By “modeling behavior,” I am not referring to “striking a pose” or “looking fierce” (although I have been accused of posing like at model). In behavioral psychology terminology, modeling, sometimes referred to as social learning theory, is when “people learn new information and behaviors by watching other people,” according to Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. Usually, we think of this as something children do – they learn to eat with a fork by observing their parents at the dinner table. My niece was classic case of modeling when she picked up a watering can for the first time at age one and knew exactly what to do with it from watching her mother water flowers.
At a previous job, I trained people to give tours by “modeling” good tour practices. This is all well and good when you have someone who is modeling good behavior and the person on the receiving end is aware enough to ask questions when he or she is unsure or something seems off. Unfortunately, some of the trainees didn’t care about what they were doing and would just repeat anything they heard or saw modeled for them. A co-worker called it “mocking” behavior. We used to laugh at how lazy and ignorant these trainees seemed. Reflecting back on my poor attitude in this situation, it seems very hypocritical now because for years I’ve demonstrated the behaviors modeled for me by my parents without asking any questions or thinking anything was wrong.
When I began this blog experiment, I hoped for comments and responses to my posts, but I didn’t think that I would actually get any. The responses that I received to my post titled When Your Conscience Gets in the Way of No-Strings Sex really made me think and continue to work through my emotional baggage.
Now I want to be upfront with the fact that I don’t have a degree in psychology, social work or any related discipline that qualifies me to give advice. My comments are purely based on my life experiences and what I’ve learned through my own therapy. So here comes the disclaimer …
Until I went to graduate school, I spent 22 years living within a 10-mile radius of my childhood home. The only time I hadn’t lived in my parents’ house was the four years I spent at university – which included a visit home every weekend. My father was born and raised in my home state; my mother had moved there after college graduation because that’s where her parents lived. Dad is not the adventurous type, and if it weren’t for Mom, we never would have gone camping on the sea coast or made the pilgrimage to Disney World. My brother Mike inherited Dad’s homebody gene, thinking there’s no place better than his home state. He now lives only 15 miles from our childhood home.
When I got into graduate school, I was at the point in my life when I was ready to escape the nightmare that my parents’ marriage had become. Of course I was pursuing higher education, but I couldn’t wait to live somewhere else and shed the yucky feeling that being around my parents gave me. Yes, I was running away from them, but also running toward a future in which I could “start over” and make new friends. Boy, was I ever naïve. You can’t “start over” if you haven’t dealt with the subconscious crap in your head. This is where I made my mistake – thinking I was going to be a new and better person because I moved away from my parents.
I was running away, although I never admitted this to myself or my family. I still wanted to be a part of my family, just on my terms. My brother thought that my going away to school, and my subsequent move out west, was a conscious attempt to not be a part of my family, although I didn’t know this until three years after I moved back east. During the six years I was out west, Mike never made an effort to come see me, even when my parents offered to pay. When I moved back east – three hours from his house – he and Meg visited …