Humans may not be complicated

A rather ridiculous percentage of this blog has been consumed by a topic that is (and has been) consuming me (for many many years). Perhaps it is not ridiculous but it is substantial (in volume and depth).

The topic I am referring to is broadly the notion of “interpersonal dynamics.”

Interpersonal is just a fancy term for saying “relating to relationships or communication between people.” Interpersonal dynamics tend to be complicated, just as human beings tend to be complicated. Perhaps this admission of mine here is a projection—is interacting with other humans always complicated?

I would think the answer to that question is no. Yet, I often feel like I am slamming my head against the wall as I engage with other people. I feel like I am spinning in circles trying to logic my way through human psychology. And I feel like I keep, no matter how hard I try, getting the answer wrong. This spiral—and yes I will call it a spiral—is my absolute worst nightmare (on repeat).

The spiral starts similarly every time. By starts, I mean this is how I observe it starts. But my observation is likely not comprehensive of the entire story. because the story to me is quite straightforward and consistent.

It starts with what appears to me to be a misunderstanding. Someone wants a thing, but they are not saying that they want said thing from me. So I do not know they want said thing from me. Instead, they are saying they want a different thing. I fixate on providing them that other thing. But in doing so, they get upset, frustrated, and angry with me. They tell me that I do not get it. That I am missing the point. I am doing what they say, or so I think. This is just my version of the story. Of course, the other side also has a point of view. But I do not know what I am missing. Cognitively, I enter the monkey cage, and then things start to turn dim.

I think about feeling hopeless. But it does not immediately start there. It starts with curiosity. And then turns to frustration. Then anger. Then disappointment. Then sadness. Then loneliness. Then hopelessness. My brain has run these tracks before. I have written through these tears before. I get caught on the treadmill, and I do not know where to turn.

YET I DO KNOW WHERE TO TURN. The answer is here, and throughout this blog. I have analyzed and micro-analyzed every corner of this emotional warehouse. And I know exactly where good becomes bad and bad becomes terrible. And I know that my emotional sunglasses are on—and that I am not seeing things perfectly clearly. That is an understatement, I know I am falling victim to hyperbole and falling victim to thinking I am a victim. Both of those are grossly unproductive and not things I care about.

But alas my head keeps hitting the wall. I feel weak. I feel like I come from—mentally—a place of weakness. And I feel like weak me showing up in conversation reeks of insecurity. I become an energy vacuum. I want to be an enabler. A factory.

So I reset my prompt…why above do I admit that humans are complicated? Why do I tell myself that story? Why do I repeat that humans are complex organisms and trying to explain them does not make sense?

Complicated is not inherently bad—in fact, many great things in life have complexity—but it does make things hard to model. When I say hard to model, I mean hard to represent with an equation or benchmark or example. People are complex multi-dimensional creatures with many conscious and subconscious inputs that result in a variety of unpredictable outputs.

I have failed to successfully participate in interpersonal dynamics to the degree I have wanted to for many years. By participate, what I mean to say is I have been frustrated by communication and relationships for many years.

And the above—the PEOPLE ARE COMPLEX THINGS story—is what I have been telling myself for years. But maybe it is the wrong story. Maybe the right story is actually far simpler and more explanatory and yet I am choosing not to hear it because I am emotionally blind.

What if the story, more simply modeled, was that humans want to feel safe? And that that biological trait drives everything. Safe can be defined in many ways, and does depend on who you are talking to and who they are (and more importantly who they think they are). Safety can range from emotional to physical to psychological safety.

Perhaps people just want safety. Anything that threatens safety is a risk. And any sufficiently large risk threatens the weak man/woman. Threatens to the point where they enter the fight or flight emotional sunglass world. A world where no amount of cognition can really explain decision making beyond the story I have been telling myself which is that humans are complicated.

People feel not safe when they actually start to look at themselves in the mirror. When they receive direct feedback, or when my brain cuts through the noise and tell them what I actually think about a thing, people begin to feel unsafe.

Their identity is crumbling. The thing they tell themselves—their mantra—starts to waver.

They try to protect this in many ways. I have done this before. It is commonly in the form of defensiveness. You tell them the truth and they start to lash out. They raise their voice. They start to pick on you. They start to bully you. That is them trying to protect their emotional wall from breaking. They lash out to distract from themselves. They are too afraid to really dance with their own devil. So they outsource their worry to you. They blame you for their problems—but you have nothing to do with them. They view the world through a projector, not a magnifying glass. They are not seeing out, they are just externalizing the emotional clouds that are occupying their heart. And so they may win the battle, but they do not win the war this way.

So if we modeled all humans as simply slightly more sophisticated dogs. Dogs who want to wake up every day and eat as much as they can so they can satisfy physical, emotional, and psychological safety. And when their safety is in jeopardy—perhaps they think you don’t like them, or they think that you are not good for them in some way, etc.—they will start to act out. They will start to confuse reality with projection.

So much of what we see in the world is skewed by how we feel about the world. So much of how we feel about the world comes from our past. Not from the moment but from past trauma. From instances where our eyes misled us before. From times where our heart and brain got in a fight.

That is the filter on reality. We all have it. Some of us are able to turn it on and off with more command. Others always have it on. And when you challenge it or try to make peace with it—I think the only story I can tell myself is that creature you are talking to just wants to feel safe. That is all. Just like a terrified dog. Whimpering in the rain. They want protection. They want identity. They want to be sufficiently important. They want to not get left behind. They want to be part of the pack. The pack they think is sufficiently cool to provide sufficient protection.

There is nothing more.

That is the story.

That is all that people want. Safety.

Just like cavemen hovering around the fire. What drives people is a quest to find eternal safety. They often start by looking outwards. They pick up materials. They make money. And they build houses. They try to have friends. And fans. And people to build that safety net for them.

But at the end of the day. They have to realize that safety is not a group activity. Safety—your safety—is in your hands. It is in your heart. And your brain. And the only way to unlock it, to really feel safe being you, is to look inside.

No one else will give you safety. No amount of money. No amount of attention. No amount of validation.

Safety is a you thing.

Your safety is in your hands. You have to realize that. When you do, you can pursue agency and progress.

Similarly, other’s safety, even the people you care a ton about, is not in your hands. You can try to protect them. You can buy them things. You can buy them guides.

But they have to WANT IT. They have to want to be safe in a way that is compatible with you. You cannot force that. Well, you can try, but you will not get results that you like if your ambition is acceptance.

So yes. The story above is not a complicated one.