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When Your Seriousness Dies, Leaving You Without an Argument

Monday July 20, 2020

In recent years I’ve noticed that my level of seriousness has taken a really big hit.

Some of this comes from working with INTJs. Some (not all) of whom are deadly serious indeed. Many of these INTJs can’t help it, which totally sucks. They are really hard on their bodies and mental health. And they continually up the stakes in their lives, when it would probably be better to lower the stakes as soon as possible.

(I’m realizing here that a lot of these people would tell you they love to enjoy life and take it easy, which is true but also hallucinatory after they open up to you. Speaking generally, for example, sudden and violent swings toward after-hours fun and enjoyment do not a life-enjoying person make)

Regardless, after a while—I hate to say it, but—seeing this deadly-seriousness gets super old. Deadly-seriousness seems to go hand in hand with fixed thinking, pessimism, suspicion, skepticism, long-format critique, misguided attempts at prediction and prophesy, lack of empathy, crushing emotional debt, broken relationships, and soon you have this dark fractal in which troubling patterns of decay seem to enlarge by the second.

Man, that totally sucks for everybody involved.

For that reason I’m grateful to be headed in the less-serious direction nowadays. Some observations:

  • If you take things less seriously, it’s like all the bad stuff in life goes down. Stress, blood pressure, the seriousness of some random genetic condition you might have, probably your bar tab, the risk of a sad break-up. Who wouldn’t want this?
  • If you take things less seriously, a lot of life’s fun stuff, or interesting stuff, gets way more fun and interesting.
  • If you take things less seriously, it’s also way easier to raise children, which is something I like to do as a hobby.
  • And finally, if you take things less seriously, you’ll simply discover that fluff is stuff, stuff is fluff, and blingblorg bloodle-doo.

But being less-serious can also be really annoying. Here is the chain of events that led me to that conclusion:

  • Since I’m not as serious as I used to be, I don’t get into as many arguments as I used to. Here I’m thinking mostly about internet arguments, but also sometimes there’s the interpersonal IRL situation with a friend, family member, etc. And I never would have thought that not getting into arguments would be annoying.
  • Why is this annoying? It turns out that sometimes there’s an ethical, or commendable, or “yeah probably go for it” reason to dive into the fray and have an argument, or at least an argu-discussion.
  • Now that I do this less often, there’s a bit more inner resistance to the idea, a bit more justification required. And that justification process takes energy, thought, and emotion.
  • But sometimes it’s really clear: Someone is hurting people. It needs to stop. Something needs to be said. Your personal values and ethics may prod you and goad you and make you feel bad for not taking things more seriously.
  • (I will add here that since I’ve been studying cognitive blind spots for nearly a decade now, it’s also become easier to see how an argument might be won, and sometimes decisively, at that. Disappointingly though, it turns out that when people are confronted by their blind spots, they may depart from logic or reasoning entirely, and behave in embarrassing or even shameful ways. Yes, even INTJs. We’re all humans, man)

Also, outside of arguments, another example:

  • I find that I can’t be as serious with really serious people. They wear me out more than they used to; I kind of mentioned this above.
  • This can leave me feeling somewhat less effective with serious types.
  • I used to be a serious type.
  • So could I even help my past self? Would my past self absolutely hate who I’ve become?
  • This is oddly troubling, especially when I come across an INTJ who reminds me of my past self. I don’t think I would have had an easy time making it beyond past-self’s rigorous filtering system.
  • Part of me is still that guy, and therefore some feelings of dissonance can arise.
  • Looking back on past-self, I can also see that I narrowly avoided some much worse outcomes in life. That’s scary to consider. At the same time I start to wonder what other, better outcomes currently I’m missing out on.
  • One never knows—but still, this is an emotional process. It’s hard to think about for a while without feeling energy draining away.

Where this puts me

Realizing how easy it is to effectively dichotomize things into “am I serious or NOT,” I have been considering a more nuanced way of modeling this. I want my silly, funny side to have lots of opportunities to develop. And I also want my serious, serious, ever-so-serious side to develop into something with less of an emotional bar tab.

My sense right now is that my silly side would benefit if I set more boundaries around the serious side so that I can feel more free to be an easygoing guy. In other words, how long will I be super serious about topic X, on a weekly or daily basis? Even a half hour might be too much, depending on the circumstances. So this will require some thought and even some planning.

On another axis, I want to continue developing in a way that is more likely to help bring happiness and good energy to those around me.

And I want to have time to do my own stuff, too, even if no one else is into it at all. I mean, I’m not just going around thinking about boundaries and planning all day. No thanks.

There are a lot of questions like this that have come up lately, as I become less of an INTJ and more of something(s) else(s).

Filed in: Essays /52/ | Control /110/ | Relationships /78/ | Energy /120/ | People /73/ | Therapeutic Practice /144/ | Feeling /64/ | Parenting /5/

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