Featured Articles

People Who Need People

As a condition of employment, I took a creepy personality profile that revealed I am more “people-oriented” and care more about building rapport and being liked than I would like to. If any suggestion can provoke the sort of rage that that one has, and does, in me, it’s a strong indication that there may be some truth to it.
 
I may as well admit that I have always wanted to be liked. There are some people who truly do not care what others think of them, and those people are known as “sociopaths.” As much as American culture may reward and romanticize sociopathy, it simply isn’t available to all of us. Like many, many other people, I am driven to bond, to amuse, and to keep the peace. Perhaps if I liked myself a bit more, I wouldn’t hope for someone else to come along and make up the deficit. I’ll let you know if that happens.
 
I admit that, in my case, this business of wanting to be liked can get a tad ridiculous. Even as I believe that there is no "self" to transcend, I wonder if my self is adequate, and if I am transcending it correctly. When I look for this self, it is nowhere to be found. But I still sometimes indulge the thought of, if not transcending it, then perhaps trading it in for a better model.

The unfortunate thing about wanting to be liked is that it by necessity requires being more trusting than is sometimes wise. If you want people to like you, your trust will be burned by those people who do not care one way other the other. And you may become bitter, or at least hypervigilant about avoiding further abuse of your trust.
 
I admit that I harbor some anger toward certain people whom I believe have violated my trust. A very small part of me wants to lash out and hurt someone else in turn. A much, much larger part of me really, really does not want to do that. That much larger part keeps the smaller, angrier part in check by repressing it, which adds to its sense of resentment. Eventually, predictably, I lash out about some inconsequential thing and wound (or more likely simply confuse) some poor soul who had nothing to do with any of this.

The way out of this is to feel that rage fully, as it arises. Pay attention to those sensations as they bubble up and pass away. These are merely thoughts. They need not be woven into some grand and silly narrative about some fictitious person called youand some other bit-player who slighted you in some way. The story is fiction, and neither character is particularly convincing. And that angry cluster of energy will dissipate, given room, for that is what clusters of energy do.

This is not some keen strategy for getting more out of life. It is a simple acceptance of the way things are. At the same time, though, if you’re anything like me, you may find it much easier to build genuine rapport, and avoid being manipulated, if you’re not behaving like a repressed, passive-aggressive basket case.

We try to win over others in the interest of our survival and flourishing. We preceive it as an existential threat when we fear we may be expelled from the tribe. But the tribe is full of people who are just as nutty as we are. That fear is not something to embrace or something to fear itself - it is merely there to be felt. Feeling bonded to others leads to frustration and anger. Feel that, too, fully. And then, for a moment, you may see beyond our day-to-day status angst and kabuki theater and catch a glimpse of our real and fundamental connection.
 
Original version appears here.
Vote for this article to appear in the Recommended list.

Site developed by the IDP and Genalo Designs.