SECRET LIVES

The same day the news broke about Stephen Collins and the tape his ex-wife secretly made, I ducked out to a midday screening of Gone Girl, which should leave anyone and everyone questioning how well we can really know another person. So, between the those two things, secret lives have been on my mind a lot. I have to say that in my own life the people who have turned out to be bad apples did telegraph some hints early on — I just chose to ignore them. But I certainly don’t think I am above being completely fooled by a clever sociopath who is practiced and cunning.

It’s the conventional wisdom, though, that devious people emit signals that are clear warning signs, if only one is perceptive enough to catch them. Is that wisdom now obsolete? Have devious people gotten so good at their craft that detection is impossible? Or have the rest of us lost some of our intuitive skills? I have no clear-cut answer here, by the way — I’m just laying out the questions. It seems as if no one who knew or worked with Stephen Collins had a clue that he had any kind of secret life. And in Gone Girl the character of Amy was, at first, a flawlessly sweet and savvy girl who fell madly in love. She was, ultimately, none of those things.

The other day I stumbled upon an article about how multitasking is bad for our brains. It ruins our focus, increases our stress and can cause memory problems because the brain is on overload and doesn’t have the space to breathe and recover from the information it’s receiving. It occurred to me that maybe another consequence is the erosion of our intuitive capabilities. Maybe our poor brains are just whirring and grinding along furiously, trying to process so much information at once, that our “sixth sense” — that quiet still voice inside us — is being drowned out. And maybe after enough time, it stops trying to get our attention.

Since I have no other theories, I think this is a workable one. No more multitasking. One thing at a time. Carve out time to meditate — scientists and doctors know how beneficial that is for the brain. And then maybe my intuitive self will stretch itself out happily and do its job: warn me whenever a deceptive person is entering my orbit. It’s either that or never interact with another human for the rest of my days, and that is just not a good recipe for a happy life.

4 Responses to SECRET LIVES

  1. Marc Hoover says:

    Hi, Patti:
    I hate to sound “old” but I date back to the days before the internet. That being the case, it seems to me that “devious people” can easily be grouped into two categories, those you deal with in person, and the limitless number of people from all over the world anyone has a chance to meet, basically sight unseen, on-line. You’ve commented before on horrific on-line behavior, (although more “hateful” than devious) though devious people are in abundance on-line. Now that I think about it, “devious” people you deal with in person can also be broken down into those you know personally/socialize with (including, sadly, family) and those you interact with professionally. I’ve got an extremely devious close family member (in terms of his personal behavior) but I strongly doubt that that’s the way he acts in a professional environment (although he’s quite the sycophant, maybe that carries over). Multi-tasking can also be divided into personal and work-related and I guess for me I’d differentiate by how enjoyable/interesting/ challenging the tasks are. As far as the advice in your final paragraph is concerned I agree completely, in my case “meditating” goes with two of my favorite things to do — very long fast walks or more leisurely time out doors, and driving around aimlessly on back roads. I love your writing, by the way! Best wishes to Gracie!

  2. In the long run, multi-tasking is more harmful than beneficial. At least, that is my personal experience speaking.

  3. Patricia Hibbett says:

    I enjoyed your,”Secret Lives”. I found the story interesting, and liked what you wrote.We really do need to pick up on the signs of unusual behavior and slow down a little to notice what is going on around us.Love your writing !!!

  4. Mick Bysshe says:

    One activity that is often part of the multi-tasking world is talking on the cell phone while doing some other task. Thinking of the railroad conductor that caused the death of many years ago in California because he missed signals to stop the train so another train coming from the opposite direction could pass. He was jabbering away o his cell phone

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