Comment of the Day: Where Are References to Non-Professional Emotional Events in My Life?

Steve Silberman of Wired left a poignant comment on my post Partitioning the Emotional Events in Your Life:

That’s all true in a professional sense, and is a valuable insight. But one notable thing about reading this blog is that, for documenting the internal and external process of a passionate 18-year-old guy, there are remarkably few references to emotional events that don’t somehow involve work, your career trajectory, and other practical matters. It’s a little too easy I think for people to see that and say, “Well, thank God! Ben is not one of those kids who waste their days mooning about failed or potential romances. It’s a sign of his advanced maturity.”

Maybe you should also be thinking about discovering and cultivating the emotions that you are capable of with others, as you also develop the ability to strictly “partition” these feelings?

I am blessed to have Steve in my life, not only for his intelligence but because he tells it as he sees it and frequently challenges meon points (which I love much more than simple agreement!).Steve is extremely empathetic and projects a high level of emotional intelligence, a capacity I’ve repeatedly argued more important than mere IQ. I’ve found it impossible to be dishonest with Steve — not that I’m dishonest with others, but I have this sense that he sees right through me, can anticipate what I’m about to say, and if I don’t say what I’m truly thinking, will continue to dig. He is, after all, a journalist for a reason! I say this for two reasons. First, it’s because I think Steve identified something spot-on, not unusual for him and me. Second, it’s because I think Steve is projecting how he deals with these topics in life (and how he would if he were blogging) — openly and honestly.

I think I write so prolifically about professional stuff – if you count things like effectiveness or general intellectual banter as “professional” – because I think I’ve figured a bunch of things out in this domain. And I can share them and refine them. On the personal level, I still have many questions. I have never fallen in love, felt intense grief or sadness, or even figured out the rules and regs of physical attraction. These aren’t things I want to blog about – yet. (Side note: I rarely think about personal and professional as split — work and fun are usually the same for me!)

I concede that discovering and cultivating emotions of the heart-tugging sort is not something I’ve done a lot of in my brief time on this planet. Intellectual camaraderie has been the primary driver in my relationships (as well as humor – I love funny people). No, I don’t spend all day every day engaged in serious discourse about worldy things. God no. To the contrary, I tend to enjoy carefree moments with friends, relish the interpersonal rapport I have with them, and take a serious interest in their lives and the emotional ups and downs we experience together. I have close personal relationships. But the spirited pursuit of ideas and intellectual growth is my overarching consumption right now, and I’m loving every second of it.

But, you say, these are not mutually exclusive ideas: Ben, why can’t you be equally committed to intellectual life and to emotional life, such as a romance, crying with a friend, and so forth? Get a girlfriend for Christ’s sake! Well, I still have a ways to go in terms of personal growth. Give me some time! But mainly, I’m really really happy and excited about life right now. I do subscribe to the mantra, “If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway” but I also know that adolescence is a crazy, psychotic period in people’s lives, and I’m not terribly interested in changing a formula that’s worked well so far.

I’m not convinced, by the way, that the more stereotypical teenage routine of sitting around and “waste[ing] their days mooning about failed or potential romances” is particularly useful if the goal is developing and cultivating deep emotions.  I know teens who do this and I’m not sure they’re any farther along on the “emotional development” continuum than me. More, so much of “failed or potential romance” is cheap shit, not the real stuff, at least from my vantage point. Romance, in most teenage culture, is analogous to TV dinners. See: fuck buddies.

I should also note that this is a blog. It is a personal blog, far more personal than most, but it is still a blog. Thus it’s not the totality of me, it’s simply the me I choose to write about. Which is most of it.

Finally, I have posted a little on these topics. “Ben Is Insensitive and Like a Machine” or I’m Going to Break Ben’s Shell or How Do Hyperambitious Workaholics Get In Touch With Their Sensual Side. I’ve posted on sadness being the most underrated human emotion. I’ve posted on never having felt deep sadness or grief (a double edged blessing).

Thanks Steve for bringing this up!

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