Why Is Everyone So Emotionally Detached? - David Brooks

Why Is Everyone So Emotionally Detached? - David Brooks

We Are Ignoring Our Emotions (00:00:00)

  • David Brooks reflects on his journey to become more emotionally vulnerable and available, acknowledging the challenges of expressing emotions due to cultural norms, fear of vulnerability, desire for control, and fear of intimacy.
  • He emphasizes the importance of emotional expression and connection with others, despite the discomfort and uncertainty that may come with it.
  • Brooks describes his own experience in therapy as challenging but necessary for confronting his emotional avoidance strategies and gaining a deeper understanding of himself.
  • He highlights the significance of surrendering control and embracing uncertainty in relationships, as true connection requires vulnerability and the willingness to be seen in one's fullness.
  • Emotional detachment can serve as a protective mechanism against being hurt, but it can also hinder meaningful connections.
  • Choosing a life partner is a crucial decision that significantly impacts happiness more than career success.
  • Therapy can be seen as a process of story editing, where individuals work with a therapist to find a more accurate and effective narrative for their lives.

Emotions Allow Us to Experience Life (00:05:34)

  • Emotional detachment arises from believing in a smooth, predictable life narrative, leading to a lack of self-awareness and an inability to address personal issues.
  • Recognizing recurring patterns of problems in personal relationships and behaviors indicates that the individual is the root cause of these issues.
  • Emotional openness and vulnerability are essential for experiencing the full range of human emotions and cultivating meaningful relationships.
  • Suppressing emotions and avoiding difficult experiences can lead to a disconnect from the "Holy sources of life" and hinder personal growth.
  • Beholding, a warm and appreciative gaze, represents a deep level of knowing and loving someone, transcending mere observation and inspection.
  • The speaker believes that the highest and lowest points in life involve relationships.

The Vulnerability of Being Open (00:11:09)

  • Emotions are crucial for rational thinking and decision-making as they assign value and indicate progress towards or away from goals.
  • The "Overton window" concept applies to emotions, with some individuals experiencing a wider range of emotions than others.
  • Stoicism, while protective, may also shield individuals from the world's beauty.
  • Neuroscience studies show that brain lesions affecting emotional processing impair rational decision-making, debunking the myth of separate reason and emotion.
  • Emotional granularity, the ability to distinguish between different emotions, is essential for understanding and managing one's emotional state.
  • Reading literature, attending plays, and experiencing different cultures can enhance emotional vocabulary and understanding.
  • The speaker mentions a British word describing a "second-order proxy cringe" for someone else and a German word describing the sensation migratory birds feel when prevented from migrating.
  • Raised in a Jewish family in New York, the speaker's upbringing emphasized thinking Yiddish but acting British, resulting in a reserved and emotionally restrained family culture.

How to Balance Rationality & Emotion (00:16:16)

  • Emotional detachment can be overcome by fostering deeper connections with others through meaningful conversations.
  • Engage in active listening by giving full attention and avoiding "topping" others' experiences.
  • Develop the skill of asking thought-provoking questions that encourage self-reflection and exploration of personal values and beliefs.
  • The author attended a dinner party with a Dutch couple and a black couple, where they discussed how their ancestors influence their lives.

Society’s Lack of Earnestness (00:21:11)

  • British culture lacks earnestness, especially among young people.
  • The fear of being seen as unsophisticated or lacking intellectual depth discourages open and vulnerable conversations.
  • Banter, a form of sarcastic and cutting back-and-forth, can shut down opportunities for deeper discussions.
  • Nodding is a powerful nonverbal cue that conveys attention and encourages speakers to continue.
  • Oprah Winfrey's use of different nods demonstrates the range of nonverbal responses.
  • Nodding during conversations, even when listening to a podcast, can extend the length of sentences and enhance engagement.

Reacting to Sean Strickland & Theo Von (00:24:17)

  • David Brooks discusses a conversation between UFC champion Sean Strickland and comedian Theo Von.
  • Strickland becomes emotional and starts crying, while Von comforts him and holds space for him.
  • Brooks praises Von's response as an example of the art of presence and emotional support.
  • Brooks emphasizes the importance of being present and holding space for others when they are sharing their stories and emotions.
  • He shares an anecdote about his student, Jillian Sawyer, who received support from her friends during a difficult time.
  • Brooks also mentions a friend who lost a daughter in Afghanistan and the importance of acknowledging and raising her memory.
  • He highlights the value of practical acts of kindness, such as a friend providing a shower mat during a difficult time.

Seeing Each Other More Deeply (00:27:40)

  • Cultural factors, such as British humor as a defense mechanism, can contribute to emotional detachment.
  • Our evolutionary adaptation to smaller social groups makes it easier to remain aloof in larger modern societies.
  • Time constraints and efficiency-driven mindsets hinder the patience required to build deep relationships.
  • People enjoy sharing their life stories and appreciate being asked about them.
  • We tend to overestimate others' lives and fear appearing deficient, leading to emotional detachment.
  • Despite common perceptions, everyone has struggles and demons that others may not be aware of.
  • Emotional detachment can result from a lack of opportunity for self-expression due to social stigma.
  • Genuine conversations involve a balanced exchange of personal information and experiences.
  • "Diminishers" stereotype and make assumptions, while "illuminators" show genuine curiosity and make others feel valued.
  • Jenny Jerome's experience highlights the power of perception in shaping self-perception.
  • Making others feel entertained, funny, and clever positively contributes to society.

How to Be Comfortable With Feelings (00:33:48)

  • Emotional detachment can result from a focus on career success and control, but moments of suffering can reveal deeper aspects of oneself and create a need for spiritual and relational fulfillment.
  • Relying on others for support and forming deep connections can help overcome emotional detachment, and emotional availability can be cultivated through immersion in environments where it is the norm.
  • Personal growth and emotional transformation can occur over time, leading to a more open and fulfilled spirit.
  • As people age, they enter a phase called "generativity," where they feel a desire to be of service to the world and give back.

The Powerful Use of Silence (00:41:42)

  • Oprah uses silence effectively during interviews, especially when the interviewee is sharing something sad.
  • Silence creates an emptiness that encourages the interviewee to continue talking.
  • Social skills are like any other skill and can be learned and improved.
  • Trying to give people who are depressed ideas on how to get out of depression shows that you don't understand their condition.
  • Depressed people are not lacking ideas; they are lacking other things.
  • Cognitive reframing, reminding people of the good things in their life, can make them feel worse.
  • Depressed people may feel shame for not being able to enjoy the positive aspects of their life.

How to Notice People Who Are Down (00:44:44)

  • Acknowledge the reality of the situation and show empathy.
  • Express goodwill and let them know you want more for them.
  • Maintain constant touches and let them know you are thinking of them.
  • Remind them that life still expects things of them and they have responsibilities to the world.
  • Admire their courage in embracing life despite their struggles.
  • Invulnerability: We pretend to be strong and invulnerable, hiding our true selves.
  • Egotism: We are too focused on performing and maintaining our image.
  • Social media: The culture of judgment and comparison on social media makes us put up walls.
  • Fear of being judged: We are constantly worried about what others think of us.
  • Escape artistry: We avoid personal conversations and escape from uncomfortable situations.
  • Lack of trust: We are afraid of being betrayed if we open up and trust others.

The Bravery of Being Open (00:49:06)

  • People often feel uncomfortable showing vulnerability, especially men.
  • Showing vulnerability is associated with weakness and can be used against someone.
  • Pretending not to feel emotions is not braver than expressing them.
  • Vulnerability is a good strategy for life and building relationships, but it should be done at the right pace.
  • Women do not dump guys because they are too vulnerable.
  • The main reason women dump guys is because they don't communicate or create a mutual, open, and loving relationship.

How to End a Conversation Better (00:52:26)

  • To leave a positive impression in a conversation, mention specific things the other person said that interested you.
  • Americans are generally more enthusiastic and open to conversation compared to other cultures.
  • Your appearance and treatment of others greatly impact their perception of you.
  • A positive outlook on the world and people leads to more positive interactions.
  • Initiate positive energy in conversations and interactions.
  • The speaker reflects on their emotional attachment to certain individuals and emphasizes the importance of choosing one's own actions rather than waiting for someone else to determine them.
  • Holding space for others involves adapting to their needs without compromising one's own values and beliefs.

Questions to Make a Conversation Deeper (00:57:43)

  • Use storytelling questions to get people into story mode.
  • Ask "how did you come to believe that" instead of "what do you believe about this" to encourage storytelling.
  • Use the "take me back" method to find out who people were in high school and how they have changed.
  • Make people authors, not witnesses, by asking for details when they are telling you about an event.

Where to Find David Brooks (01:00:59)

  • David Brooks can be found on the New York Times webpage once a week.
  • He is also at the Atlantic.
  • His book can be purchased on Amazon.

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