You’ve been there before, I’m sure : you meet someone who listens, or seems to understand your preoccupations, and you realize you can maybe really talk with this person… and then you scare this person with your intensity (or your long emails).
I found this paragraph in a 1903 letter from Rainer Maria Rilke to Lou Andreas-Salomé. I did my best and tried a poor English translation :
… I always fall straightway, with all the weight of my passion, at the bottom, and I scare people, as would make a premature (almost unseemly) familiarity, by approaching at once the most secret and deepest layers; It is a fault, not to say a coarseness, of which they wonder, and to me a fault, a mania which excludes all real contact (that is to say, useful and fertile) with them;
So I decided to call this the Rilke Syndrome.
It triggers questions, right?
- What happens when you realize that? Embarrassment?
- How to avoid it without becoming a “thinker on an island”?
- What happens when the other person clicks?
- How to link this syndrome to sapiosexuality? (Sapiosexual : a person who is sexually attracted to intelligence or the human mind before appearance.)
- What are the signs you are doing it?
- You INTJ or Enneagram 5, should you ask about your partner before deep talking, before revealing yourself as a fool?
- What energy pushes you to think-vent like that in front of someone? A kind of relief? Why?
“I’m taking a picture of you. Please smile. Nooo not like that! A big, natural, spontaneous smile”.
Everyone understands this example, right? When someone asks you to act… spontaneously, you’re stuck in an awkward grey nauseous mood. It’s called “the be spontaneous paradox”. It can happen anywhere, in a couple, a family, at work : one person requests something that can only be given spontaneously – love, interest, appreciation, desire, tenderness… You’re now stuck in a Double Bind.
Here’s a good dialog from the 2006 movie “The Break-Up” :
- I busted my ass all day cleaning this house and then cooking that meal! And I worked today. It would be nice if you said “thank you” and helped me with the dishes.
- Fine. I’ll help you do the damn dishes.
- That’s not what I want.
- You just said that you want me to help you do the dishes!
- I want you to want to do the dishes.
- Why would I want to do dishes?
- Why? See, that’s my whole point.
- Let me see if I’m following this, okay? Are you telling me that you’re upset
because I don’t have a strong desire to clean dishes?
- No. I’m upset because you don’t have a strong desire to offer to do the dishes.
- I just did.
- After I asked you!
Imagine a club, a private club with big mellow armchairs. The boss enters the room and solemnly criticize the atmosphere, and then asks everyone to be a little more gay and happy, “a few more laughs would be perfect!” – Imagine the disaster!… (I saw this one day from a web forum administrator. I tried to explain him, but without any effect).
Tool 1 : Learn how to detect when someone asks you to “act spontaneously”. And beware of this when it’s meant but unsaid, perversely implicit : it’s worse ! Your answer can be multiple.
- If you try, you just have to put a mask. But it’s not you, it’s theater. Maybe you will have to wear it!
- You can just say no, of course.
- Go meta-communication : talk about this, explain the paradox and that you will not stay stuck into this.
Tool 2 : Do you do it? Putting other people into these “Please change and act spontaneously like this and like that“? If you did, can you detect the desperate unease and awkwardness you put in the other’s brain? Can you see the mask?
I will always remember this example I got from Watzlawick, a father punishing his kid telling him “Go to your room, and come back when you smile”. Horror!
It’s recess time. Kids are running screaming everywhere. And there’s an argument, under a tree : “You betrayed me I don’t trust you anymore ever I will tell it to my mum you are very mean and I won’t talk to you anymore everrrr”. Drama.
Imagine now some more adults word in the kids mouths now : “OK, we have a problem, friend. You broke my trust, do you realize that ? Let’s talk : how do we get out of this problem? Why did you do that? What happened in your mind, silly? Is it because I didn’t want you to talk to me anymore?”.
Then, you could see the two kids talking quietly while they walk…
I heard many times about whole families on Facebook fighting about parenting or politics or a wrong picture posted on a wall. Everybody is bitter and block everyone. I heard many times about someone who decides to “I don’t talk to you anymore ever” to his own parents. Each time I’m like : Maybe you could try a letter a year? Maybe just to check if it’s not a misunderstanding? Maybe to check if the angriness has vanished into memories? Evolving towards the light? A letter to forgive, or ask for forgiveness? Oh there’s a good word, here : Diplomacy.
In case of problem, wrong moves and misunderstanding, do you chopblock people, or do you, on the contrary, increase the level of dialog and try to understand, grow up, and climb a few stair-steps together ? Are you a shark (attack), a carp (fear), or a dolphin (elegance)?
Do you need an enemy to regroup and feel safe? Maybe you do.
Heyyy! This is another article!