Monday, July 06, 2009

Sacred Life Sunday on Monday: Tyranny of the Majority

Yesterday's Weight Watchers meeting was probably the most uncomfortable I've ever attended.

Being the day after a holiday, the leader continually yapped on and on about how "everyone" would probably experience some weight gain because of "all the barbecues and parties" from the day before. She just assumed that "everyone" would have the same exact experience.

I looked around and saw a bunch of overweight women, most of whom probably did not go to barbecues or parties and had still gained weight.

Probably because they were feeling left out of the parties and back yard frolic, as many overweight people are, but certainly didn't want to admit they gained weight because they spent the weekend in front of the TV with a pint of Haagen Daas. So they sat there in hard plastic chairs with set jaws and closed mouths.

Still, the leader went on and on and on and on. It's the first time I thought about just getting up and leaving.

This got me to thinking about how little room there is for individuality in any of these programs. It's the nature of "joining". We automatically become subject to the tyranny of the perceived majority. Aaaah, the ubiquitous "everyone". I think "everyone" is a neighbor of "they". You know, "they say"..... That "they".

The truth is that "everyone" was not at some kind of event. I was out and around quite a bit that day and saw very little evidence of family gatherings and didn't smell very many barbecues at all. There might have been a whiff of one while walking around the neighborhood.

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the freedom to experience our own reality, whatever it might be. I wish the Weight Watchers leader had been more sensitive to individual autonomy and individual experience.

If there's anything I've discovered through a lifetime of having an addictive personality and experiencing two types of recovery, both alcohol and food, it is that addicts are generally very individualistic. We think for ourselves and don't fall into many predictable demographic pidgeon holes. It's both our salvation and downfall.

I've also found that we develop our own routes to recovery through a kind of eclectic mix of programs and ideas, personal experience and observation. We "take the best and leave the rest" in the most classic sense of that.

One of the most important things we can do is let go of someone else's expectations about how our lives should be.



justme said...

well said! I particularly love the last sentence.

Angela said...

Bravo! Bravo! Standing Ovation! Thanks, Chani. This was very helpful to me this morning.

Jen said...

Your post brings strongly to mind why I do sparkpeople rather than ww. The leaders used to drive me crazy with just that type of inanity. That and the fact that college students with five lbs. to lose would sneak in and then dominate the entire session.

On a bigger scale, however, this is the problem with "grouping" people. I was also thinking on Saturday that this is yet another holiday when we're all supposed to be out in part of a social gathering and yet so, so many people aren't.

Great post.

Billie Greenwood said...

Always original. Always worth reading. That's you, Chani! Never let them tell you what your experience was. Best thing I learned at an art therapy workshop once was this little mantra: "See what you see. Hear what you hear. Know what you know." Love you.

S said...

what a thoughtful post. have you thought about sending it to the leader?

justme said...


you won't believe this, but I live on mulberry street. i actually live on the EAST side of the Interstate...yes, there are homes there! Thanks for stopping by my space!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Yeah, well this is why I don't generally join things. I know that I am not a person who needs the approval of a million clones identical to myself and have made peace with that fact since I got out of junior high school.

If everyone lived the same lifestyle, I would have to find a secluded island and study sand particles or something. Thank God we're all different - and that goes for our weight issues, too.

Z said...

Well put, Chani

Olivia said...

I hear you, Chani. I think that this is just the nature of groups. When I am in a group (no matter what the nature of the group) I at first like it, then struggle, then stay in despite my frustration and disgust, then keep trying not to quit, then quit. I don't know, but I think some people thrive in groups and love receiving their interior experience FROM the group.

Like say, there may have been people there who didn't know what to think, and then found out from the group leader that they'd probably struggle and gain weight. So then they knew. This was helpful for them. Something like extrinsic sourcing or whatever versus intrinsic, I don't know.

VERY interesting, lots of food for thought, as always,



molly said...

Being of the skinny persuasion, I didn't read this at first, thinking it was about weight watchers...I should know better! Today I took a second look. Are those the Cliffs of Moher? Sure looks like them. And when I read it I loved your observations---so true.
"other peoples' expectations" --- a rock to perish on!

Leann said...

That is why our public school systems fail.

Peter Clothier said...

Yes! AND I think that organizations of this kind owe their success, sadly, to precisely the kind of pigeon-holing you describe. And to the self-pigeon-holing that permits it. You happen to be the wild card in the mix... and good for you!

Anonymous said...

I hate groups and am very individualistic too! I think though in AA they call it terminal uniqueness- hmmmm... I always feel like a sheep in groups!

Woman in a Window said...

I think you're right here but then I wonder about how many times I have unknowingly pressed my generalizations on others unintentionally and without malice. I need some work. And too, maybe we need to forgive those who make those mistakes unknowingly. Should we quietly point these things out and offer an opportunity for that person to grow? Otherwise she's just going to make the same mistake over and over again...just a thought.

Have a wonderful day!

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

This is a brilliant post. I love the insight you had.

hele said...

One of the most important things we can do is let go of someone else's expectations about how our lives should be.

i still work on this one every day.

the book is called - the wild witch by poppy palin.

secret agent woman said...

I agree completely that letting go of the need to fulfill other's expectations is one of the keys to a richer life.

(Although I think people say those sorts of things sympathetically - just an expression of understanding that it's easy to gain weight over a holiday weekend, not an expectation that everyone is at a barbecue.)