including and especially complicated relationships
I can't help but feel that children demand black and white thinking and view the world in simple terms. A culture that endorses perpetual childhood is setting itself up for failure.
If everything is so simple, why do we need therapy to unpack it?
> It’s been two decades, but I still feel jittery when I think of an old boss of mine.
> Jesus Christ! Two decades? Move on and grow up!
In the author's partial defense, people cannot choose what weird grains of sand get stuck in the cogs of their mind. Partial, because... look, if I was nursing a grudge strong enough to come to my mind unbidden two decades hence, I would think, "hmm, I'm not going to beat myself up over this, but it can't be healthy to have this knocking around in my brain and I should bring this up with a professional", not, "I should use this as an opener to an article in a national paper."
So I do have to wonder if the author's own therapist is really earning their keep...
"But that’s my favorite sort of person, the kind who isn’t blandly likable and safe to know, but rather extracts a cost to be close to and then repays that cost with rare and complicated gifts of personality."
I know this is from a different article, but my god, what an absolute jewel of a description.
Couldn't agree more with this sentiment:
"The studies here don’t inspire me with confidence; they’re exactly the kind that keep failing to replicate, and when you check how they’re operationalized, it’s always some sort of dubious self-reported scale."
Preach. I actually stopped reading that stupid Grant article when he cited those studies as "proof" that ambiguous relationships were harmful. This many years into the replication crisis, the idea that anyone takes these kind of soft psych studies as proof of ANYTHING is, frankly, nuts.
My marriage is a complicated, ambiguous relationship. He's complicated, and if I'm honest, so am I (rather). Were one to assess my impression of it via InterPersonal Ambivalence Units, well, let's just say that some days, they'd be off the chart. Some days. But thirty-four years later, here we are. Always challenged; never bored. He likes to say, If two people think alike, one isn't needed.
This is one of the best pieces you've ever written. Poor Grant!
“Simplicity” is one of the hallmarks of cult thinking - the binary - you’re either with us or against us - it’s this or that - Us and Them.
Excellent, excellent piece. It brings to mind ongoing atomization of our society, something that's been criticized from a number of different political and cultural perspectives. Ultimately I think we are being ill served by bombardment with the message that nothing should hurt, or be weird or awkward ever. What I hate most is that this has become a reactionary sentiment, when really the core of a not only liberal but humanist mindset involves a willingness to accept some risk to our feelings and to our egos.
You had me at Microsoft Excel, but lost me at cricket, a game I've never understood.
So I'm ambivalent about this piece.
This was an enormously heartening read for me. I am the one in my family who everyone sees as toxic and conservative because I am conflict oriented. I’m way leftier than they but the Trump presidency really ‘traumatized’ their delicate centrist sensibilities so they view me as a mean guy to their right because I dare to say that Trump is just another in a long line of shit presidents that America totally deserved. Anyway, totes can concur: these people have become so hyper-sensitive but also refractory that even the most constructive, mild and or natural critique is ‘literal violence’. I’ve given up trying to reach their better angels, or devils as it were.
Surviving generations will look back and be like ‘ the world was on fire but they were too busy feeling traumatized by an ambivalent friend who laughed at their emotional support animal’
Sorry, this was too long and complicated; didn't read it. I'm assuming it's well written, but I'd probably be annoyed by it because it would make me think. I think I'll wait for one of your shorter pieces where you dunk on the lefties that aren't lefty enough.
"Turns out the right answer is usually pretty simple, and complexity and ambiguity are how terrible people live with themselves."
Well said, David. What good people do is publicly brand people fascists for the unforgivable sin of expressing a nuanced opinion.
This is a false dichotomy. Complexity/ambiguity should not be an end unto itself. Where necessary and required, then they are as it should be, and should be embraced. But to needlessly foist complexity/ambiguity on a subject/situation/problem/conversation would also be idiotic.
This is interesting. We share a pretty similar hatred of pop psychology and all its idiotic trappings and self-justifications and promotions of reflexive weakness. But I found Grant's column to be pretty compelling. I've had a few bosses like that, and a few friends—people whose moods and dispositions seem to whipsaw back and forth, whose treatment and estimation of me seems to change with no coherent rules or deeper meaning. It's not like there's "ambiguity" or "complexity" in these situations; it's like there's chaos, like an abusive spouse sort of situation, like Carlo and Connie—"You just told me to make you dinner!" No rules, just complete unpredictably and regular unpleasantness.
I was friends with a guy for years and we argued with, and sniped at, each other all the time, always at each other's throats over this or that—but we had a very strong relationship, there was never any doubt about it, our disagreements never went outside a sort of boundary of mutual understanding. The issue I think Grant was hitting at is when nothing seems to make sense in the relationship; the problem isn't, "He was nice to me yesterday and now I feel like he was a bit grumpy," it's, "He was nice to me yesterday and today he told me I was a fucking moron and couldn't do anything right." Those are the kinds of relationships that feel really destabilizing and that take a toll on people's mental healths in a severe sort of way.