Lost in the cognitive exercise

How do you know if someone cares about you? Oof, another big meaty prompt.

There are thousands of ways I could slice this question. My head, as it often does, goes immediately cognitive. How do I assess whether or not someone cares about me: Is caring about showing support for other people? Is it about telling others what they want to hear? Is it about being authentic with people? Is it about being there for you? How do you measure CARING-ness?

If I ignore the cognitive for a moment—easier said than done because man, logic is ENTICING for a person like me—and instead focus on the FEELINGS (harder to write about, harder to rationalize about, but there nonetheless), how does being with someone who “cares” about you make you feel? What does your body feel when you are around someone who cares about you? Or forget even being physically around someone, just THINK about someone who cares about you? How does that feel? Try another test: how would it feel to NOT have someone who cares about you? What comes to mind? What emotions do you feel? How would you describe those emotions?

There is no right answer or neighborhood of “correct” answers to any of these questions. I imagine, though, you could learn a _lot_ about an individual based on how they answered these questions. I also imagine that you would get VERY different answers from people that would differ greatly depending upon their life experience. I would be curious how to model these prompts—what EQUATION OF LIFE would get you to feel a particular way in answering these questions. What are the most EXPLANATORY variables in said equation. What matters most in dictating whether or not or how you feel about _caring_ about others?

In a lot of ways, and this is something I have written about in different flavors many times before, these questions have to do with INDEPENDENCE, attachment, and control.

One BIG question to me, of the long list of potential questions related to the above topics, is _who_ determines whether or not you are caring?

Hmmm. “Interesting” prompt—we can ignore the implications of the answer (or potential answers) for a moment and instead focus on the prompt. You could imagine answering this at least two ways (three if you are someone who leans towards saying that God determines this).

One way of answering would be saying that _you_ determine this. You are the arbiter of your own actions and only you can judge your integrity, honesty, and care you show for others.

Another way of answering could be saying that _they_ determine this. They are the people around you that can tell you whether or not they feel cared for.

Okay, both sound reasonable, and we do not necessarily need to pick one. I do think, though, that having your personal integrity defined by others can cause very troubling self talk. Other people, even those really close to you, often only know a portion of your life. It is difficult sometimes to parse out if, when others are talking to you, they are talking to you OR AT YOU (and trying to vent for themselves). The latter happens more often than you would think.

People tell you they are telling you things because they care about you. Sure, that could be a piece of the puzzle. But another piece could be that THEY want to get something off of their chest. Or they want to feel important. Or they do not want to lose you.

A bit of a cynical way to view the world—others are coming to you to help you, and the reaction or story you tell yourself is they are doing this to PROTECT THEMSELVES. Oof, how do we reconcile this? Just because it is cynical, does not _mean_ it is not true.

Genuinely, I have wrestled with this question. I have had situations in my life as of late that have been _less than great_ and have been LUCKY to have people come to my aid.

And yet, the story I told myself in those situations—HOW EGOCENTRIC OF ME BUT YES I AM BEING VULNERABLE WITH MYSELF HERE—was: “this cannot be genuine. This is not for me. This is for them.”

And logically…this story made (some) sense? Here is an example—let’s say that I have a fever. And my friend texts me every day for the next week: “how is the fever?”

In my brain, the story I told myself was, ASKING ME DOES NOT HELP. WHY ARE THEY ASKING ME. THEY ARE ASKING ME FOR THEM NOT FOR ME.

And that story I think? made logical sense. Like, it was annoying. They were asking me because they wanted to _think_ they were helping. They wanted to protect themselves from being guilty or not being there for me. The story goes on and spirals down.

But…but…

What if there was another side here. What if, as described above, the _thing_ missing from the exercise was the FEELINGS AND EMOTION. (I imagine someone could be reading this, actually very likely to be reading this, rolling their eyes as MAN DISCOVERS EMOTIONS. Yes, you can roll your eyes.).

The missing piece of my logic was the UNEXPLAINED VARIABLE, {emotion}. Applied here, I should have recognized that people being there for me and caring about me actually DOES make me feel good and is something I care about. I will be more specific, actually, and the truth is that _certain people_ being there for me does mean something to me. And while I do think I lean on the side of independence, I do get lonely. I do not always like that feeling. I do get existential in that feeling. And I do value someone being there for me.

I may sound like I am convincing myself of this. I may sound like a robot. I may sound insane? These disclaimers are me projecting my discomfort with admitting? that I have PROTECTED MYSELF, for years, against feelings. Protected is maybe the wrong word. Protecting may imply that I am warding off something that is bad. Feelings provide a lot of good. They can be a big part of life.

But feelings can be SCARY. And me not confronting them. That is my problem, not theirs.

Instead, I have been running away. Running to the cognitive brain.

Getting lost in the cognitive exercise is a thing that happens to people (myself included). I am so so so attracted to the BEAUTY of numbers and logic. Is it the beauty? Or is it the simplicity? Is it, perhaps even more likely, the ATTRACTION TO CONTROL because logic can be explained but feelings—the uncontrollable—are often far more confusing.

So my challenge for myself is recognizing when I am getting lost in the cognitive. And just sitting there. And FEELING.

Even if it is scary. And hard.

Just sitting there.

Breathing.

Accepting the feelings. No matter how powerful they are—and the reality is that they are probably QUITE INTENSE AND LOUD AND ANGRY WITH ME because I have been neglecting them for SO SO MANY YEARS. They are the monkey in the cage that is hungry. This is their chance out.

My challenge for myself is taming them in the next few months and years.

Once the cage lets a little bit of light in, there is no closing it. I tried to close it. You cannot. And I do not want to. I used to want to. But life has more depth. Life has flavors and character.

I think I can unlock something pretty special if I can balance INDEPENDENCE with EXISTING ALONGSIDE THE WORLD and having dimensionality to life in a way that I did not before. More to come.


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