expresses everybody's resentment." It is "rule by revelation": "He is the first man to tell every German what he has been thinking and feeling all along in his unconscious about German fate, especially since the defeat in the Great War." "All these symbols together of a Third Reich led by its prophet under the banners of wind and storm and whirling vortices point to a mass movement which is to sweep the German people in a hurricane of unreasoning emotion and go on to a destiny which perhaps none but the seer... can foretell -- and perhaps not even he."

Fuhrermore, in a 1938 interview, Jung contrasted Hitler with Mussolini, the latter of whom was still "human." But "with Hitler, you are scared. You know you would never be able to talk to that man, because there is nobody there. He is not a man, but a collective. He is not an individual, but a whole nation." Nothing Hitler said makes any sense to the non-German unconscious, with the interesting exception of the Islamic world, where Mein Kampf is always a huge seller.

With that in mind, I wonder if Jung's advice to America would be the same as it was in this 1938 interview:

"How to save your democratic U.S.A.? It must, of course, be saved, else we all go under. You must keep away from the craze, avoid the infection.... America must keep big armed forces to help keep the world at peace, or to decide the war if it comes. You are the last resort of Western democracy."

And we must learn toddlerese in order to communicate with the intellectually knee-high neanderthals of the left:

"Dennis is really mad! He wants a Department of Peace! Hillary very upset! Army men are big bullies! Obama scared! Big bombs go boom in night!"

17 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Classic finish :)

On speaking toddlerese, is that similar at all to the baby-talk most people use when talking at infants? And if so, why do most people suddenly stop when the rudiments of speech show up, as though the baby went from infant to adult comprehension with no middle ground? Weird.

I saw a lot of Blues Clues when my nephews were little. After reading this, I realize that the reason it was so successful was that the host spoke nothing but toddlerese for an entire half hour. It makes perfect sense.

10/03/2007 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Ivan Ivanovich said...

Yes, my nephew would get upset, fall on his belly, pound the floor with his fists, kick with his legs. His mother would get very upset and give him what ever he wanted or beat him without consistancy. She left him with me. He threw a tantrum and I flopped down next to him and started kicking and pounding. He stopped right away and looked at me as if to say "Hey, that's my thing!" We did fine after that.
Maybe we should try that on Harry Reid?

10/03/2007 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Ivan--

I do the same thing! It stops him in his tracks, usually making him laugh. I'm sure he's thinking to himself, "geez, what a big baby!"

10/03/2007 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"What does work is saying (with the appropriate emotion) something to the effect of "Tristan's really mad! He was having fun! He doesn't want a new diaper!"

I wonder how many of us read that and immediately thought of Harry Reid?

;-)

10/03/2007 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

I certainly wouldn't recommend for President Bush to speak toddlerese to the Left, since they would just assume this was his natural mode of speech. Media both in America and allied nations faithfully portray Bush as severely retarded, a man who cannot watch TV and eat pretzels at the same time, much less understand the speeches he reads.

I just today read an article in a Norwegian business paper, where a columnist mused on the fact that conditions in Iraq seem to be improving rapidly. "What will European media say if the war in Iraq is won?" he reasonably asked, "and what will the Democrat presidential candidates say?" Good question indeed. But I'm sure they will come up with something. They are after all very intelligent and well educated people.

10/03/2007 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Bob F. said...

Certainly seems like an important bobservation as to politics; but, given that a bore like Gore gets passed off by the MSM as a prophet and people actually buy into that, how does a candidate, say a Rudy Guiliani, speak to people on that more or less unconscious level? Remeber that at the same time the Democratic street is putting out the latest Big Lie that Guiliani is crazy.

10/03/2007 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

This whole post reminds me of the folks who always ask you if you're okay. It's really, really grating. As if, maybe, you're unstable, or? Well, mostly, it is they always ask you, regardless of body language or anything. In other words, they ask you if you're okay - which is in some ways a communication to the unconscious - except, it's not what you're communicating at all.

So you flinch, not because you've got something against people caring for you, but because assuming things about peoples' emotions does not mean 'caring'.

What I've usually experienced RE: this sort of thing is the person has done something that they think bothered you (though you have not communicated it) and they ask you if you're okay.

It's like, 'Dude, if there was a problem, I'd let you know.'

I guess the first thing to do would be to just apologize if it was that bad.

10/03/2007 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger NoMo said...

Thanks, Bob! You so well described my wife's secret in so successfully dealing with our toddler grandchildren. She is so good at it that it wasn't until you put it in words that I realized - she is a natural. Hmm, don't suppose that has anything to do with having to deal with me all these years...

Anyway, I passed on that part of your post to our kids. I know they will find it very helpful (my wife on the other hand might be a little peeved if we all become as good at it as she).

10/03/2007 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

conservatives are angry! they were wrong about iraq! they caused their own undoing! the center moved left! they'll lose elections for a decade because of it! aw!

10/03/2007 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Loud Noises!

10/03/2007 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger walt said...

Anon sez conservatives are angry.

I checked the headlines, and that is incorrect. It's Jimmah -- he's angry!

10/03/2007 05:05:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Conversely, to say in effect, "shut up, grow a pair, and quit complaining" is to completely ignore and devalue their experience. After all, you wouldn't treat an adult in this authoritarian way."

Well, um, ha ha. Actually I have.
No wonder it seldom works, outside of the military.

It was with the best intentions, I assure you.
I was emphatically authoritarian, but not without empathy.

10/04/2007 05:07:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Walt said:
"I checked the headlines, and that is incorrect. It's Jimmah -- he's angry!"

Dhimmicrats are like peanuts: under every shell is just another nut.

Angry nuts. To which I say:

NUTS!
To quote a WW2 American General who knew how to speak to the nazi's in a language they would understand.

10/04/2007 05:13:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

http://www.thedropzone.
org/europe/Bulge/
kinnard.html

Here is a good first-hand account of that famous phrase: "NUTS!"

Somethin' Jimmah and his lemmings don't understand.

Kinda hard to put it into toddlerese.
Impossible to put into leftese.

10/04/2007 06:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So right! Had a similar conversation when I was 22 at a dinner party and almost got thrown out, everyone thought I was saying Hitler was a good leader... I guess I wasn't speaking Toddlerese, so my point was not well taken, this article rang so true. Thanks~

10/04/2007 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger teej said...

"a method of talking ...that employs short phrases, repetition, a dramatic tone of voice and the use of body language."

Er. That's what I do with the chihuahuas.....

10/04/2007 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger miriam said...

I certainly wouldn't recommend for President Bush to speak toddlerese to the Left, since they would just assume this was his natural mode of speech. Media both in America and allied nations faithfully portray Bush as severely retarded, a man who cannot watch TV and eat pretzels at the same time, much less understand the speeches he reads.

I have been musing about this phenomenon. Leftists think rightists are stupid. I am old enough to remember when Eisenhower was president. He was not a polished speaker, and was generally reported in the press and regarded by the left as stupid.

When I grew older I wondered how Eisenhower had managed the war in Europe if he was so dumb.

10/08/2007 06:42:00 AM  

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