Longing for authentic relationships

Many people are accustomed to not be taken seriously when expressing their authentic selves as far as I can tell. This certainly included me.

We are programmed to accept sarcastic comebacks and cheap jokes to serious topics as “appropriate”, to the point where we can almost hear the inner voice telling them about ourselves, as if our lives should be treated with the same dignity as a bland sitcom on daytime TV.

It is therefore surprisingly difficult to have authentic and meaningful relationships today. I believe many people are longing for authentic relationships and they don’t know where to find them. There is a lot of suffering here.

I want to convince you that irony, poker-faced silence, and fear of ridicule are distinctive of those features of contemporary U.S. culture (of which cutting-edge fiction is a part) that enjoy any significant relation to the television whose weird, pretty hand has my generation by the throat. I’m going to argue that irony and ridicule are entertaining and effective, and that, at the same time, they are agents of a great despair and stasis in U.S. culture, and that, for aspiring fictionists, they pose terrifically vexing problems.

David Foster Wallace (source)

Shyness is blocking human potential

So we live in a culture where we aren’t emotionally attuned to each other, and a lot of people feel anxious about what to even reply to “how do you feel?”, other than with a go-to response such as “good”. In the book “Permission to feel” by Marc Brackett, the author convincingly makes argument the argument that we don’t even know how to answer the question.

This type of self-censorship is present in other contexts as well.

For instance, have you ever been to a lecture – say on math – where everyone pretends to understand, but no one actually does? Another example: Logically, the people that really ought to go to the gym (the obese) are the most shy about going. I can certainly attest to this. Shyness also explains why I didn’t dare to learn or even ask how to cook properly.

It is mind-boggling to me to imagine how much potential for self-improvement in society is left on the table because of something as petty as shyness.

Be the lead actor of your life

The perceived risk of becoming a social outcast by showing oneself vulnerable is exacerbated by mainstream media and its clickbait economics. But in order to be authentic – that is, in order to not act according a predefined script – we need to dare to take risk. Clearly something cyclical is going on here.

The shallowness propagated by mainstream TV is not an inevitable by-product of capitalism from my point of view. I think something inherent in us humans makes the shallowness inevitable, in particular our need for intimacy and to be part of a bigger social whole. Because there is something singularly powerful about the “megaphone quality” of mainstream TV, and the threat of which unintentionally keeps us in line.

Not allowing oneself to express oneself is the same as assuming the role of a background actor, an extra, in the figurative “TV show” that is one’s own life. You need to develop the courage to become the lead actor. Because this show only plays once.