I am interested in how our emotions are rarely derived strictly from events, they are derived from our interpretations of events, going through a filter of what we think ought to have occurred in a just and fair universe.
My brother-in-law is one of those people who is nearly impossible to keep a present a secret from. He’s just a very good guesser. He’s one of those technophile types that have very strict ideas of what’s cool, what useful, and what he wants from his toys. This year, it’s been no secret that his next toy will be a 52′ flat panel TV.
My sister happened upon an amazing bargain. She found a 46″ flat-panel TV for half-off, so she ordered one for him for Christmas– in October. The other day, my BIL was searching the house for some insurance papers and came across the receipt. He was so excited! What an awesome gift! He never would have guessed that one! But, this tv was not what he wanted. He wanted a 52” Panasonic flat-panel TV.
My sister was devastated. She phoned our mother. Our mother told me, my husband, my father and my brother. They were all suitably outraged. I was sitting there trying to figure out why I felt outraged.
Imagine this scenario. A man, in a fit of romanticism, buys a huge engagement ring for the woman he loves. She loves the thought, but she HATES the ring. Should she tell him?
A number of you might have thought of a very valid point; it was not the actual TV my BIL objected to, it was the size and brand. If a woman objected to her ring for no other reason than it was too small or it wasn’t bought at Tiffany’s she would be justly reviled as well.
Hmmm. But my BIL is such a technophile, I can see the actual dimensions of the screen being highly important to him. To me the difference is slight, and I would be more than happy with the bargain I got on the smaller TV than I would be with the extra inches. And Panasonic is a highly respected brand, one that I know that my BIL is partial to, so buying any Omnivox or whatever she bought would be the equivalent of buying a PC for a Mac user: damn near insulting.
What I’m getting at is, was it really that bad?
If it happened to me, I would be disappointed, yes. But, I also wouldn’t want to spend $1200 on a present my husband was only lukewarm about. The filtering idea here is that our spouse will absolutely love any present we spent that much money and effort arranging for them.
My BIL was surprised, and was actually more excited by the fact that he never would have guess what she had gotten for him than the actual gift. The thought actually was what counted here. So to me, that’s a win. The only downside is that she’s now going to have to figure out what else to get him.
So to recap, my sister bought an expensive present that actually wasn’t what my BIL wanted and he accidentally spoiled the surprise and found out ahead of time. No expensive, wrong gift purchased. Sweetie surprised for the first time ever. So why are we all so mad?
Our expectations skewed our response to the situation. What we saw happening wasn’t actually bad at all. We made it that way by our perceptions and reactions.
I wonder what else we’re doing that for?