Emotional sunglasses

This is another rabbit hole into emotions and navigating a planet with HUMANS (at least the version of humans that currently exist, that I am familiar with/exposed to in 2023).

Humans are emotional creatures.

Have you heard this before? Has anyone every told you this?

People used to tell me this and I would always roll my eyes. It was a frustrated type of eye roll: “ugh, this comment again.”

I would say, so what? So what???? I could accept that humans are NOT robots—they do have emotions. But does that have to mean that humans are creatures with UNCONTROLLABLE emotions?

The strange loop described above kept happening until I opened my eyes and saw the irony—I was the one emotionally reacting! It was right in front of me. I was uncontrollably FRUSTRATED by a comment some other human had made. What an irony…

So then I came to the conclusion—the reality is multi-faceted: people have emotions, people sometimes have control of their emotions (and on the contrary, sometimes they intentionally or often unintentionally lose control of their emotions), people sometimes have awareness of their emotions (and similarly they sometimes have some or all awareness of their emotions lost), and PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY, you cannot change people (super quickly).

So what do you do?

What do you do in these positions? Forget the particular positions—how do you BE in a world with this sort of ~gravity.

I used to think—well, if people were just robots, a lot of this ~stuff~ would be a lot easier. Stuff in this case alludes to a lot of things in my life—like building companies or solving problems or etc.—where my objective is basically to get people to do what I want. And to do this, in today’s world (depending on the person), I often employ some sort of “strategy.” Strategy can be fun but for me this is not the fun sort of strategy because it involves leaving the logic world and entering the emotions world.

The logic world is based in an equation of sorts. A puzzle you can figure out. Or at least try to figure out. The emotions world adds this unexplainable confounding variable—the reminder that people are people, too and they will behave rationally irrational.

(I will add, before I get quite too far along, that I no longer wish I lived in a world with only robots. Not that I ever really deeply wanted to live in that world all the time (just in certain circumstances I certainly longed for it). I do not think this world would be enjoyable or productive because I think the human-ness of emotions adds a lot of richness to life and a lot of ideas/progress/fulfillment comes from that shape of life. Technology has a place, and I think accelerationism/accelerating to the limits of technology, as a means for ending suffering/reducing friction/increasing fairness is certainly a thing that is generally good. But what will it be for without humans? Or at least…what will it be for if it eliminates the human-ness of humans? I think there’s a version of the world—one we are actually not that far from—where there is a mass extinction of humans. Not in terms of dying like laying to rest. But rather that we lose the HUMANITY of humans. We lose the creativity. We become formal sheep. Cogs. People who are caught scrolling all day. Trapped on the treadmill. So yes, I STRUGGLE interacting with people, especially most people and especially when trying to coordinate on problem solving AND I think that people—the people side of people—are important to life.)

So yes, if you are working with people, understanding that variable—call it EQ or whatever you want to call it—_may_ be a pre-requisite to getting them to do what you want. I would not call it a formal pre-req (you can just tell people what to do directly, I would say that can work and sometimes does work in the right environment a la military perhaps) but I would add in general being able to EXPLAIN AND UNDERSTAND THE HUMAN VARIABLE IN THE EQUATION can increase your odds of success.

To do this well, I have learned to live through my feelings (and less depend on the cognitive side). Note that RACING to the “safety” of the cognitive brain is more than likely a protection technique/defense mechanism for myself. It is both (dialectically) comforting and ineffective. I am lured by the comfort. I am depressed by the ineffectiveness. And in order to think through your own feelings—consider thinking about your emotions through the lens of your emotional sunglasses.

Your glasses—everyone has them—are like a filter for life. Consider putting on the filter where things process through you EMOTIONALLY rather than cognitively. Sometimes, the tint gets stronger. Especially when you are “triggered.” Your emotional sunglasses are invisible. You do not always know that you have them on. But you feel it. Sometimes in your head but often physically (somatically it is called). Sometimes you REALLY feel it. And this is a whole exercise—allowing things to flow through you (there are whole practices to get better at this and would encourage you to explore. Explore accepting things. Surrendering. Go on an emotional surfing expedition).

But that is not what this essay is about. This essay is about NOTICING when others have their emotional sunglasses on.

You do not actually need to be precise about this exercise. I think there is a lot of false precision where you think you can read other people’s minds but it turns out you are wrong and you have made the wrong assumptions and that leads to all sorts of problems.

Rather than try to guess exactly what they are thinking, a super high leverage technique and breakthrough for me though was simply becoming more adept at RECOGNIZING WHEN WE, in a conversation of sorts, HAVE LEFT THE LOGIC REALM. So, more in a binary way, FIGURE OUT WHEN PEOPLE ARE ACTING EMOTIONALLY, or when the emotions are starting to seep in.

Think of the emotions like a virus of sorts. As soon as they enter the conversation, you can immediately start to discount what the other person is saying. Discount maybe the wrong framing—but you can begin to more accurately pick up what the other person is trying to say.

The emotions want the attention, not the person. The emotions will put up a great fight. They pack a punch. And sooner or later you will realize that you are not talking to a person rooted in logic, you are talking to a human consumed by emotions. Your counterpart will not realize it.

Maybe another analogy could be that the emotions add another dimension to the conversation. They are almost like the person is starting to speak in another language or they are saying things and now it is coming through with an accent. Actually judging that accent and including it in how you assess what they are saying will give you clues to figuring out what is actually (consciously and subconsciously) going through the other person’s head.

So my question to you that I would love for you to ask yourself in a discussion—are the emotional sunglasses on?

Again, you can (and probably should) do this exercise with yourself. Some people have an easier time doing it with yourself and sometimes it is easier to see it with other people. Do not make the mistake of thinking that everyone else wears the glasses and that you are somehow immune. There is no escaping, really, no matter how trained you are, there is only awareness, which will help you become more patient and start saving your reactions for later (patience!).

How do you know if someone else is wearing their sunglasses?

Once you start seeing this, it is hard to stop. It comes through via email and also in live conversations (I suggest talking in person if you can, as a means to figure out what mood the other person is in more directly).

Anyways, figuring out where someone is—in the emotional realm versus logic realm—is generally quite obvious.

It generally starts with some sort of comment. Some comment that is out of left field or not related to the point you were making. Some place where the person you are speaking with leaves the arena to tend to their emotional creature that needs attention.

They say something that so clearly speaks to the desire to FEEL HEARD. The desire to feel important. The desire to be right. No matter what you say, they resort to these statements—almost child like in ways!

At this point, but likely well before this, I usually realize that we (we being the people in and observing the discussion) have LEFT THE LOGICAL ARGUMENT REALM and entered the world of ~emotions~. Once people have their emotional sunglasses on, the ones that have a really powerful FEELINGS FILTER on them, they tend to speak their mind, passionately, but not rooted in rationality, but rather how they feel.

Anything you say, no matter how logical it is, will immediately run into a wall. A wall that is your counterparty’s (or you can call them an opponent if the argument is truly adversarial in nature) defense that comes in the form of feelings and emotions. A feelings grenade if you will. I was never the biggest Pokemon player in the world, but imagine they are playing a Pokemon that comes in the form of an emotional wall.

Now, very very very rarely will you be in a discussion where the other counterpart ADMITS to being in the feelings world. I do not blame them. It is sometimes hard to know that you are in the feelings world. It is almost if you time travel into the feelings world suddenly and unless you take inventory of your headspace (and realize that someone strapped the emotional sunglasses to your face), you will not even realize it. You will not realize that what you are seeing is not reality but rather an entirely distorted view of reality. A view that is twisted due to your emotional perception of things. A view that makes you feel more volatile. Like people are out to get you. A view that makes it harder to form rational thoughts because your thoughts are rooted in some deep sense of emotions.

Perhaps the emotions are intense. They are like a blinding light. Every thought you have, while starting out naively innocent, goes through the blender of emotions such that it comes out looking funky? to the naked bystander.

Perhaps it goes through a depressing/cynical filter. Where everything you see is default negative. Default wrong. Never going to work. No matter what!

Perhaps it goes through a positive filter. This has to work! It will work. It will!

Perhaps it becomes all about them. Perhaps it becomes all about protecting them.

The list goes on. Emotions come in many flavors.

They come through what is said but also what is not said.

You can ignore these cues or you can actually read into them (and this will be like DUH OBVIOUSLY for the eq-advanced amongst us). And you can use these cues to shape your answers.

Now if you are reading this with any level of frustration at the idea of needing to cater to those with uncontrollable emotions—I pose to you what worked for me. You being frustrated is you having uncontrollable emotions. So you have a choice—do you respond IN CONTROL or do you respond, well, like them…like a child.

I mention child like behavior because I think, and do not know, that a lot of people—supposed adults—actually have not or perhaps never grow out of this very childish behavior. I think they (and probably me) never got “Trained” in this category of maturity. They reacted emotionally growing up as a way to get what they wanted and that worked? sometimes or didn’t work and they still default to it.

Now let’s not blame the parents per se. The emotional sunglasses do come installed in the latest model of humans, thanks to MILLIONS OF YEARS of evolution.

These emotions are often a derivative of the fight or flight reaction. They are not quite as powerful as they were back in the day when a lion was chasing you—I don’t think. Now they come through in a different form factor.

So the thought and message and THING from this essay is just be aware. Everyone is wearing emotional sunglasses. Sometimes, the tint really goes strong and people stop seeing reality. They will not realize this. You do not have to tell them (and telling them honestly often makes them aggravated and is not very productive). But you should be aware if you care about effectiveness. You should also look in the mirror every so often, to see yourself wearing the glasses as well.