Sunday, September 9, 2012

Do You Have to "Bounce" a Personality Off Others?

Quick musing. One thing I've been wondering about for a long time is whether you actually need other people to develop a personality in a social context. Will you inevitably develop in some way or another depending on what kinds of people are present or absent in your life?

I wonder because, as I've written about many times before, I've definitely changed in personality in some undesirable ways since high school, and wonder if there was anything I could have done to prevent it, or if the stressful situation made my regression unavoidable. To pick at one particular trait, I used to be very, very open about my character and beliefs, such as which philosophical authors I read, political beliefs I hold, why I've adopted the Paleo diet, and so on, but these days I tend to be more on the quiet side regarding these, and while I am getting better there still tends to be anxiety preventing me from opening up.

The most apparent reason to me would be the difference in people that surrounded me during those periods. When I was my most ideologically visible in high school I was surrounded by people who enjoyed intellectual discussions and could disagree easily and politely without it have a dramatic impact on our relationship, and my elders by and large didn't respond to my development. Being open was very easy because there was no punishment for it.

However, when I graduated high school and lost contact with those people, in their place came a lot of people who couldn't handle their emotions, where the slightest discomfort would literally induce panic attacks, get them yelling and shouting, and other uncivilized manners. Worse yet, some of these people would even become obsessed with our disagreements and, long after I dropped the subject, would try to revive it for years to try and get me to adopt their position by nagging. Worst yet, for financial reasons I could not escape these people for some years, so I was temporarily trapped in a social network of emotional bombs that develop unhealthy obsessions and beg other people to make them feel better.

As such, I think this is the sole reason why I've become so reluctant as I am to share things about myself: I've been so suffocated by people who are hyper-sensitive and emotionally unhealthy that I've become very quiet about myself since it was, unfortunately, the safest option to avoid a yelling-at. For Christ's sake, someone once exploded at me for politely asking why they believed the sunlight would fade their carpet.

But was it necessary? Yes, it was a practical defense mechanism, but did it have to go so far as to alter my character in such an undesirable way, where this quietness has become outdated since I no longer deal with those people? I don't know.

At the very least I am making good progress at surmounting that reluctance, as I learned the effective measure is to restate to myself repeatedly that other people's emotions don't matter, I'm being civilized, I can always remove myself, and so on. Yet, this issue still concerns me because what if I get trapped in another bad situation again where being quiet is the only way to avoid confrontation? How do I avoid in turn changing into a meek character?

Hmm, this is slightly sadistically in a unharmful way, but one idea I have is to actively learn how to enjoy a person's emotional outburst to my ideas. Have you ever heard the phrase that if you have enemies it's a good thing, because it means you stand for something? Taking for granted that I'm being civil, polite, and appropriate, I ought to enjoy to some extent a person's emotional outburst, for while it may be unpleasant it does give me evidence that they're taking offense at what I stand for, and going on the defensive. In other words, even if their behavior is appalling it means I've resonated with them.

To get more sadistic, for those persons who continually get hysterical through their own fault -- though I'm not stuck with any such person at the time -- I can take their hysteria as their punishment for holding irrational beliefs or refusing to think. If I build up endurance then surely any such confrontation will generate more discomfort for them than for me, and those truly irrational in handling their emotions should surely cave in and dodge out sooner or later, leaving me alone.

That is, at least, ONE method. I must persevere more than they persist. But could there be other things for me to do as preventative measures?

It's a worthy thinking subject. I don't want to lose any more years as I have. Once I develop into a man I'm proud of I want to stay that way, external pressure regardless.

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