Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Intimidation, The Pecking Order of Life

Chickens. I remember reading somewhere about the pecking order in the chicken world and how it works. The new chicken, unfamiliar with its new environment is liable to get pecked by other chickens until it dies or fits in the group. For people, it seems to start in kindergarten if not sooner.

The two most difficult chapters for me to write in my book have been this one and the chapter on ambition. Funny thing. Am I intimidated by writing about intimidation?

I don’t want to whine about my position in life. I don’t want to appear negative. I am not. I just want to be supportive of all our fears as we constantly adjust to our own pecking order.

According to wikipedia: “it is necessary to determine who is the 'top chicken,' the 'bottom chicken' and where all the rest fit in between. The establishment of the dominance hierarchy is believed to reduce the incidence of intense conflicts that incur a greater expenditure of energy. The dominance level determines which individual gets preferential access to food and mates.”

Therefore I feel the most comfortable in my own environment. I don’t want to be pecked. I don’t want my family to be pecked either. And, I don’t want to peck others as well.
I am sitting in the library of the University of Texas feeling like I must write just one more chapter of my book. How could I have left out such an important emotion, intimidation?

This library brought it all on. Looking around I realize all these students did extraordinarily well on their SAT test. Intimidation comes into play as I realize several of these kids averaged some high score I do not even know is possible. Many are high achievers can be in one space? Determined smart little Asian girls and many others from around the world gather around the computers in the library and giggle. I love the international feel yet I could really get pecked here in this unknown world. And, there is the young intelligent young man from somewhere else, studying a very scientific cell on the computer in front of him or is that a diagram for some other secret of the world? It brings out my public school science fear.

They all go back to their designer apartments with their chai latte tea in hand. They will all remain at the top of the pecking order.

Even my husband, graduate of this school, PhD in hand, felt a little intimidated as he began his latest research here on Native American Women as they were portrayed in the late 1800’s by Harper's Weekly. A highly intelligent man, even he felt a little intimidated.

Generally I believe any place is what you make of it. In other words, take advantage of where you are to learn what you want and your pecking order should not be a problem.

When we first came to Tulsa, I was so taken back with so many other Professors who always started their sentences with, “Well. When I was a Yale… or Well, when I was at Harvard…” It almost seemed to be a way to separate oneself from the John Steinbeck image of Oklahoma or simply, “In case you have not noticed, I am better than you.” Attitude.

And of course, anyone feeling threatened can always rely on Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement, “No one can make you feel any worse than you let them.”

I repeat, I feel safe in my own world.

In the middle of my pottery career I moved for my husband’s job 5 times in 10 years. I thought we would always be on the move. Stuff was under control after cramming it in boxes ever so often and asking if it was worth moving it again. The bad part was always reestablishing my position in the pecking order. Who are you? Are you any good as an artist? How much to do really know? Are you a decent human being?

I think feeling insecure promotes intimidation.

I dream about feeling insecure on journeys. I am always packing too much stuff in too much of a hurry or I am wondering halls of unknown schools. Sometimes the halls are familiar halls of a small town junior high school in small town Tennessee where I felt the pecking order happen quickly. There I was a Yankee girl in unknown territory. And now I return there in the middle of the night in my pajamas, if I am lucky. I run for trains and I watch my clock in my sleep. I think I prefer not to analyze these dreams. Just let them roll off the pillow.

Jesse Stuart the Appalachian writer taught in a rural school in Kentucky where he took his math students to Louisville to compete with a bunch of private school rich kids and his kids won the competition. That is the kind of story like to hear.

Learning and understanding helps with the intimidation issue.

I try and recognize when I am feeling intimidated and deal with it in a reasonable way.

The only time I ever felt intimidated in college was when I broke down in tears while giving a report in a Political Science class as a sophomore. I had a thick little paper back book to report on and five minutes to do it. I stood in front of a bunch of smart ass politically savvy boys of the early 70’s with a one inch thick stack of paper trying to explain the politics of the book. I could not see the relationship of the chapters in the book, felt my face redden and started crying. It seemed so complicated to explain in a few words and they seemed so critical. The teacher understood, knew I was prepared, over-prepared, said he understood and let me turn in a written version. Intimidation brought me to tears.

Please note: technical problems for the moment on font size, sorry, I am not yelling this. font size won't change:

Intimidation comes in many forms, mental, physical and spiritual. It can sneak up from behind and grab you when you least expect it. Or maybe it keeps you from even trying out some of life’s challenges. Recognizing it is the first step. Not taking yourself or others too seriously is the second step. Being prepared for whatever it is that is intimidating you is the third step. If all else fails, just run for it so you don’t get pecked to hard.

1 comment:

  1. Hurry and get this book finished, I would love to read it. I have a book or two in me but have not taken the time to get them started, always 'someday'.

    You've touched on something common in every person.....the difference in us is how we choose to attack these commonalities.

    Thanks for sharing....