How Big Is Your Vehicle and How Powerful Do You Feel?                       

 

female trucker

 

My mind boggled when I heard an NPR report about a study published in the Journal of Psychological Science. Researchers found that most people feel powerful when they sit behind immense desks, in sizeable SUV’s, and on overstuffed chairs. So, evidently, while I’m sitting in a commodious recliner, I forget I’m a senior citizen with sciatica and think I’m Henry the Eighth.

Furthermore, according to the research, when we feel powerful, we tend to lie, steal, cheat and commit traffic violations. So my truck’s to blame for my tendency to park illegally? And my chair’s responsible when I assure Joel dinner will be ready in ten minutes when I know it will be thirty?

My head buzzed with questions: Does our tendency to abuse imagined power depart once we’ve exited our easy chair, six-foot desk, or four-wheel-drive vehicle? Or does it last until a week from Saturday? Also, does our own size matter? Who would be more likely to speed and ignore stop signs when driving a Humvee: Jennifer Aniston or Shaquille O’Neal? And finally, did all the research subjects lie, steal, cheat, and park illegally, or did some of them specialize?

I’d specialize. I’d lie. Or, better said, I’d resume lying. But while I’d like to blame a desk, car, or chair for the lies I’ve told during my lifetime, doing so would be like saying mountains make me feel small and insignificant; therefore they cause my overeating.

Is that the face of a liar? Couldn’t be.

When young, I never thought, “I’m feeling powerful today, so I’ll tell Mom that Bob made me eat all the cookies” Rather, I told lies to escape punishment. As I teenager, I lied to entertain, persuade, smooth awkwardnesses, and avoid hurting my friends’ feelings.

My worst lies flowed, not from power, but from weakness when I felt unimportant, disappointed in myself, or fearful of losing my parents’ approval. I regret those lies.

I forgive myself for social mistruths — my puffed-up term for little white lies. I’ll never tell a friend, “Yes, your butt looks big in those jeans, but, really, your butt is big.” A relative who habitually runs late will never know that while I wait for her, I want to scream, swear and attack her doll collection. And when an apologetic stranger runs over my toe with a shopping cart, I’ll choose to respond, “No problem; I’m fine,” rather than prolonging the encounter by telling the truth: “It hurt like hell, and I’ll have a bruise until Christmas.”

My regrettable tendency to ease situations by lying has decreased as my years have increased. I no longer tell my doctor that I followed her advice when I didn’t, the trooper that I thought I was going the speed limit, or my siblings that I don’t care if I lost the game because they cheated. Mostly, these days, I only lie to myself, and I’m ashamed when I do so.

One more confession: I’ve always been innocent of the claims made in the Journal of Psychological Science. I never, ever, told a lie because I was behind a large desk or sitting in or on any object of considerable size. Unless you count my posterior.

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60 thoughts on “How Big Is Your Vehicle and How Powerful Do You Feel?                       

  1. Sometimes I wonder who comes up with these studies and who in the heck funds them? As you noted, the lies we have told are of our own making. That being said, Donald Trump has a gold throne, so maybe the study wasn’t so far fetched!

    Liked by 6 people

  2. This was a fun post to read. Janet. I do admit to having felt a sense of power when I had a large 4×4 pickup, but I did my best to keep that under control. Still, when given the opportunity to fly through some mud, power of nature seemed entirely appropriate. I pretty much hate being behind my desk when there are people in my office. I think it’s because of all the time I spent on the other side of such a desk. I generally get up and join them on the other side. Oh, those jeans look fine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The first thing I did when I moved from one side of the principal’s desk to the other was to turn the massive desk I inherited to the sidewall where I could swivel my chair, turn my back to the desk, and group with the two chairs where visitors sat. I’ll never forget the sense of peace and relief I felt when I entered my office after making that change. About the jeans: my younger brother used to call my sister and me the Bottom sisters: Lotta and Bigga. We retaliated by giggling, which didn’t help.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, Janet, you make me laugh! I would believe anything that cute little girl with her new teeth and admirable hair told me. I’m sure I’ve benefitted from a few of your social lies. Thank you. The largest vehicle I owned was a VW camper van and believe me, it didn’t make me feel powerful. But, I did commit a few traffic violations, like rolling through stop signs because it took so long to get back up to speed. Hmm, maybe the researchers are right because on long summer drives, sweating, spraying ourselves with water, we’d laugh with superiorority at “those fools driving with their windows up”.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad I make you laugh, because I love the sound of your laugh and the whole-hearted way you do it. You returned the favor with this comment. I had a ride or two in your VW camper van, and the picture of you and Jerry spraying yourselves down and laughing at the stupidity of those with air-conditioning tickles me inordinately.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Such an honest post and one I think we could all match in it’s stages although a lot of us would lie to ourselves that we weren’t. I laughed out loud at your final sentence too!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that journal is way too general. There are so many things that come into play when people start misbehaving. One thing that I believe has to happen before any of the other can begin is that the person has to have a problem with self-confidence and/or self-esteem. Also, blaming inanimate objects just seems ludicrous to me.

    The “social mistruths” are inevitable if you’re going to get along with others, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that much misbehavior flows from low self-esteem, which was never my problem; indeed, quite the opposite as my mother used to remind me. I also agree that social mistruths are inevitable when telling them eases situations that could be hurtful and where the truth won’t be helpful.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. An interesting and thought-provoking post, Janet.

    Generally, I don’t take very much notice of these so-called studies and can’t see that they add anything much to our lives, though they do give us much blogging fodder! As for lying, I was brought up not to tell any then later discovered many that my parents had told me (like the choice that I thought I’d been given to go to an independant school that they then said I couldn’t go to because it was too far away, was actually a lie by them to hide from me the fact that the school had been full.) That stopped me feeling so guilty if I told a small one, afterwards. There is an expression in the UK – ‘white lie’. It refers to a small, insignificant lie, or a fib. Often I wonder what is the borderline between a white and non-white lie?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You defined the predicament with you last sentence, Val. Were is the breaking point between an outright lie and white lie? I guess that’s a judgment we each have to make in the various situations is which we find ourselves. I heard a speaker once who said adults train children to lie when we tell them stories about Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, and, later, that beer, wine, cigarettes, and sex aren’t good. I thought he went a bit far, but it was an interesting thought.

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  7. I think the problem comes when we start to believe our own lies. My father told me, “Son, you are going to meet people in life that believe their own bullshit.” I thought, “That’s crazy. How could anybody believe their own lies?” Then I married one of those people. Another great piece of prose from someone who knows how to dig deep. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for highlighting that line, Neil. I liked it when I thought of it and then had to tweak it a few times to get the right pace to it. It’s one of those lines that, when I get it where I want it, I think, “That’s pretty good!”

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree; its sad that big butts don’t make us feel powerful. Or maybe they do, but we’re so busy trying to diet and work them off that we don’t notice. That would be sad as well.

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  8. You had me from the first sentence to the last! You do realize, Janet, that we need to get you syndicated, right? We need to talk, Little Buddy. You know that I don’t “lie”, right? And I don’t give compliments when they’re not deserved…Your writing takes me home to a time period my soul aches for…..You make me laugh. You make me think and ultimately, you make me a better person. Thank you for your guidance, your talents and your sharing of yourself. This is another one for “the book”!!!! Love, love, love it!! 🙂

    PS The New Yorker in me would more than probably tell my good friend that her butt was a tad too ample for the jeans (IF, of course, she asked. And if, of course, she hadn’t bought them, yet!) 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • How nice it is to have you as my friendly reader and head cheerleader, Lucie. I especially like know that my efforts take you home to a time period your soul aches for. What a wonderful gift it is to tell that to a writer. And i recommend that you keep the New Yorker in you alive. It, too, is wonderful.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I roomed with a Psych major in grad school and some of the studies they published in their journals—like the effects of pencil-sharpener height on the academic prowess of elementary students—made me scratch my head.
    So what does that say for this study? Well, I suppose there is some truth in the “bigger is more powerful” mentality. Just look at the folks from Texas!
    Another entertaining post, Janet. Loved the very last line again, and also loved the picture! What grade were you in?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was in 4th grade, Rita, in the classroom of the teacher who made me decide to be a teacher as well. Thanks for making me laugh with “Just look at the folks from Texas!” and the pencil-sharpener study.

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  10. Thinks my reply went awry- My tall boss uses the Halitosis, arm pit over you approach to power tripping. It makes up for his dented car and dotty, ever present mother. Love the photo, what an angelic wee thing- cheers Janet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, what word pictures you create in only two sentences, Sheila. Your disagreeable boss now resides in my head thanks to the power of your words. Thank you also for calling me angelic; a writer with your vocabulary would never have used such a descriptor mistakenly.

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  11. Never indeed- One note on lying, as a “Welfare Brat” I learned the art of the poker face when very young, when the health nurse came about, seeing how many pets we had, or the social worker looking for any sign a “man” lived in our decrepit home. Gotten me out of the odd scrape…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can see why a poker face was of benefit to you. I developed one as well but more as a self defense during battles and arguments with my siblings. I mainly use it now when someone is going on and on and on about inanities, and I don’t want to encourage them.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. After I invented the computer I got right to work on inventing the blog, just so you would come along and give us the wit and wisdom of AuntBeulah.

    Thanks for another wonderful post. And that’s no lie!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. What a joy to read this post. Of course I laughed a lot, but I also enjoy the way one thought flowers into another into another and another until you have carried us in your 4×4 all the way from one study of size and power to another, this time relating size of butt to mendaciousness. Trouble is, don’t writers always lie? Isn’t that our job? Outed.

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  14. Thank you for seeing and appreciating the underlying structure and development of my piece, which I try to be mindful of when I write. Rachel. And, yup, you outed writers, though “people who use words creatively” might be a kinder way to put it.

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  15. This is a really interesting train of thought! I never really paid any attention to studies because I’ve never felt as if they’ve benefited me in an obvious way, I don’t think I’ve ever sat behind anything large either (I might be lying here because I really don’t remember). I can really relate tot he situations in which you’ve told lies because they remind of the reasons that I’d do so. In the past I found that if I could completely shift the blame then I’d tell the lying and become suspiciously silent after.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like to read what studies are about, Jeffrey, because often they are so farfetched that I get a blog idea from them, like this one. I like your description of telling a lie and then becoming suspiciously silent, because that’s exactly what I used to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. “Social mistruths” I used to find it awkward to lie, especially hard when confronted with an ugly, wrinkled baby! I had trouble selling Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to my kids. Now, lies can drip off my tongue with nary a twinge of guilt. I wonder if it is my over-sized armchair. 🙂

    A delightful, funny, thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

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