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Parenting As Reality Interpreting

Brian D. Rude, 1979

      A few years ago my wife and I had as neighbors a family that seemed to be nice people, except that their teenage son was a loudmouth. This son - I’ll call him Joe - and his friends never seemed to speak in normal conversational tones. Rather they always yelled at each other. They were not mad at each other, or even irritated. Nor did they seem to be just bantering or teasing each other. Their tone of voice was gruff, but not usually vulgar or profane. Whenever they were coming or going the whole neighborhood would be aware of them. Their yelling was offensive. One didn’t know whether they were just being a bit boisterous, or whether they were a pack of vandals.

      I have often wondered what night account for this type of behavior. Certainly adolescence is an age in which showing off is common, but somehow Joe’s behavior seemed different than the showing off that I had seen in other adolescents. At the time I suspected that Joe was a juvenile delinquent, or at least a little spoiled, but we never knew these people well enough to confirm these suspicions.

      I still don’t know whether Joe was spoiled or not, but after some thought I do have a hypothesis about his loud speech. My hypothesis is that Joe and his friends had a distorted view of reality, and that they had this distorted view of reality because their parents had not correctly interpreted reality for them. More specifically, my hypothesis is that Joe and his friends thought their loud talking was completely unnoticed by everyone else.

      In fact, of course, the loud speech was very much noticed. I noticed it and I’m sure everyone else on the block noticed it. But - and here is the crucial point - I never told them I noticed it, and neither did anyone else on the block. We ignored it. We studiously ignored it. What else was there for us to do?

      People do not want to be ignored. They want to be noticed by others. This is simply human nature, and something that I have discussed in other contexts under the name of “ego expansion.” I believe ego expansion is a fundamental human drive, a drive that is found in people throughout the world. People want to be important. They want to make an impression on others. There are many ways to expand one’s ego. The particular way one chooses depends on a number of factors, some obvious and some not so obvious. My hypothesis is that the loud talking of Joe and his friends was caused at least in part by a faulty interpretation of reality.

      My hypothesis is that Joe’s parents failed to inform him when he was very young that being ignored is not the same as being unnoticed. This may seem like an academic point, but I don’t think it is. Most children are taught this idea because situations arise which bring up the idea. Such a situation might go something like this. Bobby is scolded by his mother for making a pest of himself in front of visitors. Bobby then complains, “I didn’t make a pest of myself. Nobody complained, did they?” Bobby’s mother then tersely explains, “They didn’t complain because they were trying to be polite, but they sure got tired of your whining and play acting. Now next time . . . ” Through incidents such as this scattered throughout childhood Bobby learns to interpret politeness in others as sometimes meaning something other than full and open approval. In other words he learns to interpret reality.

      But what happens when parents subscribe to some modern theories of childrearing, theories that say the child should learn about the world by his own trial and error, or that the only response a parent should give to a child’s misbehavior is to ignore it, or that parents should never punish a child? I would expect the results to be widely varied, but I can well imagine Joe’s behavior to be one possible result.

      As I have mentioned, there seemed to be a difference between Joe’s behavior and normal showing off. I believe that difference is that the normal adolescent show-off is quite adept at judging the response of others to his antics, whereas Joe and his friends were not. The normal adolescent, and pre-adolescent for that matter, can turn his antics on or off at will, and reserve them for specific purposes such as bugging a teacher or impressing a girl. Joe and his friends, in contrast, seemed to display their offensive behavior indiscriminately for any and all audiences. Therefore I hypothesize that they could not adequately judge the effect of their behavior on others.

      At the time it never occurred to me that Joe didn’t know he was being offensive, but looking back on it I think that was the case. I think his parents never told him, “They hear you, Joe, but they’re trying to ignore you. Now be quiet!” As a result Joe is handicapped. He will go through life not being able to read subtle clues in the behavior of others. He will think it’s okay to let his dog mess on the neighbor’s flowers, so long as the neighbor doesn’t call the police. He’ll think it’s okay to play his stereo so loud that it can be heard several blocks away. He’ll think it’s okay to wear nothing but a swimming suit to the supermarket. And in hundreds of other ways Joe will be offensive, but he will not know it. He will not know it because he was not taught as a young child to read subtle clues in the behavior of others. He was not taught that being ignored is not the same as being unnoticed. When he becomes too offensive the subtle clues of his friends and neighbors will give way to open and hostile complaint, and Joe will find himself caught in a web of acrimony that never should have existed.

      My explanation of Joe’s behavior is pure hypothesis of course, and I could be completely wrong. However I believe the idea of reality interpreting as a part of parenting is a valid and important idea.

      Parenting consists of many things. First of all there is physical care. Changing diapers, buying groceries, paying off a mortgage, darning socks, and many other things come under this category. Secondly, parenting consists of transmitting cultural and moral values to the child. Punishing misbehavior, rewarding accomplishment, and explaining why right is right and wrong is wrong, come under this second category. Thirdly, parenting consists of interpreting the world for the child. Nearly all education is in this category. In many ways interpreting reality is very simple and straightforward. Teaching a child that knives are sharp and stoves are hot is a matter of interpreting reality for him. Similarly, teaching him to tell time or to add and subtract is largely a matter of reality interpretation.

      Those who cannot interpret reality correctly have a handicap. For example one who knows nothing of astronomy cannot find his directions by looking at the sun or stars. Reality, the sun and stars in this case, are there and available to him, but that is irrelevant if he cannot interpret them. By this perspective we are all incredibly handicapped. We watch our loved ones die of cancer because we don’t know how to help them. This ignorance is a handicap that we are painfully aware of. Eventually we will find a cure for cancer, and this cure will come by investigating the physical world, by interpreting reality more adequately, in other words.

      A very large part of reality interpretation is done formally in schools. Teaching science, for example, is a matter of interpreting the physical world for the students. Teaching social studies is a matter of interpreting social and political realities. However, other bits of reality interpretation are not so straightforward, and cannot be done formally in school. Joe’s learning to read the politeness of others is an example of this. In this article I am concerned with the interpretation of subtle social realities and the problems that ensue when such subtle social realities are not adequately or correctly interpreted.

      In light of what I have said about Joe and his behavior, consider this situation. One day a few years ago I was out jogging down a road. As usual I passed by, on the other side of the road, a house where a little girl was out playing in the yard. And as usual she began her incessant, “Hi, . . . Hi . . . Hi . . .. . . . Hi . . . .” Usually I ignored her. The distance between us was such that I didn’t feel a greeting was called for. I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me. However every time I had ignored her previously, she only increased the intensity and plaintiveness of her “hi’s.” So this time I kept on jogging but I didn’t quite ignore her. I looked at her as I went by and put my finger up to my lips. That shut her up, and I went on about my business.

      How will this girl interpret the situation? How should she? If she were my child I would explain simply that you don’t talk to strangers, that you don’t greet everyone who happens to jog by on the other side of the road, that if your “hi” is not returned you drop it, and so on. With this explanation, and many more explanations in similar situations, she would eventually learn the subtleties of behavior in our society that apply to such situations. She would learn when a greeting is appropriate and when it is not so appropriate, when to feel offended or slighted, and when not to, how to react when she does feel offended or slighted, how to improve situations, and when to withdraw from them, and how to withdraw gracefully.

      I am not at all optimistic that this girl will make the correct interpretation of my behavior in this situation. Rather I expect she would be confused for a bit and then return to her play. I can further imagine that she would later tell her mother, “I said “Hi” to a man and he said to be quiet,” and her mother will say, “Well, he’s just a mean man. Now go play in the yard.”

      Is this an adequate or correct interpretation of the social reality that the girl just experienced? No, it certainly is not. If I am a “mean man” then it is certainly reasonable for her to treat me in the future as a mean man. What started out as a slightly inappropriate greeting may next time turn into totally inappropriate hostility. Nor will her inappropriate hostility be reserved only for me. Her interpretation of this social reality will enter into her interpretation of other social realities. The next time someone doesn't respond to her quite the way she expects she will have some reason to suppose that he, too, is a "mean man."

      Perhaps I am too pessimistic. I didn't see the girl again, and, as I say, I didn't know her. Perhaps someone explained the situation to her more satisfactorily than I envision. I certainly hope so. My pessimism comes from the idea that if someone were in the habit of adequately explaining such things to her the situation would not have arisen in the first place.

      In the example of Joe, and again in the example of the girl I shushed while jogging, the problem is one of accurately reading either acceptance or rejection in the behavior of others. Joe read acceptance where a great deal of rejection was just under the surface. The girl read rejection where I really had no desire to express rejection. In both cases true acceptance or rejection was masked by a charade of the opposite. And in both cases no one but a parent is in a good position to help the person make more accurate interpretations of these subtle social realities.

      In the next several examples the realities to be interpreted are more complicated than simple acceptance or rejection, and the examples involve values as well as the interpretation of reality. Nevertheless I believe in each example the matter of faulty interpretation of reality is important, and that this faulty interpretation of reality can be traced back to parenting. First I will describe “Dr. Becksten.”

      Dr. Becksten has a doctorate degree in a field of social science and supervises professional workers in an institution for the mentally retarded. Dr. Becksten is not a very nice person. To say that he was a little spoiled as a child Is about as charitable a description of him as I cam offer. He was hired to coordinate the efforts of the professional staff, with the idea that such coordination would give the staff more time to work with the residents of the institution. Unfortunately this goal was not accomplished. He did not reduce the workload of the professional staff, but only added to it. He did this by requiring mountains of paperwork from them.

      Dr. Becksten built paperwork castles in the air and indiscriminately forced them on his subordinates, despite their growing opposition. He required everything they did to be written out in either a “program,” or a “policies and procedures manual”, or some similar form. He insisted on such detail and demanded so many revisions that the staff spent considerably less time in actually working with the residents of the institution. Added to these mountains of paperwork was the further aggravation of Dr. Becksten’s inconsiderateness. He would demand promptness from others, but would seldom meet a deadline himself. He would fawn on those he wished to impress, but would not even give the courtesy of a “Good Morning” to those whom he didn’t care about. He would use stratagems of deceit to gain petty ends. More than once a subordinate took a problem or conflict to a higher level in the hierarchy and got Dr. Becksten’s decision or directive overruled. Dr. Becksten would then attempt by deceit to have his own way. He would either misinform his subordinate of the actual disposition of the case, or would take some other action to make his subordinate’s victory meaningless.

      An example of Dr. Becksten’s way of doing things is given by his first major project. He set up an elaborate system of “prioritizing’ the scheduling of programs for the residents. This involved each professional staff member filling out a complex worksheet for each resident, putting judgments on a number of possible needs and abilities, and reducing all this to a series of coded numbers. These numbers, then, were supposed to be the basis on which some residents were assigned to certain programs and other residents were assigned to other programs. Such a system is not totally without a rationale, and perhaps there was a need for some such system. Unfortunately Dr. Becksten’s system didn’t work. The staff soon learned that they had to work around the system if they were not to end up with results that they considered violently inappropriate. For example the recreational therapist would be forced by the system to drop several residents from a program when they were just starting to make progress. The occupational therapist would be forced to begin programming for residents that she did not believe would gain any benefit at all. Thus Dr. Becksten’s system, in addition to requiring inordinate amounts of time to implement also caused a great deal of anxiety, resentment, and frustration to the staff. But in spite of the obvious and total failure of the system, and in spite of continued opposition from the staff, Dr. Becksten continued to push his system.

      What can account for Dr. Becksten’s behavior? Is he totally oblivious to the frustration he causes? Or is he aware of the discontent, but just doesn’t care? Is he a natural born jerk? Is he operating at his “level of incompetence”? Is he schizophrenic or neurotic? Is he compensating for real or imagined shortcomings? I can’t pretend to know the whole answer, of course, but I believe part of the answer lies in his difficulty in correctly interpreting social realities.

      My first thought along this line would be that Dr. Becksten is like Joe, he simply doesn’t know when he is aggravating other people. If that were the case then his actions would seem perfectly reasonable. For example when he loads down his staff with paperwork he would simply have no idea that they are discontent.

      His subordinates are reasonably intelligent and articulate people, but I doubt very much if any of them have ever come out and directly said, “Dr. Becksten, you give us too much paperwork. It’s frustrating because it’s a waste of time, and we don’t like it”. Instead they would give much more subtle indications of their discontent. They would say things like, “Now, wait a minute, you say you want it when . . . .”, or “Next Tuesday is going to be a hard deadline to meet,” or, “Now I don’t quite understand just what the rationale of this program format is”. As frustration increases their complaints may become more frequent and less diplomatic, but they will not necessarily become more direct or more intelligible to Dr. Becksten.

      If indeed a failure to correctly interpret subtle clues of acceptance or rejection is a part of Dr. Becksten’s problems, then it is not surprising that his staff fails to understand. They do not realize that the clues they are giving him are subtle. They consider them very blatant. About the only thing more blatant, in their view, would be a petition asking for his dismissal from the institution. They reason, quite reasonably, that he simply doesn’t care about their frustrations.

      It is always tempting for observers who are not caught up in a conflict to assume that there is a problem of communication rather than a lack of good will on each side. I think it is equally tempting for those who are caught up in the conflict to think that communication is quite adequate, but that the other fellow is a scoundrel. The truth often lies somewhere between these two extremes. And, even more importantly, the truth may lie somewhere out in left field. In the case of Dr. Becksten I think there is yet another factor that is causing trouble, and this factor is again a matter of reality interpretation.

      I believe that Dr. Becksten is role oriented, as opposed to results oriented, to a degree that is not appreciated by his staff, indeed to a degree that cannot be appreciated by his staff. In an article entitled “Roling and Rolers,” which I wrote some time ago I explored this idea of role orientation as opposed to results orientation. My thesis was that as a rule people are very much concerned with fulfilling preconceived and conventional roles, often even when these conventional roles are empty or even counterproductive to what people think they are trying to accomplish. People vary along a continuum of role orientation from those who are totally preoccupied with fulfilling conventional roles, no matter how empty those roles night be, to those who are totally concerned with results. I further argued that people are unconscious of the degree to which they are role oriented. They will rationalize their roling extensively, many times without realizing that they are either roling or rationalizing. Dr. Becksten, I hypothesize, is at an extreme in his role orientation.

      This is certainly not to say that the staff members under Dr. Becksten were totally results oriented. Obviously they were widely varied in the attitudes and abilities needed to help the residents. Some were more role oriented than others. Each was aware of at least some of the follies of the others. Yet all were reality grounded to the extent that they very quickly realized that Dr. Becksten was playing in another ball park, so to speak. He was not working for the benefit of the residents in any way. Rather he was playing games in his own little world.

      Roling is primarily a way of behaving, not a way of looking at things. However the idea of interpretation of reality also enters into the phenomenon of roling. A roler sees things differently than a non- roler. A non-roler sees results, a roler does not. A roler sees only roles, or only things that are relevant to his own role and his success in fulfilling that role. A roler, in other words, is blind to many things. His view of reality is distorted compared to the view of reality of non-rolers.

      The role of a supervisor, in Dr. Becksten’s eyes, is to do paperwork, to make decisions, and to enjoy the trappings of his office. He considers himself successful if he simply engages in these things, regardless of whether or not these things really accomplish anything. The staff would like Dr. Becksten to change. Unfortunately I do not think it is possible for him to change. He bases his actions on how he perceives reality, and he perceives reality differently than normal people. For example when he set up the prioritization system that so rankled the staff he thought he was simply doing the job he was paid to do. His job is to do paperwork, make decisions, and enjoy the trappings of his office. That is exactly what he did, so how can anyone complain? This view of his job is unverbalized, of course, and is therefore not easy to change. As long as this view of his job is not changed his actions will cause trouble.

      When a staff member complains, “But this doesn’t help the residents one bit,” Dr. Becksten can reply, “Well of course it helps the residents. That’s what we’re all here for, for the benefit of the residents.” This is not necessarily a cynical statement, if judged from the perspective of a roler. Dr. Becksten’s reasoning, on the fringes of his thought, of course, and overlaid with a heavy coat of illogic, false premises, and rationalization, would go something like this: The institution exists for the benefit of the residents. The institution consists of people doing their jobs. I an doing my job, therefore the residents must be benefiting. This type of reasoning is not the kind that would gain admiration from mathematicians or logicians, but it is quite reasonable if one sees only roles, not results.

      If Dr. Becksten is attuned only to playing a role then it is quite predictable that when he perceives hostility from his staff he will reason that it comes from his failure to successfully fulfill his role. This reasoning, also, will be totally unverbalized and subordinate to the rationalization that the staff is at fault. Nevertheless such reasoning will lead him to try harder to fulfill his role as he perceives it. He may talk in terms of exhibiting leadership by decisive action, or of reviewing his options, or of reversing a negative trend, or even of “opening the lines of communication.” But the result of all this would be simply that he would try harder to fulfill his role. This produces a vicious circle. The role playing produces less results, which produces more frustration on the part of the staff, which produces more efforts on the part of Dr. Becksten to fulfill his role, and so on. I think after a number of months this vicious circle stabilized into a type of cold war, an undercurrent of acrimony between Dr. Becksten and his staff that has been going on for several years now with no end in sight.

      Dr. Becksten is incompetent and inconsiderate. I have argued so far that at least some of his incompetence and inconsiderateness can best be explained by hypothesizing that he has a distorted view of reality, more specifically, that he does not adequately read acceptance or rejection in others and that he is role oriented to an extreme degree and is therefore blind to actual results. The logical next question is to ask how he got this way. I believe the most reasonable explanation is that he was raised to be that way, that he is a result of his parenting, that his parents interpreted reality for him in ways that introduced serious distortions. My hypothesis is that he was raised by doting parents who spoiled him and turned him into an extreme roler. They did not intend to do this, of course, but who does intend to spoil their children? Their method, I surmise, was to praise him for fulfilling roles, not for producing results. For example, I can imagine his mother telling him, “Davey, you do such a good job in making your bed,” when in fact he did not, or, “Davey, you’re such a big help to me in the kitchen,” when in fact he only made a mess, or, “Davey, you drew the best picture in the whole class,” when in fact he just made another mess.

      Of course such statements as these are made by all parents many times, and are made by friends and other people as routine little rituals of common courtesy. Such “ego-building” statements are indispensable in child rearing, indeed in any type of human interaction short of declared war. However such ritual fictions must at times be countered with some means of reality grounding. Examples of “reality grounding’ statements would be, “Davey, fix up that bed. You can do better than that” or, “Davey, you can’t help me in the kitchen now. I have to get dinner done and over with.” or, “It’s a nice picture, Davey, but don’t go around bragging about it to everyone.” Such reality grounding statements are necessary to provide the child with an accurate interpretation of reality. Without them one might quite reasonably accept ritual fictions at face value.

      We encourage “pretend play” in young children, and I think rightly so. However in pretend play a gross approximation to an action is just as good as a highly practiced and refined action. If parents encourage pretend play indiscriminately, if a pretense of an action is never distinguished from the action itself, them role orientation is not a surprising result. If Davey gets the same praise for thumping carelessly on the piano as he would get for learning a piece well, then he may expect the same response in adulthood.

      If parents fail to provide reality grounding, will other people - teachers perhaps, or the child’s peers - supply the necessary reality grounding? Obviously they will to some extent, but I do not believe they can come anywhere near total compensation. Only parents are in a position to do a good job of reality grounding. If they neglect it, It simply remains undone. Of course Dr. Becksten’s parents would vehemently deny that they spoiled him, or taught him to be a roler, or failed to keep him reality grounded. And certainly I have no knowledge of the actual kind of parenting that Dr. Becksten received as a child. However I do have plenty of reason to believe there was something defective in his upbringing. His incompetence and inconsiderateness have been thoroughly displayed. I contend that my hypothesis is a reasonable explanation for this incompetence and inconsiderateness.

      Yet another case of faulty reality interpretation is presented by one of Dr. Becksten’s subordinates, whom I will call Mary. Mary is a willing worker, but she has problems with her job. She always has something to complain about, though I do not believe she is by nature a complainer. Rather she only responds to the frustrations she always seems to meet. One day she was complaining about not being permitted to go on a field trip with the residents. Another day she was complaining that Dr. Becksten did not like the way she had written up her “programs.” Yet another day she was complaining that she ought to get a telephone in her office. Many of Mary’s problems are the result of the fact that she is not really prepared to do her job, and these problems have nothing to do with the subject of this article. However many other of her problems are the result of her way of dealing with problems, and this does have to do with interpreting reality.

      Many times Mary has a good case, but she cannot present it well. She is hard to talk to. When anyone tries to help her it is to little avail. One can hardly get a word in edgewise with her constant complaining.

      As I did not know Mary personally, except as a very casual acquaintance, I cannot know for sure just what her problem was. However I do have a hypothesis about at least one cause of her troubles. My hypothesis is that Mary’s parents raised her with too much coaching and too little teaching.

      The distinction I make between coaching and teaching is that coaching consists very much of eliciting emotions, emotions having to do with competition, effort, drive, and so on. Teaching, in contrast, is a matter of transferring information in an emotionally neutral atmosphere. Thus when working with residents Mary would coach much more than she would teach. “Come on, Charley,” she would say, “You can do it! Get that head up? Get those arms down! Move it, you turkey!” As she is working in the field of recreation and physical education much of this sort of thing is quite appropriate. However the consensus of opinion among her fellow workers is that she is not too effective in dealing with the residents, and this leads me to believe that her coaching approach is not always appropriate or productive. And of course such a coaching perspective would be even less appropriate in dealing with her peers or superiors. It appears, however, that she uses this approach indiscriminately, indeed she has no other approach.

      Where did Mary get this coaching perspective? It would seem reasonable to suspect that she acquired it from her parents, and that her parents used such a perspective consistently on her. As a result Mary uses the same approach when working with the residents of the institution. She also uses the same approach in dealing with anyone. Perhaps most importantly, she uses the same approach on herself. She coaches herself. This is especially evident when she is faced with a conflict or a problem with Dr. Becksten. Instead of calmly preparing her case she will work herself up into a frenzy of emotion. She sees every problem as a battle to be won, and she sees pure drive and determination as the way to win every battle.

      Mary’s problem may be considered more a way of behaving than a matter of interpreting reality. However her way of behaving is very much dependent on the way she perceives things. Apparently she has been taught, by example - not by explanation, to see all people in only two ways, as either for her or against her, as teammates or opponents. It is to Mary’s credit that opponents are not seen as enemies or devils, just opponents in some limited area of conflict. Yet it is still a very limited perspective. She is apparently totally blind to the social and situational clues that should tell her that one adversary should be treated with diplomacy, another should be placated, another is susceptible to a bluff, another is responsive to a simple direct explanation of the problem, another must be cynically manipulated. and so on.

      The last example I have to offer in this article is of Harvey. Unfortunately I can’t give many details about Harvey. He was a little odd in some way, but it was very hard to pin down just what was odd about him. He was the personnel director of a hospital and was quite competent in his job. But he was not always too smooth, especially in his choice of words. Every now and then he would say something jarring. People would comment about it for a day or two and wonder what he meant by it. Then nothing would happen for a month or so until he said something else that raised comment. I think it was usually a matter of inappropriate context more than the statements themselves. For example, one incident went like this. “Harvey asked me if I slept well at nights. I didn’t know what to say to that. I suppose he meant to ask if I had any problems with the job, but that’s a funny way to say it . . .” The statement itself doesn’t sound too jarring to me, but it was jarring enough to the subject to report it to others. I conclude, then, that it was the wrong time and place for such a statement. This indicates that Harvey was not attuned to the social and situational clues that others would be attuned to. Such clues were too subtle for him.

      I have long had a hypothesis about Harvey’s social clumsiness. My hypothesis is that Harvey is a first generation professional, that his parents were of a considerably lower status and life style than Harvey had attained, and that Harvey had not learned all the details of his new life style. If this is the case then it is quite reasonable that Harvey will misinterpret a lot of subtle social realities. He was not taught to interpret these subtle social realities because his parents lived in a world in which they did not exist. This is not to say that Harvey grew up in an impoverished environment, of course. His world as a child may have had its own subtleties of which others would be unaware. But they were simply not the same subtleties that he must deal with in his adult world.

      By this perspective Harvey is like the children of immigrants. The parents of such children grew up in a very different world and cannot make a total adjustment to the new world. The children can make a much more substantial adjustment to their new world, but may not master all the subtle details. The next generation, finally, will fit into the world like natives. Similarly I expect Harvey’s children will fit into the professional world like natives. Like Harvey they will be competent in their jobs, but unlike Harvey they will also be smooth in their social world. They will be smooth because they will learn as children to interpret subtle social realities that Harvey learned to interpret only by hard experience as an adult.

      In this article I have identified only a few ways in which one can wrongly interpret reality. I presume there are many other ways that reality can be overlooked, misinterpreted, or distorted. Some of these ways would derive directly from parenting styles. Other ways would be more a matter of the innate temperament of the individual. Thus in this article I think my few examples have barely scratched the surface. However I think the main points I have to make are well illustrated by these few examples. The main points are: 1) Reality does not interpret itself. We must learn to interpret it. 2) The way one interprets reality depends very greatly on how he was taught, or not taught, as a child. 3) Parents do by far the greatest part of this teaching, and 4) If a child does not learn to adequately interpret reality, especially subtle social realities, he is seriously handicapped throughout his life.