I have a good friend that I often share the finest details of my analysis of people, behavior, and the social world. I throw a huge, ugly spittooee of thinking at him, reach the limits of my analysis and then the fatal moment when I’ve analyzed everything, have a huge amount of information, no idea what to do with it, and then wait for him to wipe my cognizant sneeze off of his eyes, and then I ask, “well what should I do?” And he’s told me this many times before, it’s what I come to expect, but until recently I didn’t realize what good advice it was.
“V, stop thinking”
”!@$##@#$##!! (insert squirmy-ness here) that’s like telling me to stop breathing! it’s not possible!” But when I thought about it (haha) I realized what good advice this is when you think about relationships. I think that it is more appropriate for romantic and friendship type relationships and less so family, but here is my idea.
A lot of college kids are frustrated by the absence of a deep relationships, whether that be friendship or romance, I’m sure it could be one or the other, both, or even vary by the day. In this frustration they (we) ask questions like “what is wrong with me, what is wrong with this environment so i don’t have what I think it is that I want, or deserve, and what do I have to do to get it?” Then we stumble back and forth between vows of pro-active behavior, bouts of self pity, and blaming. In the best times, I realize, I’m just distracted from thinking about it at all. Wait, in the best times I’m not thinking about it at all? So in whatever I am doing, I see a pattern of being most content when I’m not aware of my social-ness or lack of i it?? Rewind!
So how do we evaluate our relationships, how do we know where to put energy, where to hold back, and how do we evaluate ourselves as members of a social network? The answer is so much simpler than I thought possible – just relax and stop thinking about it. I know, it’s not the most satisfactory answer, but hear me out.
There are many ways you might be attracted to a person, and when I say attraction I am referring to those things that make someone else interesting, and ultimately compel us to engage them. When I think of an ideal friend, partner, running buddy, I’m pretty sure that my ideals aren’t founded on anything deeper than “well we share these interests, he’s a nice looking guy, he is similar to me,” etc. Those are really products of the retrospectoscope – us attempting to put a label on something after the fact that we probably don’t understand at all. I’m not even sure that I am capable of telling you what lets conversation flow comfortably and naturally between me and another person, or makes me want to spend time with them, and seek them out. What it comes down to is the idea that “good” relationships cannot be looked for, grown, forced, or predicted. We are going to put energy and time into people that we like to be around, that make us feel good, that we have a good dynamic with, really without thinking much about it. And if you stumble upon a two way street, you’ve probably hit gold. But in the most enduring (best?) relationships, no matter what the type, we get something out of interacting with the other person, and that positive something that we get lasts over time. And given that dynamics and people change, this something can also be lost, and that can lead to distress or despair, and confusion. But there isn’t much benefit of analyzing the black box that is this dynamic, trying to label incentives, track them, and do what I do way too much, over-think many of my relationships that aren’t the way I want them to be, and ask why.
Because you largely can’t answer that question, and more importantly, you don’t need to. The beautiful thing about this idea is the realization that it’s OK to not have yet found the other person, or other people, either friend or lover or confidant or running buddy, that might complement, complete, or fulfill you. Don’t jump to concussions, it doesn’t mean anything about you. But complete is a dangerous word, because with people, two incomplete people do not constitute a whole person. And this is exactly why it is best to focus on seeking personal fulfillment, whatever that means for you. And in pursuing what makes you happy, you will most certainly experience many types of relationships, learn from them, and hopefully find some rare sapphires.
So I started this thought by saying “just stop thinking,” but I think it’s important to still be aware- be aware of yourself, be aware of people that are directing energy toward you that you don’t know much about at all, aware of keeping in checks with dynamics that you do value, and be aware of the bases that found your relationships. This is another beautiful metaphor – the idea that friendships can be looked at like structures. Built on the wrong base, perhaps just for social purposes and lacking compassion and a connection with one another, is like trying to build a tower in a sand pit. Adding floors to that tower will be very challenging, as well as finding structural stability. This is an interesting conversation I had with another friend, actually about the dynamics of conversation. Look at trends in conversation over time, and ask if one person is simply filling in gaps with an occasional “cool, yeah, lol” when it is appropriate, and essentially adding nothing to the other person’s monologue, or does that person feel fed by what the other person has to say, and want to add something, respond, or challenge? It’s easier to evaluate yourself as a responder, listener, and contributor, than the other person, I think. So it’s interesting to think about what differentiates a rich conversation from one person telling things to another, and thinking that person is paying attention because he/she is responding at the appropriate time.
So it seems like there is a huge component of personal awareness, learning to abolish expectations, and as a result, find patience through your passions.
Time to listen to my own advice, mostly because it’s been a long week, and I haven’t done any work that I’m “supposed” to do
“V, stop thinking about it”
Sochat, Vanessa. "Simplify Life by not Thinking about Things: The Value of Social Ignorance." @vsoch (blog), 05 Jun 2008, https://vsoch.github.io/2008/simplify-life-by-not-thinking-about-things-the-value-of-social-ignorance/ (accessed 20 Mar 23).