Roissy gives a field report and brings up two key matters, aloofness and guilt-
Season Of Tumult And Discord talks about the game of a very interesting guy, physicist and author Richard Feynman-
What is a person? Who are we? Who am I? Who are you?
I’ll start with Feynman first. He is best known to the public for his testimony before Congress about the Challenger disaster, where he dropped a piece of the gasket material used on the boosters into a beaker of freezing water to show how it hardened in the cold. He also wrote a couple of books of memoirs.
We tend to think of physicists as introverted eggheads but Feyman was the polar opposite. He had a very outgoing, playful personality and was always engaging with other people. I took two physics classes in college and while the professors were not the cool dude Feynman was, they had some of the same traits. Physics involves trying to understand reality; math is a completely abstract system that refers only to itself. An intellectual or intelligent person does not have to be introverted; if they direct their curiosity towards people and things they will not be.
Clearly having a happy, playful, engaged personality helps. But what if you don’t? I’m frequently a moody, morose, depressed person. But sometimes I’m a happy, playful, curious, charming person, and not because I’m drunk or high. (Actually drinking alcohol often makes me quiet.) I recently got a motorcycle, and I find riding it makes me very happy. Other times I’m just relatively free of stress. It has occurred to me I need to find ways to keep myself in the happy state more and the unhappy state less.
A cognitive therapist and a new age author in the audience stand up and clap. “Bravo!” they shout. “You’ve realized the secret to life is understanding you control your own attitude!” I rush into the audience in a rage and beat the shit out of them. No, that is not what I mean. Your mind is not nearly so reductionist. Whether something makes you angry or happy you can’t control much, however you can control your exposure to it to some extent. Find things you enjoy, and do them regularly. Take note of what things upset you, and avoid them to the extent possible.
I think most people spend most of their disposable time on things that don’t make them happy. Take TV for example. Most people watch it only to fill time, and things they think they like are really no better than OK for them. Same with the internet. I read a lot about politics, which really just upsets me. If you are on your own time, and you are not doing something that actually makes you feel good, rather than distracts you, then do something different.
So the personality is somewhat flexible, and whether you are a happy person or a sad person can change throughout the day. I mentioned that some things you can’t easily control your reaction to; and yet if you are more in a good mood you will find it easier to cope with these things in a calm, relaxed manner. I stress that managing your mood is not a cognitive, rational process; it’s a matter of finding things that make you happy without using alcohol, drugs or food and leveraging that into other situations.
In his field report, Roissy concludes with how important it is to be aloof. Is aloofness a personality or character trait? I think any mood or attitude is a reaction to a given situation. These are strongly ingrained to us, but they can be changed to some extent. I used to be terrified of going into bars. I mean of just going in and having a drink. I thought everybody would think I was weird, that the bartender would think I was weird. I had to desensitize myself to this, which is a crude tool but sometimes necessary.
I need to observe and control my reactions to people. Avoidance is also a reaction; so when I don’t interact with people, I need to observe and control that also.
He mentions guilt at the end. Guilt is an internal emotional reaction rather than an external behavioral reaction; but those are ingrained as well. Guilt is how we feel if we feel we have violated some rule.
Part of my trouble in interacting with people is I feel strongly that I do not want to bother or annoy anybody, so I avoid interacting at all. If I do talk to somebody I worry a lot that I have acted stupid or annoyed them in some way, and I often feel happy that I talked to somebody, but somewhat flustered and embarrassed at the same time. I intellectually understand that most people enjoy a certain amount of social interaction for its own sake, and have very low expectations for its content; but I need more than an intellectual way of dealing with it. If I can think of anything I will write it up.