- A person employed to gloss over a poor public image (or present it in a better light) in business and politics, especially after unfavourable results have been achieved. A lobbyist; PR person.
Many believed that the reduction in public spending was a disaster but the spin doctors presented it as a triumph for lower taxation.
- To generate spin (favourable interpretation or bias).
I include these definitions here because I recently have heard myself say to two different young people in two entirely different situations that the art of being a grown-up is to learn to spin what happens in one’s life in a meaningful way.
Both young people were appalled. I, at almost 55, am not. In fact, I am delighted at finding such an easy definition for adulthood.
The salient word in my definition is not, however, spin; it is meaningful. The issue isn’t just being able to spin what happens. We all do that. Some of us do it toward the light; others spin things to the dark. It really doesn’t matter whether the spin is to light or dark. It matters a lot, though, as to whether spin is toward the meaningful or the meaningless.
So let me get a little more specific about these situations with my two young friends.
The first circumstance was a young actor in a graduate school setting who’d received some feedback from an authority figure who should not have been weighing in during that particular time. My friend wanted to know how to dis what had been said without offending his dean, and continuing to do what his director had asked him to do in direct opposition to this less-than-helpful authoritarian feedback.
The second circumstance was a high school student whose father was a raging alcoholic who put her in danger whenever he came drunk to pick her up from school events.
In both cases, we made a plan to keep their psyches and their bodies safe, and then we switched to spin to give meaning to what had happened (and would likely happen again) and what was going to continue to happen. Both youths had already done their own spin on their scenarios unconsciously.
The first one had dissed his superior’s comments and decided that the man was an idiot.
The second one had decided that if she died in a car accident that was her destiny since there was nothing she could do to change the situation.
We took the scenes apart a little more, and found some more meaning in each one.
In case number one, the actor acknowledged that the comment might a/ have been useful at an earlier point in the rehearsal process, and b/ that he was secure enough in his own creative process to dismiss the comment at this late date in the performance schedule. Then we spent an hour discussing power and authority and how people use it. There was value in our discussion for my young friend because he was able to glean meaning from this new parsing of his relationship to people who wield power in his life.
In case number two, the high schooler realized that she did have the power not to get in the car with her father. She went home to look up numbers for taxi cab companies in her town, and she vowed to hide a twenty dollar bill in the case on her cellphone so she could always call a cab and get home safely. She also turned to me with tears brimming over and a hope-filled expression, and said, “And maybe if I do this enough, he’ll hear me and he’ll stop drinking!” I smiled and we spent the rest of our time together talking about free will and how addicts need to hit their own bottom before they’ll take steps like the one she was wishing for. She learned about meaning in addiction and the people surrounding an addict.
One more story, this, a personal one. Something major happened in my life this week and I could choose to feel devastated about it. It could be spun as a major betrayal IF I wanted to spin it that way, but I don’t. Instead, I see what happened as a clear and wonderful message that no matter what happens outside me, I’m on the right path and I’m going forward regardless. I’d already decided that when I had a Big Dream that very night which confirmed my choice as well.
Founder of logotherapy, concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl used to say that human beings can live without many things: food, clothing, shelter, love, but what we can’t live without for very long is meaning.
Let’s face it, beloved, spin doctors R us.