Sunday, May 2, 2010


The psychobabble term for this is "negative reinforcement." Negative reinforcement occurs when your behavior results in something negative being taken away. Since the negative thing is taken away, you feel temporarily better and therefore your avoidance behavior is reinforced. So not getting in the car after an accident feels good temporarily and thus increases the odds that you will avoid getting in the car the next time.

-- Tim Ursiny, The Coward's Guide to Conflict

When Dr. Tim Ursiny is talking about negative reinforcement, he is referring to it in the sense of dealing with conflict, and primarily anxieties. He also discusses a process known as systematic desensitization. In systematic desensitization, large insurmountable anxieties are dealt with by replacing them with a hierarchy of lesser anxieties, of which the anxiety with the least control is addressed first. It's the same concept that we refer to in the community as baby steps.

Even if we share the same anxieties, we may not have the same hierarchy of fear, and so the order of steps we take in transitions can differ substantially from person to person.

I was looking at some of my writing from even just a year ago, and I was deathly afraid of transitioning on the job. But today, the concept of going into work tomorrow transitioned seems as natural as the moon rising. That's probably because I broke that one huge fear into a number of fears, by chipping at them one at a time.

Among my fears were the loss of my family, the loss of my job, and being treated as less than a woman.

I have learned over the past year that family goes much deeper and wider than the concept of nuclear families today. My daughters are still my daughters despite our separation, and marital spats work just as well over long distance, whether or not you are still legally married. Your family is also your community or communities of people who take interest in one another.

I have worked very carefully to make sure I didn't lose my job transitioning. I found my supervisor and company ready to support a rapid transition even though I was willing to give them months to make it happen. I have had recruiters call based on my online resume and one who continued to show interest when I explained that I was transitioning.

My adopted community has treated very much as a woman with all the human dignity and respect that goes along with it, from my friends at the club, my church family and my dance friends. My only concern is that my coworkers knew me as Robert before they knew me as a Sophie, and I can see that even among my closest supporters, tripping up on the name and the pronoun is all to easy, even though they had advance warning. This means I am just going to have to be alert and give them gentle reminders when they slip up, as my mother still does from time to time.

Hugs and God Bless,

1 comment:

  1. Hope your day goes well. Someone once said of old friends that they possible have the same amount of time to get adjusted to the new you and they knew the old person.