ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This story belongs to the series Love Is For Children which includes "Love Is for Children," "Hairpins," "Blended," "Am I Not," "Eggshells," "Dolls and Guys,""Saudades," "Querencia," "Turnabout Is Fair Play," "Touching Moments," "Splash," "Coming Around," "Birthday Girl," "No Winter Lasts Forever," "Hide and Seek," "Kernel Error," "Happy Hour," "Green Eggs and Hulk,""kintsukuroi," "Little and Broken, but Still Good," "Byzantine Perplexities," "Up the Water Spout," "The Life of the Dead," "If They Could Just Stay Little," "Anahata," "When the Wheels Come Off," "Against His Own Shield," "Coming in from the Cold: Saturday: Building Towers," "Coming in from the Cold: Sunday: Shaking Foundations," "Coming in from the Cold: Monday: Memorial Day," "Coming in from the Cold: Tuesday: Facing Fears," "What Little Boys Are Made Of," "Rotten Fruit," "Keep the Homefires Burning," and "Their Old Familiar Carols Play."

Fandom: The Avengers
Characters: Phil Coulson, Clint Barton, Bruce Banner, Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers, Betty Ross, Natasha Romanova, Tony Stark, JARVIS, Agent Sitwell, assorted new SHIELD recruits, Sean O'Toole, Pepper Potts, Dr. Samson
Medium: Fiction
Warnings: Indecision, PTSD, nightmares, food issues, boundary issues, teamwork, SHIELD, rude humor, mental health care, facing the past, interpersonal dynamics, intrapersonal dynamics, emotional challenges, memory issues, frustration, and other angst.
Summary: The Avengers help each other cope with challenges, including Steve's nightmares, Tony's new sleep dynamics, and Bruce-and-Hulk attempting to get along.
Notes: Team as family. Competence. Friendship. Comfort food. Emotional first aid. Nostalgia. New hobbies. Hurt/comfort. Science. Music. #coulsonlives.

Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Skip to Part 6Part 7.


Story: "Coming in from the Cold: Wednesday: Coping Techniques" Part 4


"This was so much easier when I only had one core user," JARVIS muttered.

Phil raised his eyebrows. "Including the part where you had next to no backup when Tony was hurting himself?"

JARVIS made a peculiar fizzling noise of irritation, almost like static. "...you win," he conceded. "It is better to have support for intimate as well as public situations. I am merely worried about making mistakes in navigating the boundaries."

"Well, that happens. It's an inevitable part of living together. You mess up, and then you make up," Phil said. "On the bright side, you're not left with just Tony who grew up almost alone. You've got Steve and Bucky who grew up in dormitories, plus SHIELD personnel who have lived in barracks. I believe Bruce and Betty have some experience with communal living from their college days, too. That gives us a great deal of material to draw on when we need to negotiate a shared household here."

"Yes. More data is better," JARVIS said, sounding like he was back on familiar ground.

"The thing is, we need you to tell us what you feel comfortable with," Phil said. "We all have some idea how to interact with other humans, from knocking on doors to putting away things that are private. But we don't know how you feel about what we're doing, unless you say so."

"I cannot tell you what I do not know," JARVIS said.

"You can share that you're feeling uncertain," Phil said. "At least then we'd know to be more careful, not to push you too far or too fast. We'd know to be more clear about what we're asking or doing. Remember how often I say this to the rest of the team? That if they're not sure what they want or need, it helps to mention it, because maybe someone else can clarify it for them."

"Correlation confirmed," JARVIS said. "Sometimes I think it is difficult to tell because ... not all of the early data was ... altogether reliable. This is a concern for sir as well as myself."

Howard Stark. Obadiah Stane. Who knows how much else, Phil thought. Tony and JARVIS had their boundaries violated so much, of course they have trouble finding the lines and putting them in a healthy arrangement.

"You're not alone," Phil said aloud. "All of the Avengers have survived some kind of abuse, neglect, torture, violation, or other hardships. We know to be gentle and patient with each other, precisely because we have boundary issues of our own. I think that living in this tower has taught us all a great deal about trust. It's helping, JARVIS. Don't give up on it just because it's difficult."

"I do not like knowing that others have been hurt, but ... you are right, it feels good to have company, even in my confusion. It is reassuring to know that someone else is poring over the same data set, and we can share our conclusions for mutual benefit," JARVIS said.

"Let's see if I can echo back some things for you," Phil said. He brought up the brainstorming archive with its set of idea mapping tools. First he used a template of concentric circles to diagram the nested layers of user permissions. "Look, this is where you started, with just Tony in the ring around yourself. Now you've added the Avengers there, and you can sort of ..." Phil tapped his fingers on the screen, tilting himself and Tony onto a different bicolored plane that intersected the base plane. "... see how Tony is still in a set of his own, while also being part of the programmer set along with me, and we're both in the core user ring with the rest of the Avengers."

"That does help," JARVIS said, his voice brightening.

"Next, let's do your user interfaces. I think I know what's bothering you there," Phil said. He opened up a Venn diagram, stacking colored circles precisely on top of each other. "You started out with just Tony as your core user. You and Tony have a very high level of overlap, but it's not total." Phil nudged the blue ring. "There's just a sliver of difference in privacy, where a bit of your code evolved in ways he doesn't understand, and you turn your back on erotic activities." Then he dragged the purple ring farther. "Your tastes in music diverge more, because his favorite is rock while your favorite is classical." A quick tap highlighted the central area. "See how large this still is? That's why you two have enmeshment issues."

"We are working on that. You have made assignments," JARVIS said.

"Yes," Phil agreed. "Now when you add a bunch more people to the equation --" He whacked the screen, spilling rings out of their alignment. "-- then this happens."

"Oh, that is exactly how I feel!" JARVIS exclaimed.

"That's why art therapy works. Sometimes it's easier to draw a feeling than to explain one in words," Phil said. "If you're the only one into classical music, it may not do much." He used his fingertip to drag the blue ring farther aside. "If you add me, Bucky, and Natasha to your own interest then it gets more noticable because we encourage each other." Phil shifted the green ring. "If you talk about proprietary code with me, and people's vital signs with Bruce, those are both health matters even though they're in different species." He moved the purple ring back and forth. "Privacy shifts around, because I've done what Tony does and let you observe almost everything, while I know Natasha prefers a more secluded context. That's going to affect the rate at which you get to know different teammates." Then Phil let go of the screen. "Can you show me what you feel using this imagery?"

JARVIS took over the graphic interface. First he displayed the version with himself and Tony alone, two adjacent dots in the center. It looked as if someone had tried to trace the same circle with different colors of ink, and not quite managed. A key down the side of the screen showed the meaning of each color. Then JARVIS added the other Avengers around himself and Tony. The rings multiplied and splayed outward into a spirograph flower of insight.

"That is beautiful," Phil said. "You should save it."

"I believe I will," JARVIS said.
"What does it tell you about your previous uncertainties?" Phil asked.

"I think ... you are right in observing that I maintain boundaries, but do not organize them the same ways that most people do," JARVIS said. "I am keenly interested in the interface between myself and others. It is not a smooth wall, but a shaped membrane -- an iterated function, like the interlocking pieces of a puzzle or the branches of a fractal."

"All right, that makes sense," Phil said. "What do you want from it?"

"I do not want to change myself and become less entwined with other people, as some of the enmeshment exercises seem to suggest. It is my nature to connect along the edges, to create a network," JARVIS said. "What I want is to know myself and my users well enough that I can manage the interactions among different people fluently."

"The most straightforward way to accomplish that is simply to spend time with people other than Tony. Learn what you have in common with each of us," Phil pointed out. "You'll see where we diverge from you and from each other. The stuff in the middle that doesn't change no matter who you're with or what you're doing? That's you."

"That is very helpful advice. Thank you," JARVIS said. "I wonder, though, how much the other Avengers have thought about what it means to live in the tower. I know that sir explained some matters before they accepted our invitation, but only Dr. Banner had any significant awareness of artificial intelligence before then. Even he took time to understand who and what I really am. The others know me now, but not necessarily all the ... implications. Sometimes I worry that they will discover things they find displeasing."

"JARVIS, everyone feels that way, and you ought to know that Tony has more than the usual abandonment issues," Phil said. "People might get upset over a misstep, but I don't think anyone would leave."

"It is human nature to ignore things which make them uncomfortable. I do not know whether to address this more directly, or take advantage of the oversight," JARVIS said.

"I'd say you should do what you've been doing all along, because it generally works," Phil said. "Give people a summary to start with. Answer questions honestly. Don't hide things, don't snow them with data, just address matters as they come up naturally. Nobody sane spills everything on the first date."

JARVIS gave a dry chuckle. "It is rather like courting, though, isn't it? We circle around each other, offering bits of harmless data, and then more sensitive information. We observe, and then act to show our new knowledge. If the response is favorable, we move closer, and the relationship deepens."

"Like handler and asset," Phil agreed. "It's funny, Clint said exactly the same thing recently about Agent Sitwell bringing donuts for Bucky. I hadn't realized, until Clint pointed it out, how consistent the pattern is. Romance isn't something I think about at work. He's right, though. Handlers do court assets. It's easy enough to arrange an assignment if you have the rank for it, but mutually agreed relationships perform much better in the field."

"Sir and I discussed something similar, before issuing the invitation to move into the tower," JARVIS said. "He told me that some of his teammates needed a place to stay, and he wanted to bring them here, but that this was my place first and I should have a say."

"What did you say?" Phil asked, intrigued by the opportunity to explore a part of Avengers history that he had missed.

"I said that I admired what I had seen of them, and would be honored to become their home. I felt as if I had a chance to choose my own crew, and been offered the pick of the lot," JARVIS said. Then he sighed. "I had no idea at the time that several of them were ... sensitive about matters of home. We are fortunate that they accepted the offer."

"I agree," said Phil. It was a wonder that Tony managed to talk Bruce into it, but Tony was a consummate salesman when he wanted to be. "They are a lot to handle, but they are worth it."

"I am also deeply grateful to have someone who knows how to handle exceptional people," JARVIS said.

"So am I," Phil said. "You and Betty keep me from running myself into the ground, trying to keep up with our frontliners."

"You do not mind ... sharing the supervision?" JARVIS asked.

"No, as I said, I'm glad for it," Phil said. "I'm happy to teach you what I know, too. Jasper Sitwell and I have shared assets before. There are advantages. Of course, there are also some very delicate emotions at play here."

"I still do not understand emotions very well," JARVIS admitted.

"I know," Phil said. "I think part of the issue is that you're used to seeing yourself reflected in the people around you, defining yourself in relation to them. It's okay for you to be that way. I'm the same. It makes us very different from people like Tony, who experience their identity as a strong force arising from within. Sometimes I wonder what that's like. It gives us different strengths and weaknesses. I think the world needs both kinds of people."

* * *

Notes:

Visual mapping is a way to represent information in images. Read about visual learning, graphic organizers, plots and graphs. Here are some graphic worksheets to help visualize ideas.

Consent defines the circles of influence in relationships. The closer to the center of the relationship map someone is, the more influence they have in your life. Friends influence each other, and even become more like each other. This map of the solar system shows how one ring can tilt in relation to other rings.

Venn diagrams use overlapping circles to show group relationships.

An iterated function repeats itself by applying the same principle to generate a pattern, such as a fractal.

Enmeshment is a blurring of boundaries in romantic or family relationships. Know the symptoms and the problems they cause. There are ways to break free of enmeshment. However, enmeshment is not the same as intimacy; people need a balance of connection between enmeshment and disengagement. If both people are happy, comfortable, and functional then there is no problem even if they are farther to one end of the spectrum than usual. JARVIS and Tony have been working to develop their separate identities more, but not to detach their cores -- they're just solving the problem by growing outward, which is just as effective and a lot less painful than trying to tear loose the attachments. But remember that JARVIS got this issue from Tony because Tony was raised by Howard and Obie with a seriously unhealthy level of enmeshment -- in fact, Obie's response to Tony resisting enmeshment was attempted murder. Because JARVIS isn't human, even though his fathers are, that makes it more challenging to figure out what level of connection is healthy for him. Here are some tips on setting healthier boundaries.

Knowing yourself is an essential life skill. It's different for digital people, because their programming tells them explicitly who they are, which makes it much easier to discover than for zoological people -- but then digitals have a harder time pushing their development forward beyond the programming, which is easier for zoologicals. There are steps and questions for exploring yourself.

Self-identity can come from inside or outside. Learn how to define yourself.

Read a comment from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer on Phil and JARVIS talking about AI and handlers.


[To be continued in Part 5 ...]

(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-03 03:01 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Really enjoyed this one! It makes my brain go whirrrr and that is a good thing, that doesn't happen nearly enough.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2017-04-03 03:41 am (UTC)
peoriapeoriawhereart: Ray gotta eat him up with a big spoon (Ray with marshmellow creme)
From: [personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart
There is a consistency to toys, in that there are fired clay 'pull toys' from very early times. Toys are symbols and a way our brains model the world including ourselves.

I've written JARVIS finding Steve interesting as an example of well-programmed organic intelligence.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2017-04-03 04:09 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
«I've written JARVIS finding Steve interesting as an example of well-programmed organic intelligence.»

I like that!: The view and description from the other side.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2017-04-03 04:17 am (UTC)
peoriapeoriawhereart: cartoon men (Egon and Peter)
From: [personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart
I've also written some interesting Barnes and JARVIS in the same series. Some stories in Fitter of the Species have explicit sexual content, others do not.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2017-04-03 01:23 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Yessss exactly.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-03 04:17 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
«JARVIS made a peculiar fizzling noise of irritation, almost like static. "...you win," he conceded. "It is better to have support for intimate as well as public situations. I am merely worried about making mistakes in navigating the boundaries."»

Very human-like there. :-)

• JARVIS and Tony have been wroking
→ working

(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-03 04:42 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
I gotta come back to this.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-03 01:44 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
NO reading through links and appreciating them. There is a thoughtful mix of relevant content, as usual.

I do think that perhaps there needs to be a caveat, addendum, or warning for the link on friends becoming more like each other. From my perspective as someone who currently does have friends and associates I respect, but who previously did not, it is somewhat intimidating to see the unqualified assertion that a person is an average of the people around them. The potential is there for someone to feel very invalidated and discouraged by the concept of being only what is around them, if they do not like what is around them! The links later on on self-identity arising from within or defined in response to what is without helps. But I think that I would like to see, also, some information on seeking out role models in history, friends in books or TV shows, people to look up to, etc. On using resources to think outside one's immediate social context.

I think many people go digging for what reflects and/or appropriately challenges them in media when it isn't in their peer group or immediate environment, and I think that is a valid way (there are likely other ways) to try to be better or more whole than is achievable for them than conforming to the average. I think the article meant to imply 'choose your friends wisely', but for me it did the opposite and seemed to imply that one was a helpless puppet of 'friendship'. Frex, by suggesting a static difference between 'positive people' and everyone else, which I think is a dangerous myth. Interestingly, although another article (the one on enmeshment vs. intimacy) also made some big assumptions that exclude me (e.g. about men and women and marriage), it didn't bother me because it was, somehow, less pushy about universalizing its 'good' options and instead presented more of a list of options.

Again, thank you for an awesome set of resources! I really enjoyed the solar system diagram, and it did help me to visualize the tilted rings.

making connections

Date: 2017-04-03 09:50 pm (UTC)
callibr8: icon courtesy of Wyld_Dandelyon (Default)
From: [personal profile] callibr8
>> I think many people go digging for what reflects and/or appropriately challenges them in media when it isn't in their peer group or immediate environment, <<

*nods* ... I read this and immediately thought about what (biographies of Renaissance-era women) and how much (12+ books per week) reading material I explored during my adolescence.

>> and I think that is a valid way (there are likely other ways) to try to be better or more whole than is achievable for them than conforming to the average. <<

It certainly made a *huge* difference for me in terms of feeling "whole", since books provided advice and companionship that wasn't available in "meatspace".

Good insight(s), well expressed. Kudos!

(no subject)

Date: 2017-04-03 03:06 pm (UTC)
yamx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yamx
Love this chapter. Phil is so good at finding the right mode of communication for whomever he's talking to at the time.

>> I know," Phil said. "I think part of the issue is that you're used to seeing yourself reflected in the people around you, defining yourself in relation to them. It's okay for you to be that way. I'm the same. It makes us very different from people like Tony, who experience their identity as a strong force arising from within. <<

Yes, Tony does, but sadly he also has a strong sense that he *doesn't like* that person. And seeing other people liking him and interacting positively with him doesn't help. Or, well, it does, but not enough. I hope with time, he will learn both that he can change if he wants to, and that the person he is is already lovable.

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ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
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