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Monthly Archives: October 2012

I’m an introvert and sometimes I get shy in social situations. Other times I can be suave and charismatic. It’s my life purpose to figure out how the fuck to control this on command. Following is a proposed solution.

I glazed over a theory in the canon of Communication studies: Social Penetration Theory. From this name I derived my crass title because it exhibits some cute metaphors if you think about it. The gist is simple: closeness, or intimacy between people is achieved through self disclosure. Duh, but there are broad implications.

Consider how self disclosure occurs. Telling people personal information is the obvious, but supposing communication is incredibly multifaceted, this is barely the tip (innuendo; see “Social Fucking) of the iceberg. People express themselves in many, many ways at all times, and we are naturally attune to these nonverbal communications.

An example: I was in a group and we began to play a Wii dancing game. Self disclosure here is expressed through a body’s movement. Body movement is typically very inhibited, and so sharing something to this degree of intimacy is the main operation behind playing this sort of game. Dancing is fun in and of itself, but consider why this activity is uniquely a social enterprise, and is a totally different experience to do alone.

To suppose this is obvious, therein lies my point: To haphazardly dawdle through any social interaction is an incomplete experience. Unfortunately the introvert may be overwhelmed by the noise in viewing the dancing scenario as courting the group; while the extrovert just “has fun” dancing with friends. These are two entirely valid claims: Yes, you ARE being judged. But also yes, you ARE just having fun with friends. This demonstrates two types of perspective; introspective and extrospective. And the introspective, in its extreme, is confined by thinking too much, and the extrospective is confined by not thinking enough.

I think the latter view (“just having fun”) is the proto-norm of most of society in socializing. But I argue  that it is moreso rewarding to build relationships than to do an activity. So in order to reconcile the introspective and extrospective, I propose to redirect from thinking about the ostensible activity, instead to think of the actual activity. You are in fact doing an activity, so the introspective noise should not be disruptive to whatever you are “supposed” to be thinking about. If you are aware that what you are actually doing is relating with people and not just doing things, you will find that social libido flows freer.

So as relating to Social Penetration Theory, how do we self disclose in a way conducive to the social codes, while advancing our ultimate motive towards achieving true relational intimacy? How do we silence the noise, self doubt, and anxiety, behave well, and still maintain our existential humanity?

Worry about what you mean, not what you say or do.

Behind your intentions, your actions will follow. And thus you will disclose your Self, not a Persona, as only you, yourself, can experience closeness and intimacy.

An analogy: You can typically tell a liar, because no matter how “good” they may be at it, they will never have full mastery of every possible channel of their expression.

Sometimes you are made uncomfortable in a group because of things that they say or do, or by their conduct of self expression/disclosure. If someone is rude, or if the group is hazing you for admission, carefully evaluate your goals. If it’s to your benefit to play the social dance, still: play by your own terms and not theirs. If you begin to adjust your self expression to match with theirs, you are forfeiting your own identity for the group identity. Is that what you wanted?

In all of this I’m assuming intimacy is universally good. To invite intimacy into your life, you must self disclose. In being mindful of your self disclosure such that it presents your true self, only thus can you achieve intimacy.

And in mindfully listening to the self disclosure of other people, you will better understand what your relationships consist of and what they do not.

This weekend, two close friends of mine got married and I was asked (volunteered) to officiate the occasion. You don’t have to be religious, a minister, etc, to do this, depending on state laws or whatever. Fortunately marriage law is very straightforward where I live.

Their story is an interesting one, but that’s not mine to tell. Where I fit in is how I could accommodate their/my non-traditional values, while keeping things interesting and sincere. We settled on selecting quotes from the video game “Alpha Centauri” — pulling out any that could *possibly* apply to a wedding. This being the foundation, I put them in a proper sequence and wrote transitions in the spirit of the original prose. It came out remarkably cohesive for its disparate pieces, though aren’t most things this way?

So while this is mostly a feat of plagiarism, the outcome would not exist were it not for my intervention. And all attribution for whom it is due. Roughly: odd stanzas are quotes, and even are my design.

1. I sit in my cubicle, here on earth. When I die, they will put my body in a box and dispose of it in the cold ground. And in all the million ages to come, I will never breathe or laugh or twitch again. So won’t you run and play with me here among the teeming mass of humanity? The universe has spared us this moment.

2. We are gathered here in this place, in this time, in this way, as ensemble, that in unity with X and Y, we embark upon the journey from earthly impermanence to ascendance.

3. No longer mere people are we, but bright children of the stars. And together we shall dance in and out of ten billion years, celebrating the gift of consciousness until the stars themselves grow cold and weary, and our thoughts turn again to the beginning.

4. But when does life start but the when it is realized? Is not Living the virtue of Life? For what reason do we defer living in passion for the future? For what forgotten future do we concede our birthright? By what decree does Heaven reside atop an ivory tower, at which intersection Earth retains Her immutable separation?

5. Heaven lasts long, and Earth abides. What is the secret of their durability? Is it because they do not live for themselves that they endure so long?

6. It is not in life but in Relationship that eternity resides. And so in connecting to that which is greater than self, we may grow where we may have diminished. As said by Li Po:

7. We sit together,

the mountain and I,

until only the mountain remains.

8. Eternity lies ahead of us, and behind. X, have you drunk your fill? (No, I have not.) Y, have you drunk your fill? (No, I have not.)
9. From the delicate strands, between minds we weave out mesh: a blanket to warm the soul.

10. In this way your souls are bound together: no longer two, but as one. Like, kiss or whatever, if you want.

Note: The spacing is beyond my control.

My experience with cocaine was disappointing. Though there are greater implications than just the high.

My friend N invited me to an outing – curiously, I barely know him, though we reliably kick it whenever I’m in town, which is infrequently. Of all the odd relationships I have with people, this one is particularly unusual. We live very unlike lives and have unlike values. However, there is an irrational fondness as the driving force behind our friendship. On this occasion, I learned he had begun to sell coke.

I’ve tried cocaine before and it was somewhat fun, though stupidly expensive. If you’re looking for a rush, speed punches harder, lasts longer, is more available, and cheaper. But it’s less romantic. Make no mistake, I am not advocating for substance experimentation; I have no moral framework guiding this account, and am reflecting on the process because I believe it’s unusual for someone in my position to have this experience: I barely know the dude, no one in his social network, and the standard lifestyle among them is very far removed from the lifestyle I live.

So I show up after the core group has dissipated, around 2:00 am. But there came a new wave of people, gradually, as a second “course” took over the night. Everyone was boozing pretty tough, though I stayed dry through the evening. N’s phone became notably active at this time, many a conversation presumably going as thus (I only heard half).

Caller: “What are you doing tonight?”

N: “Drugs, man. Come over.”

So the folks en route came for coke. Turns out N was actually at work through the format of partying. The group was held together by him and his power to provide you with a $5 line, and he was very good at facilitating. I like the dude for his charisma, although he rolls with a much harder crowd than me, and so necessarily has an edgier front in said company. But when not in line for a line, you’re on your own to mingle and roam. Partying is a social event, right?

Anyrate, it’s 2:00 am as the ball gets rolling (a curiously appropriate drug euphemism.)

Some pleasantries. “Would you like to do some cocaine?”

“Yeah.”

So I did.

No real euphoria, and no mania, unlike everyone else. I felt calm, alert, tranquil, and reserved. Everyone else, on the other hand, became radically altered. Aggressive. Tweaky. Quite frankly, stupider. Even me: I tried to write about the event when I got home and had a jumble of garbage to review in the morning.

It also seemed to incite rap battling. I mean, people do this. I know people do this, but here I was. And I was impressed.

I effectively managed to blend in. In the beginning, I had no idea what these people were doing to socialize, and I stayed so long in part because I was trying to figure out how they managed to appear engaged while not actually saying or doing anything. If I were to watch any one person for a time, I came to realize they were all functionally doing the same thing as me. This is why my technique was fitting in. Being aloof in a normal social setting is uncomfortable, but here it was necessary.

A rap-off is a monologue. Taking a line is a transaction. A greeting follows a script of social cues. Making a drink justifies your presence in the room. Going out for a smoke gives you purpose to leave and return. In none of this is there the substance of interpersonal relating. But here, no one was the wiser.

What I have taken away from this experience: How often in day-to-day interaction do we suffer through this same oppressive act, settling for the facade that there’s humanity all around us? All the while we try and forget that it is all an illusion, and we are locked in a cage of maddening solitude. A great thirst awash at sea.

Here we were with all the coke and liquor to keep our hands busy and our minds numb. As thus do we refrain from going insane.

N kept insisting I was his best friend through the night. Coke talk, though it was, he was probably right.