Catching an Uncatchable Fish

Watching a movie like Big Fish again was for me a complex experience. As a storyteller, I am certainly familiar with the ideas of “truth” or “reality” and the subjectivity of each. However the crossover between my life (IRL in real life as the World of Warcraft people say) and the place in which stories exist is uncomfortable.I’m a cross between the extremes offered by Tim Burton in the father-son dynamic.

While I am happy to spend time in the same story land that Ewan McGregor’s character, Edward Bloom, exists I do not welcome that whimsy as it takes place in the family dynamic. What I mean is that everyone perceives a  situation differently.

I’ll take my father for an example. Until I was 24 (so last year) I did not know very much about him–I actually assumed that he might no longer be alive. My mother had left him because he was abusive when I was 18 months old. My aunt, his sister, found me on Facebook and I learned about his existence. When I first spoke to him I found that we existed on a different timeline. I was an autonomous adult who had lived an entire life without the existence of a “father”. In my reality I am not sure I understand what a father is; I am somewhat fascinated by father-daughter dynamics but the information is theoretical too me–it’s not concrete.

So, when I called him for the first time he began by talking about how he and my mom split up because they were fighting all the time and didn’t want to hurt my sister and I. He used the kind of communication you would use with a person much younger than I. He also remembered the situation drastically different than the way my mother had told us.

The father in Big Fish is similar to a well-known literary character–Willy Loman from the Arthur Miller play, “Death of a Salesmen”. Both men are traveling salesmen and work takes them away from their families. In both stories infidelity makes an appearance. Finally  they both make up stories about their lives in order to make them more fantastical then their realities. the difference, at least in my perception, is that there is a prevailing sadness in Death of a Salesman and an acute awareness of the cover-ups that Willy Loman uses to make himself seem better than he was.

It’s the cover up that is important for me. Like Willy Loman, my father attempts to hide a past (beyond just the difference in why he was not around but I exclude examples for brevity) that makes him less than who he wants to be. While Edward Bloom shows some level of dedication to his wife, if not always parenting duties, Willy Loman appears to lack that dedication. It’s this difference that makes Edward Bloom a more sympathetic character to me. The reason I point out this association is because it the paradigm of truth/reality and lies/honesty parallels my relationship with my father, and my mother. I do not appreciate cover-ups or excuses because it creates extreme cognitive dissonance to me. I can only view reality through the lenses of my parents and both have vested interest in presenting their selves in the best light. Still, perhaps after this time stories have become reality and it is only natural to not want to view yourself as a failure. Still for the affected parties, me and my sister, who lacked ability to impact the situation (and I do mean it felt as though we couldn’t make a dent) I can’t help but want for the truth even if the story is unpleasant.

In this way my own history has become an uncatchable fish. I am left to make up reality as I understand it. There’s a freedom in that, but it is accompanied by the sadness of loss. There is perceptions of reality and there is truth…it’s not easy to know which is which. I think most people lie between storyland and journalistic fact.


Feedback and the Frightening Hall of Academia.

The afternoon began with me receiving feedback on my assumptions of learning paper, and then learning to give and receive feedback with Hilary Leighton the same instructor who facilitated the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

It’s always a little humbling to receive that first bout of feedback. Especially when you come from a professional communications background and the writing is not your best work (in fact I was asked if English is my first language shame Paradis). Actually I am a little freaked out by this…I wanted to write my thesis so that nasty little voice of doubt is telling me I am not ready to do this. So that’s what I mean by the frightening hall of Academia–I feel a little intimidated as I usually perform well at writing–and this time I did not.

Onto how feedback is a useful process. I realise this is backwards but it is the order of events for me, so the arrangement is meaningful.

We began with the application of some biofeedback dots. I was amber tense and then green. Blue for a little while–which is considered very calm.

We learned overall concepts to apply when you are going to give feedback:

  • Takes conscious awareness and thinking through the situation.
  • Be very specific
  • Be authentic in giving and receiving

Ms. Leighton’s tips for giving the right feedback:

  • make sure you are talking to the right person
  • privacy–private space
  • think about culture, gender, and age
  • give information, not advice (ask questions i.e. what do you think you would do differently or how would you most like to do this)
  • expectations NOT personal preferences

When you are receiving feedback:

  • putting into perspective (it is theirs, its not that you are a screw up. Here’s opportunity)
  • validate someones emotions
  • listen well
  • remain vulnerable

Also, Ms. Leighton is quite a unique character and always very interesting to listen too. She told us about a visions quest she was on–four days without food, no more details were provided, but after the four days she realised, “I may not be perfect but I am perfectly myself.

Other great Ms. Leighton sayings:

“What someone thinks of me is none of my business”

“we wouldn’t have had fire if cavemen liked jellied chicken”

“If there is someone in your life who can really see or hear you–that might be the true definition of love”

Ms. Leighton provided us with a model for communication that I really liked:

  • Ask: What is going on for you right now
  • Listen: To what they have to say
  • Share: Don’t be closed off or the other person cannot be open
  • Always check-in and don’t assume you know what is wrong with them or know their feelings.

In reflection I was surprised how much feedback affected me I tried to remain open but I think I was disappointed with myself for achieving below what I believe I can.  It’s also a little embarrassing. I need to do as Hilary recommended and remain open. I need to take this as an opportunity to show what I am capable of.

On a side note: I have a little bit of extrinsic motivation going on here–I want to prove myself to others. How should I shift this to intrinsic?


Leighton, H. personal communication, July 26, 2012.

Ok…post…then sleep

We had a discussion on quantitative and qualitative definitions today. Here is a reflective mind map. Click to enlarge.

Bickman, L., & Rog, D. J. (2010). The SAGE Handbook of Applied Social Research Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Myrdal, G. (1969). Objectivity in social research. New York: Pantheon Books.

Dogone Tired

Dogone Tired

All this thinking is tiring me out!

Whew! These last two days have left me feeling pretty tired.

We spent the afternoon doing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test today. I have done the test before–I think at the time I tested my personality just out of curiosity–but in my undergraduate we also did a similar colors test for a project management course that I took. I was a green-gold combination which is a strange combination of traits that range from traditional, inventive, practical, and curious–among others.

My Myers-Briggs test results were ENTP Extroverted, iNtuition, Thinking, Perception. According to the handout we received in class, “people with ENTP preferences are ingenious, innovators who always see new possibilities and new ways of doing things”. I agree with the definitions of the type indicated for me except that in many cases I have some similarities with other attributes like the Introvert or the Feeling areas.

In talking to the cohort some of them were not big fans of the process or the type indication of the tests and many felt that the process took a very long time. I enjoyed the interactivity of the exercises and dividing the group into different sections so I could see the faces of individuals who had similarities and differences from me.

Curious to learn more I looked up an article that discussed the psychometric analysis of the items in the Myers-Birggs test and found that, “although the average interterm correlations within the four scales were relatively low (.11~.19) the reliability (alpha) coefficients for the scales were rather high (.74~.85). Factor analysis on the intercorrelations among all 95 items yielded clear simple structures with the resultant empirical factors being matched almost perfectly with the theoretical scales of the MBTI” (Tzeng, 2009, p.255).

The reliability factor being fairly high is reassuring for researchers, who are concerned about accuracy and repeatability. However, there were other concerns raised in conversation with the cohort, concerns which I feel merit discussion. It was mentioned that a lot of the questions were heavily leading and obvious, and still some others could be answered differently given context. A good example was whether you like to find a small group at a party or interact with the larger group as a whole. There are many variables here including who is in attendance at the party, your feelings about individuals at the party, and how many drinks you have had.

Tzeng, O., Outcalt, D., Boyer, S., Ware, R., & Landis, D. (1984). Item validity of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Journal Of Personality Assessment, 48(3), 255-256.