Ronnie & Alice #1

Anthony Repetto
5 min readFeb 17, 2024

~ ask yourself: what sort of person is Ronnie? Alice? ~

Ronnie and Alice met in high school, and they fell in love. Ronnie and Alice dated for three years, until Ronnie went off to college. There, on orientation day, he met the girl of his dreams — Alice told Ronnie, when he was describing Ashley: “Be with her! You’ll be all the way across the country for years, while I’m stuck here; I want to know that you are happy.” Ronnie refused to break-up, but an awkward love-triangle with Ashley and another friend at college erupted by Christmas. That’s when Ronnie broke-up with Alice — the night she arrived on the plane, to spend Christmas with him.

Alice went-on to find other loves, for a time. Each man decided that he wanted someone else more, or more variety, and they left. Ronnie, meanwhile, married a successful woman who was also intentionally hurtful. Ronnie ignored the red-flags, seeking security, and they started a family. Once Ronnie’s daughter was in school, however, Ronnie realized that he didn’t want to stay with his abusive wife — so Ronnie divorced her and took custody of their daughter, moving back into his parent’s house.

When Alice began messaging Ronnie again, it was after he left a post on social media, describing the turmoil he went through in his relationship. Alice commiserated, and they began texting a little, random shower-thoughts. That was when Alice shared a new Ai product that she thought Ronnie’s daughter might enjoy! The Text Conversation:

Alice: (a week after texting the link to the Ai image-tool) “You never mentioned your thoughts on the hedgehog!”

Ronnie: “I didn’t watch it! sorry hah I was at work.”

Alice: “Hmmm… I hope work isn’t the only thing :/ I still have to explain to my mom that it’s vital to spend time relating to family members’ feelings, without gaslighting with ‘everything will be fine’ or ‘it’s not that bad’… She insists on railroading feelings with ‘happy instead’, with no grief-process allowed, busy rushing to solutions. Kids might like Ai tools, to play with, even if you don’t have a lot of time… and you can take steps to create that engagement. Just a hint, in case you raise a child with a neglect-pocket in their heart.”

Ronnie: (oblivious?) “I did go watch it just now — that’s amazing Ai!”

Alice: “I’ve used it to make characters and backdrops for my friend’s Dungeons & Dragons adventures — play is vital, said the Taoist.”

Ronnie: (still not thinking of his daughter?) “I play a lot of violin — does that count? hah.”

Alice: “No. Play with your kid! Listen to their troubles! Work is a way to rush to a feeling of accomplishment, when there is a gap in emotional fulfillment that we are ashamed to confront. Work should be a vehicle toward fulfilling *other* activities, in relation, while also being purposeful and valuable — yet, a life that uses work as an escape hatch is desolate, eventually.”

Ronnie: “My work is taking care of sick, poor, and homeless people. Kiddo and I spend a lot of time together, snuggling, reading, talking.”

Alice: “Good! And her feelings echo in you?”

Ronnie: “Kiddo’s feelings?”

Alice: “Yes!”

Ronnie: “Hm. I care about and am attentive towards her feelings, but I don’t take them on myself. She gets angry and frustrated a lot, and it’s not helpful for me to feel angry and frustrated with her. It’s my job to be calm and provide snuggles.”

Alice: “If you tell her ‘it will be fine’ and ‘don’t worry be happy’ — that is not ‘Affective Empathy’, and instead it’s a subtle form of emotional neglect. If you never *feel* the reality of her emotions, then she will feel alienated and distrustful. :/ Empathy means standing-with her, for just 15 to 20 minutes, feeling the reality of the emotion. You are *not* supposed to validate judgements or become a ‘slave’ to their demands, nor drain yourself. Those are all neurotic tactics; I remember decades of counseling, books recommending Imago Mirroring Technique to my parents when I was 8 years old. You are not showing a strong empathic response to your daughter. It’s actually vital to feel others’ emotions, especially when they are ‘negative’ — for just a moment! It’s called ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ because a mile takes 15 to 20 minutes. When people do NOT do Affective Empathy, it is destructive to their relationship. Google terminology; you’re not an expert in empathy. Try asking your daughter: ‘Does your dad feel what you feel? Or does he avoid letting your feelings into his heart? Does he dismiss or invalidate or talk-over or diminish or avoid your feelings? Do you have specific or repeated examples?”

Ronnie: (ignoring those KEY empathy-questions… a pattern emerges in a bit!) “I am not sure where on earth you are getting all of your ideas about how I live my life or relate to my child, since we have not talked in depth about my personal life for years.”

Alice: “Yes! And, you already said ‘she gets angry and frustrated a lot, and I don’t feel that with her.’ You already admitted to what I claim, regardless of what else has happened in your life, or whether we talked about those things, too.”

Ronnie: (after a long pause…) “um..”

Alice: “Ask her those questions! If you want to pretend that ‘I do enough’, then ask the feedback survey on empathy!”

Ronnie: (after another long pause…) “I think you are working through some of your own issues by taking them out on me right now. I’m not sure what is going on, but I am sorry for it.”

Alice: “Regardless of anything I’ve been through in my own life, that empathy questionnaire WILL show you *if* you have missed anything in your relationship with your daughter. THAT is the fact you want to avoid. Wouldn’t YOU want to hear if there was hurt she had, unnoticed? Don’t you want to know the answer to those questions? If you claim innocence, then let it stand in the fact of the results: by asking her!”

Ronnie stopped responding. Is he creating an *emotionally* supportive environment for his daughter? Should Alice be more, or less, concerned? What would you say is Ronnie’s character? Were the points Alice made about healthy and unhealthy relationships true, regardless of her tone or personal trauma relating to the same behaviors? Just a ponder.

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