why (this) guy(s) don't wanna talk about it

October 25, 2019
(Some parts of this may seem familiar to people who read my previous navel-gazing rambles, but public writing is sort of a part of my therapeutic journey, and repetition is certainly a part of therapy - you don't want to just churn your wheels, but it's rare that a singular moment of insight makes a permanent change in behavior and outlook... that's my excuse anyway.)

I know that I have an idiosyncratic way of looking at my obligations and "shoulds" in group settings, springing from my intuition that Truth (capital T - the criteria for best goals that the dictate what the "shoulds" are) is objective. I mean, reality is reality whether you believe it or not (to quote Flava Flav: "You can't stop reality from being real!")

Truth is objective in the sense of not being a matter of individual choice - but it is also obscure, permitting individuals of good will trying to see it, but never to claim full certainty about their view of it.

(This is some of why I'm not on board with promoting gathering as "people of Faith(s)" for its own sake - Faith is good when it quells anxiety or paves the way to positive action, but mostly I see Faith saying "well, I'm gonna presume I'm right, so anywhere we disagree, you're wrong." That seems arrogant and lacking empathy to me.)

So one implication of searching for the objective best is that in any group setting, from playing in a band to being in a 1-on-1 romantic relationship, I figure out what to do by summing up the pluses and minuses for members of the group (myself included). If I don't feel like playing tuba that day, a gig might be -20 for me, but my presence there is +100 for my small band that would struggle without a bass - so +80 and I go on the gig. If a choice with Melissa is a +10 for me but -20 for her, I shouldn't do it, because that's a net -10 for us. And objectively, Us is better than Me- closer to objective value.

But a further implication is, I don't want to talk about problems I have unless I think the communication will actually help fix the situation. In general, sharing a problem doesn't seem inherently useful to me - it just makes two people anxious about something! (I'm already on a project to be less anxious in my own life, because more often than not anxiety is better at stopping productive work than urging it forward.)

So, how the math works out: +5, my partner might have a good idea about solving the problem that I haven't thought of. -10 my partner might get anxious about it. -5 I don't like having my own possible incompetence shown off. (Shades of toxic masculinity, I suppose.) So more often than not, my intuition isn't to share. Or at least not to dwell on it - I believe in transparency in general (since, again, for me Truth is objective but the more sets of eyes you have looking for it the higher confidence you can have in the outcome.)

Come to think of it- this behavior had roots in after-school questions with my folks- "How was school today?" "OK" "Anything you want to talk about?" "No.". I wouldn't want to burden my mom or dad about something unless there's a path to them fixing it- otherwise I'm just making them feel bad too, for no good end.

I know that this is half-baked math, and that in the long run communication is important, and all that jazz. I'm just laying out what my intuitions are so I can decide when to share, even when the best course is against my intuition.
Me (young, naive); I hope something good happens

Me (now): I hope whatever bad thing happens is at least funny