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Woman's home companion
Vol. LXIV, No. 6 (1937)

McCall, Anne Bryan
Equipped for living,   pp. 6-[8] PDF (2.0 MB)


Page 6

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HOW well are you equipped for living?
Answer such a question carefully; study your
equipment honestly and impersonally and you will
know more about yourself than many a book on
psychology is likely to teach you.
The dictionary defines "to equip" as "to fit
out, furnish with means for the prosecution of a
purpose; to provide whatever is needed for ef-
ficient action and service;' and it tells that the
commonest usage of the word applied originally
to the equipping of a ship. A ship was equipped
for a journey when it was fitted out with what-
ever would enable it to make its journey with a
maximum of safety and efficiency, and a minimum
of discomfort and danger to itself and others.
In something the same way we ourselves may
be said to be equipped for living when the in-
dividual self is fitted, provided with whatever
will enable it to make that journey which we call
living, with a maximum of efficiency and a mini-
mum of discomfort and danger to itself and others.
;   BUT it is not always easy to study your own
equipment impersonally. Prejudices, emo-
tions and the tendency to self-defense are likely
to make it difficult. Paradoxical as it may seem,
the best beginning for a study of yourself and your
own equipment is a study of other people's lives
and their journeyings-their ship's histories, so
to speak.
Perhaps for instance there may be among your
acquaintances a husband and wife who fifteen or
twenty years ago set out on their life's journey to-
gether with happiness and high hopes. Or you
may know a man who as a boy intended to make
a great success of his life; or a girl who originally
gave brilliant promise; or a child who was pos-
sessed of especially desirable gifts or qualities.
Yet the voyage of the married couple has ended
in bitterness and regrets and very nearly fantastic
misunderstandings of each other. Their happiness
and their fine abilities are broken or stranded on
Linapprehended rocks and shoals of shallow dis-
putes, constant antagonisms, bitter words and
deep and petty hurts. It is quite certain now
they will never reach that intended port of
planned happiness where they originally expected
to have lived together to the end of their days.
So too with the man, the woman and the child.
The man who gave such promise is a good deal of
a wreck now, and a derelict. The girl who made
such a brilliant start in life is a nervous, irritable
and embittered woman of superficial occupations
and petty jealous interests; laid up as it were in
shallow waters, in need of repairs that will never
be made. The child whose gifts were so many,
whose life was full of promise and fine possibilities,
is a frail lad now, oversensitive, overapprehensive,
whose faith in himself has been broken.
Or, in contrast to these, there is the fine strong
man who was the boy you never supposed would
amount to very much; and the strong enduring
woman who, some older friend of yours tells
you, was a seemingly frivolous girl, but whose
life, after years of stress and difficult sea-weather,
is like a strong seaworthy ship carrying rich car-
goes.
Do not study these lives coldly or merely as
"cases."  Study them as earnestly and under-
standingly as you can, and with full sympathy for
the hardships they may have endured. Study
their equipment. Try to determine just what
qualities or behaviors essential to safe sailing
were lacking in this man and woman, for instance,
who made such shipwreck of their happiness.
Was there perhaps too little patience, a lack of
intelligence and good judgment, an inability to
reason clearly, a too heavy cargo of emotions;
selfishness on the part of one and inability on the
part of the other to cope with it? Or ask yourself
what especially valuable human qualities were a
part of the equipment of the man you never sup-
posed would amount to much. What was it that
broke the strength of the child who was so
promising? What ill-advised loadings upon him
of older people's emotions'or selfishness or lack
of judgment weighed him down too heavily?
As a concrete example, suppose we study the
life of a certain mother I know. Many of you who
read this may know mothers like her. Some of
you may even be children of such mothers.
She is almost dramatically devoted to her chil-
dren; apparently lives and has always lived only
for them. Avery good omen, you think, for a good
journey for a mother; a fine ship this, to sail the
seas, and with an adequate cargo.
Yet she is not happy nor really a successful
mother. One of her children is neurotic, one over-
sensitive, one very self-conscious, one rather hard
and critical. They have an almost morbid sense of
their duty to her, but none of that warm simple
casual devotion and satisfaction in her which are
characteristic of the really healthy relation be-
tween a fine wise mother and her children. Why
is this? Study the ship and the ship's cargo-I
mean the character of this woman-carefully.
Devoted she certainly is, if to be devoted is to
have no broad general interests in life but to think
only and always of her children; to worry con-
stantly about them, to try constantly to direct all
their doings, their comings and their goings and
their thinking; so to bind herself in with every
act or circumstance of their lives that they could
never be said to be free agents and are unable to
make clear wise decisions for themselves; to
burden them consciously and unconsciously with
her fears and anxieties concerning them and her-
self, and with their constant obligation to her.
Reduce all this to a few major psychological
traits and you find those traits to be unsound judg-
mnent (the inability to choose wisely); lack of
true courage (the inability to be impersonal); lack
of a sense of proportion (the inability to see true
values).
These are the main traits then with which this
ship-this woman's life-was from the beginning
equipped; and by all the laws of psychology-
the laws of the sea-no life so equipped but is
likely to suffer disablement or shipwreck.
If this woman had understood more about
human nature and the laws of it, her life and the
lives of her children might have been happy and
successful.
A NOW in the same way study y'our own past
Y life, its successes and failures. Trace these
back to their causes. Keep a notebook. Put down
in it such fundamental traits as judgment, tol-
erance, courage, fair-mindedness, reliability, and
also their opposites. Study each quality, tracing
its relation to some of the successes or failures in
your own life. What part did this or that quality
play?
Now study your problems of today and their
relation to your equipment or lack of equipment.
Think them through carefully yourself. Resist
the temptation to ask anybody's advice about
them. Avoid those who want to advise you. Re-
member that no one can do your thinking for you:
do not allow anyone to try; that no one can fully
understand you and all your past ship's history
but yourself: do not expect them to; and that
neither can you understand another's history
sufficiently wisely in all its details to advise or
direct his life for him; do not flatter yourself that
you can.
.N NOW    begin a study of your qualities and
PVproblems as they have been influenced by
your home and your school. For though in our
later years we may change the equipment of our
lives; may throw useless cargoes overboard or re-
place them with more useful and suitable ones;
yet in childhood and early youth we have little
or no such freedom. Indeed it is a fundamental
psychological fact that in childhood we are
psychologically outfitted mainly by those two
ancient shipbuilders and ship-outfitters, the home
and the school.
This then will be the third and most broaden-
ing part of the study of yourself, a study of these
two agencies and their relation to your own life
and its equipment, and to the lives and equipments
of all of us. So you will be dealing with broad
and important problems that affect us all and in
studying them and dealing with them you will
gain better balance, better poise, better under-
standing, a better psychological equipment for
living.
There is not space here to discuss in detail the
home and the school as they affect our own equip-
ment for living, but in later articles we shall dis-
cuss them.
Meantime, besides the question, "How well
am I equipped for living?" I suggest that you
give study and thought to another question:
"How well is my own home fitted and how well
fitted are the homes and schools in my com-
munitV to help equip human beings for safer,
happier, more efficient journeys through life?'
Here are questions that Parent-Teacher Associa-
tions, church and educational associations, school
boards and individuals could with great profit to
individuals, homes, schools and communities
study and ask themselves.
A NOTE: To anyone interested in a fur-
ther study of the self there will be sent
free a Tower Room reprint Do You Under-
stand Yourself and a Tower Room pamphlet,
Psychology in Our Schools. Address Anne
Bryan McCall, Woman's i lmie Companion,
250 Park Avenue, New York City.
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