Dr. Toughlove or: How I Learned to Stop Over-Verbalizing and Love the Bomb

Jan 5th, 2014

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The following mini-rant is not about regaining our sense of privacy in a self-absorbed digital age. It is not about the ravages of social media on our actual confidence and our notion of what matters. It is not even about a too-soft generation taking back responsibility, disappointment, and control. Well, it’s also about all of those things. But it is mainly about reinstating our own core instincts, intelligences, and centers of vitality, and redrawing the interpersonal boundaries required to separate true creative power and personal agency from a slow nuclear leak.

It is about being more ourselves by being less invested in projecting who we are. It is communications advice for individuals (brands are another, also complicated story) which I am certain will upset people — and which I stand by anyway.

Here it is: What you’ve done is not communication, or even art, if your need to express yourself outweighs the benefit to other/s of consuming said expression.

Let me restate this in the cruelest terms: If the only thing you’ve changed by posting or writing or speaking or making something is delivering your own psychic payload, you have not engaged in creation or communication, but have bombed the listener / reader with auto-therapy. (Consuming this form of expression is the legitimate domain of actual therapists or best friends, and, if you are lucky, siblings and parents. We will get to significant others in a moment.)

In the real world, listeners or readers or viewers need to walk away inspired to act, better informed on something they care about, or in some way enlightened, relieved, entertained, or changed. You can assume your receiver is intelligent, but you ought not assume they speak the language inside your head, or want to hear you all the time. No one owes you that. Not for free.

Even if the subject is personal, it is actually not about you – it is about the one you are giving your ideas to. Once these thoughts or feelings are out of your brain, they must be able to do something to or for the intended audience – of one or one million – or they should never have left that cozy grey room.

Your ideas are the components of energy. You have broken your core to let them out: How could they be anything but? Why would you not want to keep them to better run *you* until you were sure their release was strategic, or at least somewhat necessary, rather than wasteful or even toxic?

Think about the most charismatic people you know. Their communication finds the specific listener, like a smart-bomb.

Very few people care simply about your need to express yourself or to create internal order, and as a consequence, those who want to read or hear or see anything filled primarily with angst, anger, self-praise, unwarranted apology, a crazy level of detail or repetition, or over-sharing, will have their own side of the bargain they expect from you. What this is might blindside you when the relationship becomes suddenly bilateral. Such is the nature of proliferation.

No-no’s includes not only excessive complaining but also gushing, excessive praise, which I’ve discovered actually minimizes the receiver instead of building him / her up. Because toxic leaks are not only about angry or crazy or whiny: admiration, too, can feel like work to read or hear when it is offered mainly as a release of need.

This is all especially true for communicating with your boss and colleagues, where sanctions are often subtle but swift. But it is even true for most friends, and also for lovers / partners, if you want the relationship to maintain its fullest power.

Consider the price of another human being holding the sealed barrel with your energy leak. You rely on them to catch your sometimes toxic secondary output, while your fullest creative product, your best behavior, is given elsewhere, to those who won’t hold your worst. Exchanging need is actually not a bad reciprocal arrangement and is often the happiest and most enduring kind of union, but we should call it what it is, which is mutually assured destruction: containment. It’s not a bad deal, often necessary, but it costs you the heat generated by being at your best.

You might be shaking your head and saying – that’s so not fair, and it’s so sad that she thinks that, this damaged woman just set my therapy / marriage back ten years, what a bitch.

That last thing might be true. But it is not especially sad, if you consider all the time potentially saved by people becoming their own centrifuge, and what the human race could accomplish with this savings. We are talking sustainable energy.

What greatness could emerge from more external silence and better tolerated and carefully monitored internal noise?

Maybe people would exercise more from all the frustration, and discover they prefer ripped abs to writing long emails or producing unintelligible art or going straight to Facebook with every observation or complaining for hours to their wife.

Maybe we would work more and work better to avoid making excuses or apologizing or making more and more lists. Maybe our communication would be more significant if we updated fewer statuses and re-learned the power of making people miss us.

Or we’d take a few more risks in life or in love once we’ve thought and planned but perhaps before we’ve spoken or written. And maybe end bad things sooner, instead of burying them in verbiage. Enough saved up energy is excellent at very clean destruction when this is what is called for, with far less bloody carnage than the gradual relationship or job phase-out.

Maybe we’d produce better art as a society, and would not have to choose so often between accessibility and quality.

Maybe we would learn to sit longer with our thoughts and the complexity of our feelings, get comfortable with contradictions and discomfort, and discover we are so much tougher than we thought. So much readier to challenge and be challenged.

Meditation would not be about clearing your mind and being nothingness. It would be about being *everythingness* and containing that, sparing the world our truth until the best and most useful explosion was fully spun.

What greatness could emerge from more external silence and better tolerated and carefully monitored internal noise? I think it could be game changing, and could proliferate quickly.

You can take it or drop it. I’ve spoken enough.

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  1. One Response to “Dr. Toughlove or: How I Learned to Stop Over-Verbalizing and Love the Bomb”

  2. Yet again, another great post. Very insightful, clever/funny and best of all – inspiring!

    By Harry on Jan 15, 2014

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