In what ways do we use distance to manage anxiety? What are its long-term effects? To what extent is avoidance okay? Is sitting through the discomfort of having conversations we would rather not have worth it? Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen dive deep into this topic in this episode as they give their honest thoughts and experiences on the various ways we use distance to manage anxiety. This conversation is inspired by the newsletter, 25 Ways We Use Distance to Manage Anxiety, written by a therapist and author named Kathleen Smith. Whether it’s in the form of physical or emotional avoidance, avoiding family, avoiding difficult conversations or uncomfortable social situations, ghosting or playing small, we are all guilty of having done one or more of these avoidance tactics. It’s about time we question whether it’s worth challenging ourselves to get out of them one by one.
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How Distance Binds Anxiety
I received a wonderful newsletter from an author named Kathleen Smith, who writes on topics like anxiety and insecurities. She’s a doctor of some sort. I imagined she might be a psychologist or a therapist, and I’ve been enjoying a lot of her work. The title of this email I received is 25 Ways We Use Distance to Manage Anxiety, and it’s fascinating. I’m going to read directly from the email. Her wonderful book is called Everything Isn’t Terrible. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my reading list, so I assume that it’s good. I assume that it’s wonderful based on her work.
Her email started off saying that, “Distancing is perhaps the quickest way to bind anxiety. We move across the country from our parents. We stay late at work to avoid our spouse, or we never share our real beliefs with friends who might disagree. It’s also why many of us initially are energized by all those Zoom calls in early COVID days have begun to internally withdraw from other humans. Physical and emotional distance are adaptive. We wouldn’t engage in them if they didn’t help us manage our anxiety, but distance has its price. We lose the opportunity to build real person-to-person relationships and to work on our maturity when we automatically withdraw. When we let ourselves choose immediate calmness, we often forsake our best thinking about how to be in a relationship with other humans.” She provides 25 examples of it that I found helpful for me to contemplate how I use distancing and how that showed up in my life in the past and the present day. I’d love to go through each of these things and discuss them, Jason, but before I do, do you have any commentary on what I’ve read thus far?
I think it highlights something that I’ve been emotionally dealing with not just during COVID, but I think trying to strike the energetic balance of naturally being an extrovert. You and I have been to many events together, ones that you’ve spoken at, I’ve spoken at. We’ve both spoken at a handful of events together. What initially comes up for me as you’re reading this is that there is a switch that gets pressed in me that when I feel like I’ve given too much energetically and I start to power down. I can feel my internal battery winding down or getting near the danger zone. I’ve lately felt exhausted and I can’t figure out why. I was having a discussion with my mom about the nature of being an empath but what comes up for me is that I’ve noticed that I have been trying to protect my energy and create different boundaries.
I feel like when I’m already exhausted or I’ve already given a lot, whether that’s a speaking appearance or I’ve been doing a lot of volunteer work over this COVID period, I noticed to bring it all back to the original point that I will distance myself emotionally and socially from people because I feel like I’m going to get drained even more. I’ve noticed that if I don’t create a boundary and I don’t take some precautions to distance myself, people without intending to will drain me because I’ve allowed them to. This is something that’s relevant for me as I’m setting energetic boundaries to not allow myself to get too depleted.
I guess the part that I’m not fully clear on and I’m curious if it’s clear to you, Jason, is exactly what she means by this distancing binding anxiety. I think my interpretation of that is that we’re doing some of these things that we’re going to dive into to give us that immediate calmness as she describes it. As a result of that, I guess those things are trying to help us manage our anxiety but by distancing ourselves, we’re binding it if I’m interpreting this correctly. It’s because she keeps saying, “How do you use distance to bind anxiety in your relationships?” To me, that’s through the act of distance and we’re talking not physical distance, but the emotional distance that that is binding anxiety within our relationship.
I’m curious what the word, binding, means because binding, I think of something that is sutured together, something when you’re bound to, something you’re tied to, you’re strapped to it or you’re emboldened.
It’s an interesting description. Part of what’s fascinating about her work is I haven’t reflected on this before.
That word choice in particular is fascinating to me. I’m curious to dive a little bit deeper because when I already feel like I’m having anxiety, which I have been feeling, is that I feel that sometimes people want my support, help perspective feedback on things, whatever that is. I feel like if I give that, I feel more anxious because it’s more on my plate. I’m curious what she means by binding because I often feel that by distancing or putting certain boundaries with people, even my loved ones, not even in a business context, that I’m able to deal with my own anxiety and not hit the overwhelm button.
It’s because if I’m already feeling anxious and then I start saying yes to, “Could you do this? Could you hold space for me? I broke up with my boyfriend.” Friends text you and email you, and you get business emails, it’s a whole smorgasbord of people wanting your attention and time and energy, that will push me over the edge. I want to know what she means by binding because I feel like it’s a coping mechanism for me that I’m able to deal with my anxiety better by distancing myself.
I’m wondering if binding is being used to say that it’s helping you cope or is it being used and that it’s not beneficial? I had pulled up a few articles online and one on psychology talks about how binders don’t feel anxiety because they’ve learned early on how to cut it off before it builds. They do this by keeping the world small, their lives are run on rigid routines and thinking. They dismiss, assume and they will screen out anything that could possibly cause anxiety, but that’s much about control.
That sounds to me like that’s an attempt to achieve non-disturbance in one’s life. If I control all of the circumstances and create rigid mechanisms for my behavior and my routines and it sounds like ultra-ultra A type mixed in maybe with some OCD. If I control and manipulate and handle all of the circumstances and they’re exacting, then I will inoculate myself against anxiety, but that’s impossible. You can’t achieve non-disturbance in life. It’s like, “If I put up a wall and a security system and barbed wire and have guard dogs and have weaponry, I’ll be safe and secure.” This is like the illusion of some of our human thinking is that if we have all the mechanisms in place, we’ll be perfectly safe and perfectly non-disturbed, but that’s a complete illusion in the world. That doesn’t exist.
Let’s explore some of these different ways that Kathleen talks about how we can use distance to manage our anxiety. Number one, this one hits home because I’ve identified this in a lot of other people and this is when you become busy at work to avoid your family. I’ve talked about this in other episodes. I’m sensitive to the word busy. I don’t like that word. I have a negative connotation with that word. I feel like it’s used superficially in a lot of ways. It’s a catch-all term and it doesn’t often have a lot of depth to it. I’ve tried to find alternatives to the word busy so I can more accurately explain what my schedule’s like. In this case, busy-ness is interesting because I do think a lot of people will become busy in order to avoid family or friends. It’s like a coping mechanism. If I’m busy, then I don’t have to deal with certain things. It’s often used to numb or to avoid.
I’ve done this too where people are like, “I’m aware, I need to work on that. I’m aware, I need to heal that.” Awareness isn’t action. Awareness isn’t healing. The healing process or the process of going into some of the “darker” places inside our psyche are the places that need more attention, love, and healing, awareness doesn’t create healing. Awareness shows you what you need to work on. I feel that for many factors in our culture, we’ve talked a lot about the hustle mentality, toxic capitalism, toxic wokeness and the intersection of all those things that a lot of people who I think appear to be spiritual or working on themselves or claim to be woke, they’re doing a lot of bypassing. Consciously choosing to be overworked choosing the word busy is a way to bypass all that. It’s not doing the work, it’s just delaying it.
The second is using alcohol or drugs to avoid sober conversations. It’s interesting for me because I’ve never been super drawn to alcohol or drugs. I’ve been fascinated and curious of them. I like experimenting with them. It’s a take it or leave it thing for me, at least in the terms of my traditional viewpoint on drugs. There’s a lot of things like coffee which could be considered a drug in some ways, but I’m talking about marijuana, ecstasy, mushrooms, or any of those types of things that would fall into that drug category. Some more extreme versions are cocaine, heroin and all that stuff. It’s interesting because we’ve talked about this in the past, how much has changed in the world with marijuana and we have a whole episode about CBD.
I think we talked about marijuana in that episode too and how much things have changed during our lifetimes and how I think the relationship to marijuana is shifting a lot in our country. I remember before, it was legal in the US when I was studying abroad in the Netherlands, and I was observing how casual the relationship to marijuana was and with alcohol too. I don’t know if they have the strict age requirements that we do in the US.
I think there’s a general requirement where you should be over eighteen but I don’t know if they enforce it at all in most European countries. I wonder if drugs and alcohol are a matter of avoiding or is it simply that they are not allowed, banned or they’re taboo. I think some people are drawn to those things as a way to rebel, but I also do think that they do play a role in conversations. Jason and I got back from a physical distance birthday party that a friend of ours had, and alcohol is like a big thing that people use when they go to parties. It’s like, “I can avoid having sober conversations because I don’t feel comfortable talking to a stranger at a party so I’ll get drunk or I’ll do some drugs and, in that way, I feel more comfortable.” I think this is commonplace in the US and some other countries that we don’t think that much about it unless somebody has an addiction. If there’s no addiction at play, then it’s taken as no big deal. It’s like, “It’s no big deal that you’re drunk. It’s no big deal that you’re doing drugs.”
In a way that if you look at it, is this a coping mechanism for dealing with anxiety, especially when it comes to conversations with people? Is it working in your benefit? There’s somebody that I had started speaking with, a friend of mine more frequently through text message during COVID and it felt like maybe loneliness or feeling the sense of having more time on our hands, let us converse more frequently.
I noticed that this person seemed to want to have more conversations when drunk like it would come up a lot. It came to this point where I thought, “Is this person only reaching out when they’re under the influence of something? Do they feel more confident to talk? Do they feel more comfortable talking?” The problem for me is that now I feel a little bit uncomfortable with that. I feel like, “Do you only think to talk to me when you’re under the influence of something? Do you only feel comfortable talking to me when you’re under the influence?”
I then started to suspect that every time I hear from this person is it because that person feels more comfortable talking when drinking. That’s something I’ve been reflecting on too. I’m noticing my own relationship with alcohol and drugs again. I don’t feel like I need them to have conversations. I don’t think you do either, Jason. It’s not like when you get to a party, the first thing you do is drink. In fact, it’s rare for you to drink. You’re also extroverted as you talked about. Maybe it’s because you feel a little bit more comfortable, you don’t feel like you need that crutch.
The word social lubricant gets brought up a lot with alcohol in particularly, maybe less with drugs. In rare cases, maybe on a couple of first dates over the course of my life, but it’s rare that I’ll be in a new social environment with a new person or new people and feel like there’s something in me that’s like, “You should go get a drink.” It’s the opposite where I prefer to be fully engaged in a way without it. With the example you gave of going to this socially distanced birthday party, I didn’t feel the desire to do it. Also, the fact that it was 111 degrees there and I was like, “The last thing I want to do is to dehydrate myself.”It’s impossible to inoculate yourself against anxiety. Click To Tweet
I also think that alcohol in particular as a side tangent was never my drug. When I was singing in a lot of bands in my twenties and it was the culture to go to the bar or the club and play a show and drink. I would drink a lot more then but it was never a thing where I was like, “I should watch my alcohol consumption.” My father had an alcohol problem that harangued him and persisted in the course of his life, but it was never my drug. I never had to worry like, “Am I getting addicted to alcohol?” It’s a problem for some people but it’s never been my drug of choice.
You don’t feel a need to use it. How do you feel when other people seemingly use drugs or alcohol as a way to feel more comfortable having conversations with you? Does it affect you?
I think it depends on their state of being and how their mannerisms and their behavior follows the consumption of alcohol or any drug. It’s a situation where a lot of the times when I used to go out to bars, clubs, or go out with friends, often I would not order alcohol. It’s also because of some of the health issues I’ve been dealing with like my gout and some kidney issues and things like that. I can’t have alcohol or it’s going to have some negative effects.
My point is, to answer your question, that when someone gets maybe a little too fucked up and I’m stone sober and they’re like, “Do you remember that one time when I babysat your cats and you were on tour? I was going to shave your cat, Claudia, and give her a lion cut, but I decided not to, but I almost did.” When someone gets blitzed that their state of being is annoying and hard to deal with, depending on the person and their mannerisms, their behavior, their state of being, if someone’s drunk or high and I’m stone sober, sometimes it’s annoying to deal with them.
This isn’t meant to be a judgment. It’s to reflect on how it feels. I think this is something to consider that when it comes to drugs and alcohol and how dependent we can be on them to avoid sober conversations. My heart goes out to people because there are times where I’ve had a drink at a party because I felt a little anxious and I can completely relate to that. It’s not my go-to but sometimes I have to consciously think about it because a lot of times alcohol is more of a taste thing for me than it is for a feeling. It is fascinating to observe that and how some people can hardly go to a social gathering without depending on drugs or alcohol. I think it’s something worth examining because it comes down to how are you managing your anxiety and how are you distancing yourself from people?
I think the intention is a big part of this because if we take for example some of the drugs you mentioned like alcohol, marijuana, maybe some of the psychedelic drugs, or even coffee. If I overdo something or I choose to use a substance to change my state and I’m doing it to try and escape or I’m doing it to try and not face reality, or I’m doing it to one of those kinds of reasons, the energy of that intention shapes the experience for me. Also, as an example of the use of alcohol, I remember the last time I got drunk on the floor facing the toilet throwing up.
I remember clearly the last time that happened and it was 2004. I was living with my girlfriend at the time and we had a townhouse condo in a suburb of Detroit. I’d gone out to see a music show and hang out with some other bands and all that and I got blasted beyond. I came home and I was projectile vomiting and was crumpled up in a ball in front of the toilet and I remember saying, “I’m never going to do this again.” I never got that drunk again because it got to the point where I went far beyond the enjoyment factor. You talked about the taste and the experience of these things. I love a glass of wine. I love to have a wonderful joint or share marijuana with someone or on the other level, have a transformative experience with psychedelic drugs. If I overdo something, I’ve noticed that the overdoing of something, whatever that is for my body, the enjoyment factor goes down. It’s an opposite corollary of if I overdo it, I know that my enjoyment of the experience is going to go down as a result of that.
Coming back to this point of how we feel around other people, there are the two sides of it. Even you describing your girlfriend’s reaction to you being that drunk. It is tough sometimes when you’re the sober one, you’re not as drunk, you’re not as high or whatever and how that plays a role in your dynamic. I came to this TV show I watched called Ramy on Hulu. The whole show is seemingly based on a Muslim and dating other Muslims. He’s on his search for his Muslim wife. I think he’s a Millennial and to live in this modern United States as a Millennial trying to date and trying to figure out your relationship with religion. It is interesting. In one of the episodes, this girl that he likes invites him to her party and he is given ecstasy or somebody offers him ecstasy. They handed some pills out and he said, “No.” The girl that he was interested in was disappointed. She’s like, “I took some and if you don’t take some, then we’re not going to be at the same level. We’re not going to connect as well.” She’s trying to make this whole case for taking it and he’s battling like, “What do I do? I like this girl and I want to spend time with her but I don’t want to do drugs. I feel like I’m being pressured into it.” The other point is that she wants him to do it because she wants to be able to connect with him at that level.
I thought it was interesting how that can happen in our dynamics and how drugs are such a personal decision, but when you’re peer-pressured, how our relationship can change and how that might distance ourselves from people by saying no to something. It’s the same thing with alcohol too. We all had that experience where we’re the only sober person at a party or a gathering of any store and you feel a little awkward sometimes unless you’re abstaining because of addiction, I think that’s completely different versus choosing not to. That feeling of, “Am I missing out? Am I not able to connect with these people in the same way?” Even the times when people get drunk and it feels like everyone is making a fool of themselves and you start to observe people in a different light because you’re not at that same state as they are. Number three on this list of ways we use distance to manage anxiety is moving across the country to avoid your family. This one is interesting because I moved across the country from one coast to another and Jason, you did it. You’re 2,000 miles away from Detroit.
We both have good relationships and you have a good relationship with your mom. I don’t think that’s the reason that I chose to live in Los Angeles all these years when my family is in Massachusetts, in New York. It is interesting to reflect on at some level, like “Why did I make that decision to be far away?” You’ve talked a lot about your decision in multiple episodes and for me, it was mostly about career and there was something about LA that appealed to me. I was thinking about how I wondered how much of LA has been constructed to draw people into this part of the country. It’s like a capitalist thing, “Come here and make money for our state and our city.”
It’s like moths to the flame like, “Come.”
Even if you look at social media, many social media influencers live in Los Angeles or New York. Both cities have that draw. It’s a mystique and how we associate it with our dreams. Both Jason and I have had this similar experience growing up of like, “I’m going to move to Hollywood one day.” Moving here felt like an accomplishment and ticking something off a box. I enjoy LA. I could see myself leaving, but I’m not in as much of a hurry as Jason is to get out of here. I guess this idea of moving across the country to avoid your family is interesting. My big point is I don’t think that’s why I moved. It doesn’t seem like that’s why you moved either Jason. Do you think there’s any truth to that for you or have you witnessed this in people that you know?
I don’t think it had anything to do with my family relationship or dynamics at all. Because beyond my mom, if I look at my extended relationships with my closest cousins, my closest aunts and uncles, I think I’ve mentioned this as you alluded in the previous episode that the great majority of my family is still either in the City of Detroit or the Detroit Metropolitan area. There’s one cousin of mine who lives in the Bay Area, my cousin, Matt, and then my cousin, Mike, last I knew was up in the Pacific Northwest.
With few exceptions, my mom’s side of the family and a lot of my dads are in Detroit. It wasn’t a deciding factor for me to be like, “I need to get away from them.” It was more that I felt like I had artistically, creatively, and professionally leveraged and experienced all of the things I wanted to in Detroit. Originally, I lived in Chicago for three years, and then I came back to Detroit. When I left, I was in my mid-twenties. It was a feeling of, “I’m over it.” It wasn’t like I’m over you guys. I deeply love my family and one of the hardest things for me in being far away is not able to see my family more than a handful of times a year.
As my mom ages and my family ages that are becoming more of a complicated consideration. As my family ages and goes on, particularly my mom, I don’t want to be this far from her. It’s all to say that my motivations for leaving were not about avoiding my family or escaping them, it was more of a professional decision, a financial decision wanting to expand my artistry, wanting to build my career. I felt like the ceiling for that in Detroit was low that I was like, “There’s the ceiling. I need to get the fuck out.” It was more of a professional, artistic, creative decision.
It’s fascinating to reflect on these things and look within yourself to see if there’s any truth within it. I wonder too about that. It’s hard sometimes to examine yourself and wonder, “Maybe I am doing it to avoid my family in some way or another.” I love my family on an unconscious level and I look forward to spending time with them, but I also look forward to coming back to Los Angeles after a certain point. Part of it is my family lives in a part of the country that I don’t necessarily want to live in long-term.
Part of the reason I want to do this episode was for us to explore it, but for the audience to reflect on it themselves. There’s nothing wrong with any of this. If you are busy at work to avoid your family, or you’re using drugs or alcohol to avoid sober conversations or moving across the country to avoid your family, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s interesting to examine it and see if that’s playing a role with creating that distance and how that may impact feelings of anxiousness. The fourth element of ways that we use distance to manage anxiety is only talking about sports or the weather.
Those are safe subjects. Maybe not sports, depending on who you’re talking to. If you’re like, “The lions.” They’re like, “I fucking hate the lions.” Generally, those are safe subjects.
They’re using that as cliché examples of superficial things we’ll talk about in Los Angeles and we’ll talk about traffic. That reminds me of my grandparents, my dad’s parents who have passed away. One of the short subject matters that will come up with them was if you went to visit them in New Jersey, the first thing that you discussed is like, “You made good time.” It’s like how long it took to get to their house driving there from Massachusetts. When I would call them on the phone, they would always be these standard things that we would talk about.
It’s interesting how sometimes we don’t have deep connections with people that we end up like talking about the same things over and over again. On one end, I like having those superficial conversations with people because it’s easy but on another level, I don’t look forward to those types of conversations because they do feel superficial and I want to get deeper with people. It feels like I don’t matter to somebody or I’m not connected to somebody when I’m having superficial conversations about the weather or sports.
I think there was also a permutation of that when we go to industry events, the version of that questioning of the weather/sports is like, “What have you been up to? What’s new? What are you working on?” There’s a part of me that whenever things resume again and we start going to trade shows, industry events, conferences, and the things that we normally or typically do in a year. Whenever that resumes in whatever form, my consternation is from those conversations, which seems to be a mutation or permutation of this kind of engagement with someone where it’s like, “I don’t want to talk about what I’m up to or what I’m working on.”
It’s going to be like, “We survived COVID.” Does that irk you because it irks the shit out of me sometimes? In moments I almost expect it and I prepare myself for those superficial, like, “What are you up to? What are you doing? What’s new? What projects are you working on?” Other times, I just want to walk away. It’s nothing personal against them. It’s the archetype of that insincere distanced, completely not inauthentic but there’s no depth to that interaction. As a result, I often want to go in the corner and be like, “I don’t want to have this interaction.”
I can completely relate to that. I think that’s sometimes why I will avoid social engagements because I’m like, “I don’t want to have to deal with this.” That’s part of it too is that we can think about these things. Are we having those superficial communications to avoid going deep with somebody? Is it a way for us to A, make things easy or B, distance ourselves to people? Maybe if I talk about superficial things nobody will know who I am or I don’t have to get into the hard parts of my life or I don’t have to put effort into things. The fifth thing on this list is about canceling on people at the last minute to feel instant relief.
We referenced this a little bit in our episode where it talked about getting stood up or getting ghosted. I don’t have anyone in my life that has a reputation for doing this, but it is fascinating to me because I’ve seen memes regarding this where people will post funny things about tendencies of introverts like, “I’ll probably say no, but I want you to invite me anyway.” It’s not necessarily the same thing, but the whole canceling at the last minute is a fascinating distancing mechanism and it’s one that I don’t have a lot of experience with. I haven’t experienced that a lot in my life. I’ve been stood up. I have been canceled on, but I can’t say that I have anyone in my life that is a chronic demonstrator of that tendency. I’ve talked to friends that are like, “Kathleen or Susie is always canceling at the last minute.” It’s like, “Do you want to have a conversation with her about that?” Do you have anyone in your life or anyone in the past that demonstrated this behavior?
Especially now, it’s hard to think of examples but it sometimes shows up in ways, like never being able to get someone to make plans.
That’s super avoidant.
There’s an example, one person that I’m thinking where it’s been years that I’ve been able to see this person. This came up for us because I found out this person is going to move across the country to get closer to their family which is the opposite of what we’re talking about. I feel sad about that because I haven’t seen this person a little while and I’d love to connect. I’ve been trying to make plans and now, the conversation of COVID is coming up, and certainly, I want to be mindful of my boundaries and other people’s boundaries when it comes to protecting our health.
I do feel fairly comfortable in the right setting if you’re taking precautionary measures to do a physical distance get together and especially when somebody is planning on moving and there’s some urgency involved. I started to suspect that they were using COVID as an excuse because it seems like every time, I’ve tried to see this person and connect with this person before COVID, there was a lack of commitment. When I would try to initiate something, I wouldn’t hear back or they’d cancel at the last minute.
It doesn’t seem like it’s personal to me because we have wonderful conversations through text. Every time we’ve gotten together, it seems like we have a great time but I started to wonder maybe this person has extreme social anxiety and maybe it is personal too. It’s possible that it’s the case but I have noticed that some people struggle with making plans and there are some people I’ve experienced who have canceled at the last minute.
That’s not something I personally feel comfortable doing. I don’t like canceling at the last minute. I do like when other people cancel on me sometimes because as an introvert, I get anxiety when it comes to getting together with people. Before we went to the party, I was dreading it. Even though I ended up having a great time. Once I get somewhere, I usually enjoy myself but almost every time I make plans, I feel anxiety about going.
That’s something that I try to examine a lot and talk myself through. I have to push myself to get together with people. My heart goes out to anybody who struggles with making plans because maybe they feel the same way I do and they’re not as socially committed to getting together. What I tend to do is think about how my choices impact another person. For example, we went to this party. I knew it was important for our friend for me to be there. It was far away. It was a hot day. There were a lot of things that made it uncomfortable and unpleasant, but I went anyway because it was about that person and celebrating them.
I had another physical distanced gathering with one other person and it was important for that person for me to show up and be there. It was more about them than me and that’s another reason why I don’t cancel the last minute. I think it is important for us to examine this because if you’re on the receiving end or if you’re the person canceling yourself last minute, it’s interesting to reflect on why you’re doing that or why that other person might be acting that way and having more compassion for yourself and others.
Anxiety can feel challenging. Another example is I’ve been working on my new program, Beyond Measure. One of the most interesting things about that program that I didn’t anticipate is all the different nuances that people have in this social situation that I put together. I’m in a testing period with that program. I’ve been inviting people in to experience it and give me feedback on the program which is structured in two main ways. One, we have weekly video calls where you have the option to come on and speak on video or you can turn both audio and video off and participate in a chat or just watch.
The other way is to communicate in a forum like Facebook group type setting. I had one of the calls and a couple of people told me that they weren’t going to show up and their reasons were all along the lines of not feeling they could show up and be their full selves because they weren’t feeling well or they were struggling with anxiety or they had a lot on their plate whether it was busy-ness. It’s interesting to observe if are they using those things as excuses because it’s hard to get close to people when they’re feeling anxious.
That’s an important thing to notice about yourself and others. Sometimes anxiety can feel crippling and it’s tough to connect with others and maybe you do want to feel that instant relief of canceling last minute, or you might be like me where I would rather do something even when I feel anxious because canceling last minute, I’ve associated with poor social etiquette side of things. I feel uncomfortable doing that to somebody. I would rather not experience that.
If I cancel on someone the last minute, I would also have anxiety for canceling. I would feel bad about it. I would worry that it would compromise the friendship. There’s a lot to consider in these cases. Maybe this is why some people don’t make plans at all. It’s like that person I mentioned. Maybe it’s tough to make plans because they’re afraid of canceling last minute and losing me as a friend. Maybe it feels safer to not make plans at all. The sixth way that we use distance to managing anxiety is by texting somebody when you should probably call them.
This is an interesting one because immediately what comes up for me is the multiple conversations you and I have had over the years of knowing each other where certain colleagues, friends, or associates will be like, “Let’s have a phone call.” You’re like, “I don’t want to have a phone call. Can’t they just fucking text me? Can’t they send me a fucking DM? Why do they have to be on the phone and do this like it’s the 1950s?” I’ve noticed that you have had some strong reactions to people asking to get on a phone call with you. I’m curious in maybe looking back in retrospect, do you feel that even though you had a reticence to do that and the other person was insisting on it, that may be certain things could have been more clearly communicated as a result of the phone call. It’s almost more convenient to text someone, DM them, an SMS message or a typewritten message or something like that.
I do this too. There are moments where I’m like, “I don’t want to get on the phone with this particular person,” but often when I have that resistance to getting on the phone with a person, things get cleared up quickly. I guess I’m exploring my own resistance to doing this but you also. In those times where you’re like, “Just text me, DM me or shoot me an email,” in those situations, do you find that if you were to get on a phone call, could things have been more clearly communicated or cleared up as a result of that? What is your resistance sometimes to get on the phone with someone?
I think it might be an introverted thing simply because when you get on the phone with somebody, it almost always turns into a longer exchange than it needs to be. It’s like if you have a meeting, a lot of people don’t like having meetings at work because they’re unnecessary and a waste of time. Even though yes, they can be great ways to communicate with a group of people. I guess for me, one thing that’s helped is doing voice memos and that’s another thing that’s been interesting.
I’ve been doing that a lot with Beyond Measure and I’ve been sending voice memos to people through Instagram’s direct message. What’s been fascinating for me to observe is how people react. There’re a few different reactions I received. What’s cool about Instagram is that you can only record for a minute and the same thing is true with Facebook Messenger which at times, it is frustrating because you have to break up long messages into one-minute segments, but it forces you to say a lot within a minute versus a phone call.
If you don’t have a set time structure, you might feel like you have plenty of time where I feel like it’s a standard meeting with a minimum of fifteen minutes. If I have a long day, if I’ve got a lot going on, if I’m feeling tired, even fifteen minutes can feel exhausting and draining. I think that’s part of the point. It does clear things up but now that voice memos have become more commonplace. I think that’s great in-between texting and a phone call.
You can also listen to a voicemail whenever you want and respond whenever you want, unlike a phone call where you maybe feel like you’re on the spot to respond a certain way and you have to go back and forth. Voice memos are lovely in that sense. Going back to my experience with the Beyond Measure messages, it isn’t just for Beyond Measure but it’s an element of Beyond Measure. I’ve been sending Instagram messages to people to respond to their comments on Instagram. I’ll go in and slide into their DMs. I also send a voice memo to new people that follow me on Instagram. I’ve been experimenting with that. Some people never respond. They don’t even acknowledge my memo. I think maybe it makes them uncomfortable or they don’t know how to respond to it because it’s unusual. Two, some people who have sent me back voice memos so I get to hear their voices, which is awesome, and what an amazing way to connect with people.
Some people write me a text-based response and it’s been an incredible way to connect. I’m glad that I found a happy medium and I think that this is part of what we can figure out as we consider the ways that we might use distance. Sometimes it’s just the current circumstances that were presented or the social norms don’t feel right for us. It’s about finding an alternative that feels good for us and trying to understand ourselves better.
It’s a nuanced thing. People have their preferences and I think when it comes to human communication, one of the challenging things about text, DM and things like that is that we don’t get nuance. We don’t get the lilt or the inflection of the voice. We don’t get to see a person’s facial expressions. How many times have I sent a text where they would respond with some anger or incredulousness and I’m like, “I did not mean it that way.” When you’re sending an SMS or a text-based message or a DM, you don’t get inflection, lilt, or the emotional cadence of the way a person speaks.
The art of human communication is an ongoing evaluation. It is, “How best do I communicate and have this person hopefully understand what I’m trying to say to them?” I think it’s cool that you’re sending voice memos and I’ve done that sometimes with fans, followers or customers of mine over the years. People appreciate video or audio messages. It’s such a simple thing, but they’re like, “I can’t believe you sent this to me.” There’s also a deeper appreciation factor when you do some of those kinds of messages to people.
I think that’s simply because it helps us feel more connected versus distant. Another example on the opposite spectrum is I feel a little frustrated sometimes when I’ll take the time to write somebody a long text or an email and they either never respond or they respond with a short message. The worst to me is when through Instagram if you write a nice and thoughtful comment and somebody just hearts it and they don’t even write you back a comment to acknowledge it or you send a direct message and they just heart the message and they don’t respond. That’s helped me take into consideration when I tend to do those things. A lot of times its laziness or it’s like the poor timing, like, “I don’t have time to address this message at the moment.” I’ll heart it to acknowledge it but I try to be intentional about coming back and responding. I think it’s helpful for us to do that and to take that time unless we simply are overwhelmed with the amount of communication. I’ve noticed this with brands and stuff.
I had a few experiences where brands were begging me to do content about them and I would take the time to do the content, like a TikTok video or Instagram story, whatever it is and then they respond with a one-line thanks or something that didn’t require a lot of effort on their part. As somebody who likes to be acknowledged, it’s been frustrating to me like, “Wait for a second, you wanted me to do something. I did it and all I get is a simple thanks?” The effort feels imbalanced.
I think that can happen in communication too but I’m also trying to be mindful of like, “Maybe that person feels like that’s enough or maybe they don’t know how to express themselves in another way or maybe a word of affirmation is not their love language like it is for mine.” I think a lot of people struggle with the communication and it can cause that anxiety. I’m trying to be more mindful and less judgmental of how other people respond to me.
Next on this list is I do this frequently and I think it ties in. Number seven is avoiding listening to an important voicemail. I don’t get that many voicemails, but I don’t like getting voicemail. I think it’s because it feels like that pressure to respond but it also is equally frustrating when somebody calls you and they don’t leave a voicemail and they don’t text you so you have no idea why they’re calling. Then maybe you feel pressured to call them back, but you don’t want to call them back because you don’t know what they want. That can be awkward too.
It’s cryptic. You’re like, “This can’t be that important.” That’s where my mind goes. If it was important you would have likely left me a text message, a voicemail or a DM, it’s bizarre. I have a few friends that do that, that they will not send any follow-up message. Maybe it’s a reasonable assumption that if someone is needing to get ahold of me that they will text me, DM me or call multiple times in a row. To your point, it’s a bit like, “Why did you call me and not leave a reason?”It might feel uncomfortable to do something out of obligation, but sometimes we have to do it to avoid regrets. Click To Tweet
It’s interesting observing my reaction to voicemails and why I avoid them. It’s similar to emails. I have a bunch of unread emails in my inbox, which drives me crazy. I prefer to have inbox zero, but for the past month or so, I haven’t achieved that. Part of that is because I want to read everything in the email. I’m not somebody that clicks and marks it as unread and moves on. I am intentional when it comes to emails. I like to read them. I like to formulate a response. A lot of the times, I get overwhelmed with what to say, so I’ll leave something unread until I respond to it.
Sometimes they’re unread messages for months or in some cases over a year. That’s simply because it feels like it’s a lot of emotional work for me to respond. After going through this list, I’m reflecting on how can I create a better process for myself so I’m not in this place of creating so much distance. Number eight on this list is only talking about your kids when you talk with your spouse which is not something that Jason and I can relate to because we don’t have spouses or kids. As best friends, we talked about our animals a lot.
A large portion of our conversations is dedicated to the fur babies. We don’t use it as avoidance. We usually go, “How’s your baby? How’s your baby doing? How is the baby rhino?” We have a ubiquitous number of nicknames for all of them, but we’re not using it. Are we doing it Whitney?
I don’t think we are, but I could certainly see how it’s similar to talking about the weather or sports. Are you just talking about your kids because you don’t want to talk about something deeper with your spouse? It’s worth examining in all of our different relationships like family members, friends, romantic partners. What are we talking to them about? What aren’t we talking to them about? Number nine on the list is lying about your beliefs to avoid a disagreement. I’m trying to think if I’ve done that, how about you?
No, but what I have done at times is in professional contacts when maybe this isn’t apples to oranges, but there are certain colleagues and people in our general industry that are like, “Eating plants is stupid and veganism is a modern concept that there’s no historical relevance for any human civilization subsisting for any reasonable amount of time on a plant-based diet.” It’s basically vegan bashing. I’ve been in groups where that rhetoric will come out and I’m like, “I’m going to walk away,” which isn’t lying about my beliefs per se, but one could take the tack of like, “You should speak up and tell them how full of shit they are and referred all these studies.” If I feel like someone has made up their mind and they’re like, “Veganism is stupid.” I’m like, “Okay, bye. I don’t even want to engage with you. I’m not going to try and convince you of anything.” That’s apples to oranges but I think that’s probably the closest I’ve gotten.
That reminds me of times where I’ve been around people who have talked about the keto diet in a condescending way. When I was doing keto, seriously I felt uncomfortable in those situations because I wouldn’t say anything. I wouldn’t defend it because I don’t like to get into disagreements. I don’t know if I would have lied about it though. If someone was like, “Are you doing the keto diet?” I’d probably own up to it, even if it was uncomfortable. I think your example is a good one. Sometimes we don’t say anything and that makes me wonder how many people don’t say things that they believe in simply because they don’t want to get in those uncomfortable situations.
Another benefit of talking about these things and understanding it is trying to better understand each other. Number ten on the list is only seeing your family on “duty visits.” It’s when you feel obligated to see your family or you do it on holidays or any of those types of obligations that you’d have to see someone. I don’t experience that with my family. I shouldn’t say that because for my immediate family, I don’t experience that. My dad, my mom, and my sister, I do enjoy seeing them. I look forward to seeing them.
For my grandparents, I think sometimes it felt like a duty visit like, “They’re getting old,” or “I don’t have a choice because my parents are dragging me to see my grandparents.” I would feel that way sometimes with my cousins where they only seen me because they had to, certain cousins of mine which I didn’t feel close to. As I got older, that made me feel sad because I want to have these deep relationships with people. I don’t want it to feel like we’re doing it out of obligation. I’m sure some people do that. People that struggle with their family dynamics may feel obligated to spend time with them.
I think that’s important to examine is, “Why are you doing something? Is it even your duty to see somebody? Why would you force yourself to be with somebody even if you don’t have a good relationship with them or it’s uncomfortable for you?” You have to examine that. Why is it uncomfortable? Is it that you don’t feel like you have anything to agree upon? Do you feel like maybe there’s an abusive relationship emotionally or perhaps physically putting yourself in that situation where it could because you harm or massive anxiety? I would say to don’t do it at all but it’s going to depend on a case by case basis in a lot of different circumstances.
The duty visit is interesting because I don’t feel that sense of pressure or responsibility with my family. It’s likely by the virtue that I don’t see them more than 1 to 2 times a year, whether that’s my mom coming to LA or me going to Michigan to see them. This was when I was much younger when my grandparents were sick, it’s not that I didn’t want to see them near the end of their life but it was hard to see them because you’re faced with that mortality. You’re faced with two strong people that in my case, my grandpa Walter and grandma Rose helped raise me. They were instrumental when my mom was working 2, 3, 4 jobs at a time to make ends meet as a single mom. I think those kinds of visits might’ve been duty visits. Not that I didn’t want to see them, but simply because it was massively emotionally uncomfortable to see them in that state as they were closer to death. I can’t imagine that’s ever easy.
I also wonder what it’s like to be on the receiving end. Is somebody coming to visit you because they feel like they have to?
It’s like, “You’re going to die soon. I should come to see you.”
I can relate to that too with my grandparents. The last grandparent to pass away was my dad’s dad and I think it was a combination of the two where I loved that grandfather. He was probably the grandparent that I was closest to. I was grateful to have a lot of time with him because he was the last of the four to pass away and he was 97 and a half. We did a lot of things. We had a lot of conversations and a lot of great memories. I remember there was a period were close to the end of his life, I was calling him every single day because I was living in LA and he lived in New Jersey. I happened to be on the East Coast at the end of his life, the last couple of weeks that he was alive so I got to see him a few times.
I was grateful for that. I remember being intentional about it, but simultaneously I didn’t feel like I was doing it for the duty. That is because we had a good relationship versus one of my grandmothers because she was sick most of my life. She had Parkinson’s and I think some other things going on that made it hard to connect with her. Because I felt disconnected with her it did feel like I was going there out of duty or obligation. It was uncomfortable at the time. I was uncomfortable talking to her on the phone because she didn’t speak well so it was hard to understand her. At the same time though, I don’t regret forcing myself to have those interactions with her.
I think that’s a big key in this whole conversation. Sometimes we might do something out of obligation and in the moment, it feels uncomfortable and unpleasant, but we have to look at the long-term benefits of this and not having those regrets. I fear more of not doing something than doing something and that often will drive me to do it despite the discomfort. The next way that we use distance to managing anxiety is by asking someone a lot of questions to avoid sharing about your own life. I think I do this a lot, especially in social situations. I like to ask questions in general because I’m curious. I do think that sometimes I do that to avoid sharing about myself. I get anxious about being asked questions. I don’t like to answer questions as much as I like to ask them.
You’re also driven by wanting to know the answer to the questions why. Is it more than it’s your innate nature or is it that you are trying to avoid revealing more about yourself or is it both? Is it a combination of both for you that you’re innately curious, but you also are maybe not wanting to reveal too much about who you are?
With this show, I don’t have an issue or revealing much about myself. I like getting vulnerable. I like sharing things and there are some subject matters I choose not to talk about simply because I like to have certain elements of privacy in my life. For the most part, I wouldn’t say that it’s a matter of avoiding talking about elements of myself, it’s that I have to trust somebody to open up or I have to feel like I’m in a safe situation. I trust you, Jason, and I feel safe on the show because our audience are generally accepting, loving, understanding and compassionate people, as far as we know.
Perhaps that will change in the future if we grow to a larger audience and there might be more critical people and I’d be curious to see if I would feel unsafe in that situation. That’s what it is. I don’t know if I’m avoiding intimacy. I think it’s that I have to believe that somebody cares and will hold that safe space for me to share about my life. Number twelve on this list is something we’ve talked about in a previous episode which is ghosting a date instead of telling them that you’re not interested.
I’m not sure that there’s much we can add beyond the explorations that we covered in that episode, which was an entire episode dedicated to that. It’s uncomfortable and painful either way. It’s like pick your poison, do you want to ghost someone which is likely going to create discomfort and maybe pain for that other person and certainly it’s on some level uncomfortable for you unless maybe ghosting isn’t in and maybe you want to examine if you’re a sociopath. I think that if you’re honest with someone, that’s also uncomfortable. It’s also potentially painful because you’re letting someone down.
To reiterate what I said in that ghosting episode, it’s like you’re not avoiding creating pain and discomfort by ghosting, you’re just perpetuating it. To me, it’s a question that I ask myself all the time of what is the choice that has the highest integrity and that is going to have the most compassion for the situation? It’s like, “I know it’s going to be radically uncomfortable for me to send a text or to call this person and tell them I’m not interested, but that feels more integrous, compassionate and loving than ghosting someone.” That’s my personal choice in why I don’t ghost people.
Number thirteen on this list is saying, “I’m good, I’m fine, I’m okay,” when you aren’t. It’s coming back to that cliché conversation starter which Jason mentioned like, “What’s going on in your life?” The other thing is when somebody asked you like, “How are you doing?” It’s commonplace for us to say, “I’m good. I’m great.” I get super uncomfortable when somebody asks me how I’m doing because I don’t know if they care how I’m doing or if they’re using that to start a conversation.
I don’t know if I say I’m good that often but I guess I do. I try to say I’m great because I tend to be great. I guess I’ll say I’m good if I don’t feel great. I think when somebody says, “I’m okay,” or when I say I’m okay, I perceive that as not doing well. It sounds like maybe things aren’t that great. If I wanted somebody to inquire more, I’d probably say I’m okay but I feel like as soon as I say I’m good or somebody says, “I’m good,” where else are you going to go? “Tell me why you’re good?”
The other version of that, that I have to laugh at is this conditioned distanced conversation in retail environments. I don’t remember this happening as a kid but at some point, when you’re going through the grocery checkout line, they’re like, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” It’s like, “No, I didn’t. I was looking for an orange Lamborghini. I was looking for a Shiba Inu puppy, and also a Brazilian wife and none of those were here.” Sometimes I’ll fuck with people in a loving way like I’ll say, “I was looking for a wife and an orange Lambo and I could not find them anywhere,” then they’ll laugh. I want to break down that ridiculous wall of conditioned bullshitty interaction. It’s like, “You don’t give a fuck if I found everything I was looking for.” I’ve said to people, “No, I didn’t,” then that goes nowhere and they’re like, “I’m sorry to hear that.” It’s like, “Do you want to call over the manager and maybe ask if you want to stock that fucking product?” It goes nowhere. I dislike that condition completely vapid interaction with people. I try to make a joke of it sometimes to break that a little bit. Can we acknowledge that? First of all, you do not care if I found what I was looking for, let’s start there.
We can’t make that assumption that they don’t care. I agree that they probably are being asked to say those things by their employers. I think it’s the employer manager’s responsibility as to why are they even asking their employees to say these things.
Where is that going to go? It’s like, “Yes, let’s move on.” If it’s no, where do you go? I’ve never had anyone give me a solution to the no answer.
They’re probably not used to hearing no. I’ve probably experienced where I said, “I was looking for this,” then maybe that cashier or employee was helpful in that situation. The common scenario is that they’re super busy or tired that they don’t want to drop what they’re doing to help you but I guess they also are in a position to be helpful. It is an interesting thing and I get annoyed by those things too. That leads into the next ways that we use distance in changing the subject when you sense people are anxious. To me, it makes logical sense that you would change the subject if somebody seems anxious. I wonder how that could lead to distance between each other. Is it, in other words, avoiding an uncomfortable conversation versus going deeper into something even if it is uncomfortable?
This is a strange one. It reminds me of conversations at the dinner table with family or friends where someone will bring up a sensitive subject, and you can feel that the other people at the dinner party are uncomfortable because it doesn’t involve them. Those kinds of situations where it’s like, “That one time you burned my underwear when we went out to camp and I didn’t have any other underwear and had to sit in my nasty, disgusting shorts for the eight-hour ride.” It’s a ridiculous example. I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where you’ll be in a group of people or a dinner setting and it gets quiet and the other people not involved in that tense interaction look at each other like, “Does anyone want ice cream?”
I experienced a moment where I was sitting there like, “What do I do? Do I change the subject? Do I walk out? What the fuck do I do?” It’s extremely uncomfortable. I think not only to be in the interaction of unresolved something but to be on the outside of it looking at the people doing it in that setting is like, “What do I do?” If you sense there’s discomfort or anxiety, do you change the subject or do you let it play out? I don’t know that there’s a right answer.
Do you address the anxiety? Maybe that’s the point. Instead of trying to pretend like it’s not happening or stop it from happening, maybe anxiety needs to be addressed. It’s like, “Let’s get to the root of this and fix it that you feel better.”
I suppose in the case when you’re on the outside looking in and it’s two other people that are dealing with their own discomfort, trauma, and anxiety, it’s like, “Do I say something? Do I not say something? Do I go get the ice cream? Do I get dessert ready?” It’s a tricky thing.Change doesn't happen when we always choose distance; it happens in relationships with other humans. Click To Tweet
I’m going to combine 15 and 16 together. Fifteen is not introducing yourself to coworkers who seem intense, and sixteen is not initiating conversations with people who look different than you. It’s like judging somebody like, “They seem intense.” “This person looks different so I’m not going to bother talking to them.” I can’t say that I’ve had that experience with coworkers in the past. I’m immediately thinking about working retail when there were a lot of coworkers or when I was worked in big office environments. I’m typically someone that introduces myself to everybody but I bet you, there were cases where I didn’t go out of my way to befriend somebody because I was judging them.
I also don’t think I can relate to this initiating conversation with people who look different than me but I have done that. The first example that comes to mind was when I was at the grocery store and there was somebody that seemed may be mentally ill or perhaps homeless. He was talking to himself in the aisles and he didn’t smell good. He looked a little disheveled. I found myself trying to observe him from afar but not wanting to get too close to him. That in a way is not initiating a conversation because he simply looked different than me.
This could be applied to people that have different religious backgrounds based on what they’re wearing, different skin colors or however else we perceive that somebody is different from us. I think we’ve had a lot of conversations about racism and that is part of this, but it is beyond race. There’s a lot of different things that when we put people into a category of being different or other or making judgments about what they seem and how that might cause us to feel like we’re not going to be able to connect with them, or we don’t want to connect with them.
I’m laughing to myself because the situations that come up for me are when I’ve done some sort of workshop, retreat or transformational experience or something like that where you go and you’re in a group setting and they’re like, “We’re going to go around and everyone call a number. All the ones get together, the twos get together, all the threes get together.” You’ve been in the situation. It’s not always but I’m reflecting on an experience from 2019. It wasn’t exactly this but it was a thing of like, “Go hang out,” then there’s the thing of, “He’s fine.” I remember the one guy came to mind most that I was like, “He seems gruff. His energy is a bit spiky,” and in my interactions or being near him or observing him, I’m like, “I don’t want to talk to this person.”
I’m glad you shared that Jason because now that you’re saying that, I have had those experiences. It is a great example of it’s not about the coworker as it was provided here by Kathleen, it’s about those kinds of social situations where maybe it’s someone at a party and you’re like, “This doesn’t seem like someone I want to talk to.” I have been in that position and it’s interesting to reflect on that.
It’s an energetic thing. It’s almost like you talked about observing that the man in the grocery aisle. In this particular case or in these group settings where you don’t have any control over who you’re paired within these whatever group transformational situations or workshops, whatnot, where each person will have a chance to speak and go around. I suppose it is a little bit judgmental. I don’t want to say judgment because it has a negative charge on it, although maybe sometimes it is judgmental.
Judgment has a negative energetic charge of like, “I don’t want to talk to Dave. Dave’s creepy,” versus a discernment where you’re like, “I prefer not to be around his energy. It doesn’t feel good to me.” There’s no negative charge on it but it’s almost like I try and feel into people’s energy and observe their energy. If it feels like something I don’t want to interact with, I try to avoid it. It doesn’t mean I will avoid it, but I try to.
Number seventeen on this list is avoiding talking to people who are sick or dying. I feel like we already covered that when we are talking about our grandparents or anybody in our lives. It’s tough and it’s not easy. I think that it is a selfless thing to do if you can move through any anxiety you have around those things because I’m sure that’s a lonely period of your life to be in.
It’s still one of those things that I suppose I’ve never gotten good at. It is not even a good way to describe this, but to acknowledge my discomfort of bearing witness to someone’s mortality. Facing mortality, facing death, and visiting people that we love who are in a situation that is mortal, maybe it’s a combination of the pain of the grieving process that we know we’re going to have to go through by losing them, but also being confronted with our own inevitable mortality. Those two things together are mentally and emotionally an incredibly difficult thing to feel. The sense of, “When they leave, I’m going to be devastated.” Also, I have to acknowledge that at some point that I’m also going to depart this planet as well.
It brings up a lot. All of these examples are a selfish thing where “I don’t want to feel this way so I’m going to avoid it and create distance.” Maybe some people avoid having close relationships with one another as a result of these things. “It’s too tough. I don’t want to be in the situation. I don’t want to let someone down. I know myself and I’m going to fall into these patterns.” I find myself doing that too. If somebody consistently shows up in some of these ways where I feel let down by them then I start to avoid communicating with them at all. I think it’s important to examine how we relate to one another in these ways.
The next way on the list is not talking about past family history that is anxiety-producing. I certainly have experienced this where either it was an unsaid rule where we don’t talk about those things or I’ve been shut down. This isn’t about family history, but that’s what this example is. This has come up in a lot of different scenarios in my life because I’m a questioner. I’m naturally curious, I’d like to know the answers and I like to know the details. I’m generally brave about asking and yet I’ve been in many situations over my life where I’ve asked a question and somebody said to me like, “We don’t talk about that.”
I don’t know if I’ve ever been on the receiving end of that.
Not even outside of your family? Even in a work environment? Maybe you don’t ask questions like I do.
It could be that way. I’m struggling to find a situation or recollect a situation from my memory that someone has made that statement like, “We don’t bring that up.” Nothing’s coming to my mind. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but I can’t immediately recall any situation like that.
Maybe you’re fortunate or maybe just you don’t put yourself in that position like I do. It’s not like I seek it out. It’s because I’m curious about a question or I’ll bring up things that make other people feel uncomfortable. I find myself trying to make them feel comfortable in those times like, “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.” I give somebody an easy out. This next one is bringing up a difficult topic during the last two minutes of therapy. In other words, you know you have a set amount of time and in any therapy session I’ve had, I feel like my therapists have had a lot of boundaries and they’ve been good and I tend to be respectful too. It’s like you know when your time is up. I don’t think I’ve done this but maybe I’ll save the discussion that I don’t want to go deep until the last minute in that way I can bring it up and simultaneously protect myself from going too deep.
That escape hatch is right there. You can smell it. You can see it. You’re like, “There is the escape hatch.”
I suppose you could do this in a lot of different situations where you know that you have that escape hatch, that easy out and you also probably want to talk about something or you want to seem as if you want to talk about something so you’ll bring it up, but not have to talk about it because you’re going to run out of time.
I don’t think I’ve ever done that in therapy. I tend to get to the nitty-gritty and start bawling, crying, and wailing within the first few minutes. I’m the opposite. I’m like, “Let’s dive right in. I’m paying you good money. Let’s do it, Gary.”
I feel like I was like that too in my previous sessions. I started thinking about how I don’t feel a major desire to go back to therapy. It’s like going to the doctor and I’m not someone that generally goes for checkups where I go when I feel like something’s wrong or maybe a certain amount of time has elapsed and I started reflecting on, “Maybe I should try going to therapy. I’m sure there’s something I could talk about.” All of us could benefit from it, in my opinion. We’re getting down to the final examples of ways that we use distance to manage anxiety. Number twenty is not engaging in conversations that are hard but important. I feel like we’ve touched upon that a lot during this conversation. Is there anything else that you would add to that, Jason?
I think for each person there are foundational subjects that maybe they avoid like money, religion and sex. I think there are these kinds of base foundational topics that people tend to avoid with each other.
Number 21 is interesting to me and it could be more than a couple of different things. It is turning on the television at family gatherings. This could also be applied to using your phone or any device at a gathering. It’s interesting to me that Kathleen Smith had such specific examples because to me, you could go to a party and turn on the television. I’m somebody that I might not turn it on, but if the television was on and it felt like socially acceptable, I would be that person sitting on the couch, watching TV instead of engaging. Part of that is that introverted thing. Sometimes I want to be there but I want to be able to detach and maybe build up any energy that I feel like has been diminished or, depleted. This list is also getting me to think about like, “Am I just trying to create distance?” It’s like when you’re on your phone in the corner during a gathering and I try to be mindful and it’s tempting to use these coping mechanisms or forms of escape in those situations where you think maybe you’re tired or you’re bored, or maybe you don’t want to talk to people.
It reminds me of some mutual friends of ours that hosted an Oscar party every year, which luckily we were able to go to before COVID and quarantine took hold of everything. There are moments in those parties where I know and recall some of the people year-after-year, but sometimes there are new people. I feel like one of my escape mechanisms is because of the TV’s constantly going with the Oscars to stay stuck to my seat so that I don’t have to get up and talk to anybody new.
This could play out in a lot of different ways, any time that we do something at a gathering as a way of avoiding new conversations. Social gatherings are generally uncomfortable. Even if you’re extroverted like you, Jason. You have times where you don’t want to do that. You don’t want to talk to someone new or you don’t want to talk to somebody you know. One example is that time right before COVID where one of our friends had a birthday party and there was somebody at her birthday party that I didn’t want to talk to. It was a picnic and there were a lot of people there out on these picnic blankets that we had put out and we were all crowded together.
I didn’t want to talk to this one person so I kept moving and he kept trying to talk to me so he would get closer to me and I would move to a different part of the blanket. I was trying to make it not noticeable but at some point, I heard him say to somebody else, “Every time I try to get close to Whitney, she moves away.” I was like, “No, I’ve been caught.” I don’t know what to do. I was willing to be caught avoiding this person because being caught felt more comfortable than trying to let him know that I didn’t want to talk to him. I felt uncomfortable around him based on some situation that we are in. It wasn’t a romance type of thing. It was something completely different that led to me feeling uncomfortable around him at that time.
When he showed up I was like, “Oh no.” I think many of us have been there where we’re at a party and somebody shows up and we don’t want to talk to them and things are awkward. Whatever reason we have, you’ll find ways to leave the event or to go somewhere else or to talk to somebody else. Those are the worst. I don’t like that feeling. Next on the list ties into this as well and one of my favorite examples on this list which is when people double book so that they have an easy out to the gathering.
They schedule themselves for two events at the same time that way when they’re done with one event, they can go to the other or vice versa. I brought this up to a friend of mine because I thought this was interesting and she was saying how it also can feel like, A, “I’m important. I have two events to go to. You’re lucky that I showed up at yours at all,” or B, “I’m going to go to one event and feel it out and if it’s not good, I’m going to go the second event and feel that out and then go back to the first event if the second one isn’t good.”
I feel like that’s a cliché thing in LA. I feel like at least outwardly the first version, which is like, “I can only stay for twenty minutes because I’ve got this thing and there’s this red carpet thing and there’s this fitting. Then I need to go to Malibu and get a colonic and get my butt blown out.”
I wonder if is it a way of managing anxiety and keeping people at a distance? I always viewed it as an opportunistic type of thing, but I think what happens in a city like Los Angeles, which is known for being on the superficial side is maybe things are superficial because we’re all trying to protect ourselves and manage our anxiety. Maybe it is a little bit more universal. Maybe it isn’t an LA thing. Maybe it happened all over the world.
I don’t want to subjugate LA or throw LA under the bus. It seems that that’s a common thing here. I think there’s an element of wanting to maybe LA anxiety but there’s another layer of image management. It’s like, “This person’s in demand. They’ve got all these parties to go to.” It’s almost like they’re trying to portray an image of significance.
I think that when I double book it’s simply because I’m trying to do too much. I don’t think I’m ever trying to make myself seem in demand. I’m like, “I don’t want to miss out on either experience. I’m going to go do both.” It is interesting if someone perceives that differently. Number 23 is planning nonstop activities to keep everyone busy. I immediately think of parents that might do this. If everybody in our family is busy all the time, we won’t ever have a chance to connect with one another or maybe I don’t want to connect with them.
Even in events, conferences, or retreats, everything’s nonstop and I don’t like that. It’s an introvert thing for me. I want breaks. I want time to relax, unwind and I don’t like the word, busy. I also don’t like what it means to be busy in this scenario, which is constantly doing things all the time. I find that draining and exhausting. I want to be able to connect with people more. I’d rather have one activity. That also reminds me when people plan events at loud venues. I don’t enjoy that at all. I don’t like going to loud bars. I would rather sit outside on a comfortable couch and have a quiet atmosphere.There are many ways we use distance to manage anxiety, but in the long term, distance binds anxiety to our relationships. Click To Tweet
I don’t like loud music at parties because I want to talk to people. That’s part of the reason that I go. I wonder if some people play loud music or have events at loud places where you’re competing over each other’s voice volume in order to hear each other. Is that a form of keeping things at a distance? You’re not going to be able to talk to one another and you’re going to have to drink a ton and awkwardly stare at each other or dance. Is that a way of avoiding intimacy versus if you’re at an intimate event where there are only a few people there and it’s quiet so you’re forced to have deeper conversations.
As you’re describing those loud, crazy frenetic parties, my body and being do not miss those parties. There is a little bit of anxiety I feel around the idea when the world opens back up, when society “normalizes” or balances. When the world finds its footing, whatever the case is, I might feel a little bit strange going to large gatherings at first. In fact, going back to what we talked about going to socially distanced birthday gathering, I told the host, “I was a little bit anxious coming here. I didn’t want to have weird interactions. I didn’t know how many people were going to be here. I didn’t know how I would feel.” When you bring that up, there’s a little bit of potential anxiety about gathering, large and loud ones starting up again.
I’ve seen this on TikTok were was some video I saw of a concert that was happening in the UK and they had set up all these individual sections for the concert so you would go into your own little contained section with a few chairs instead of having to stand in the middle of a big crowd that we got used to at a lot of concerts. Somebody commented, “This is an introvert’s dream.” Another person was like, “You mean I could sit down in a chair and watch a concert instead of being in this massive crowd and trying to find space?” I’m sure we’ll go back to that at some point. We’ve had pandemics in the world before but I could be wrong though.
Maybe events will never go back to that. Who knows? It’ll certainly be a little while until that happens if it does. I love the idea of being able to go to a concert and sit down in a chair and be in my own little section and not have to stand around with a bunch of strangers and compete for a spot. I think parties could be similar as well. Maybe parties will be more intimate like the one we went to where there weren’t that many people there. I felt comfortable going because I thought I can always use COVID as my excuse if I’m sitting off in the corner and be like, “Guys, I don’t want to get close to you,” but in reality, I’m just doing it because I don’t want to talk to anybody.
We could use COVID as a lot of different excuses. I think that’s going to be something that’s revealed a lot. I started to feel anxious when things were opening back up again because I felt comfortable at the beginning stages of quarantine. If you can no longer use that as an excuse not to go socialize, it’s going to be interesting. Number 24 is assuming people aren’t interested in hearing about your passions. I can relate to this. This goes back to what I said about having superficial conversations. I oftentimes assume that people aren’t going to have a deep conversation with me or don’t care about what I have to say.
I think part of that is living in areas like Los Angeles where it feels like a lot of people are interested in what they can get from you. When they ask, “What do you do?” If you don’t give them the answer they want to hear, they move on or they lose interest and you get used to that. That’s part of where I start to make those assumptions. Even in online conversations, it can feel like that. I’m in a few Facebook groups where I interact regularly and it seems like even in those types of environments, many people are in there just to see what they can get from you.
When I try to have deeper conversations in a Facebook group, it seems like nobody wants to have them, but maybe that is an assumption that I have. That was part of my inspiration for starting Beyond Measure. I’m trying to be intentional about having deeper conversations. That’s also part of the reason I started doing the voice memos through Instagram. I want to let other people know that I care about them and I am interested in them and I want to hear about their passions. We need to be prompted because we do get in this situation where maybe we assume people don’t care about what we have to say or who we are.
It reminds me of situations where someone will ask you, “What do you do?” You start explaining it and then you see them break eye contact, look away, or get distracted by something else. It’s this idea of like, “I’m not even going to finish the conversation because you’re not even interested.” That’s a tough situation to be. Sometimes people are genuinely interested though or at least they fake it well.
Maybe we have to ask somebody outright like, “Do you care?” It sounds funny but why not ask?
When gathering starts happening again, I would like us both to do that like, “Do you care or were you asking because you think that’s polite to ask?”
You could say that in a way that’s honest. You don’t have to say it with an attitude. What I tend to do is I’ll say, “Do you want the short answer or the long answer?” You give somebody the option and I’ll test things out. Maybe I’ll give a short answer and if somebody asks me a follow-up question, I think of that as a cue that they want to hear more. I’ve noticed in a lot of work environments like when we used to go to trade shows where somebody would ask what you did and if you gave them a long answer, you could see that they weren’t interested.
They start to glaze.
I also think people are used to getting short answers and maybe you caught them off guard and they don’t even know what to do. A lot of this is like the conditioning that we’ve had and how we have to break through these molds of communicating with people differently. The final way that we use distance to manage anxiety according to Kathleen Smith is minimizing your accomplishments to make others comfortable.
It’s almost like a fear for me of not wanting to seem egotistical. I don’t know if it’s necessarily wanting to make other people comfortable by minimizing the accomplishments as much as it is, I’m trying to craft my self-image in a way that doesn’t seem egotistical. That’s what comes up for me. “I don’t want to see me getting egotistical so I’m going to hold back.”
It’s like this assumption that others will feel uncomfortable if we talk about things that are going well, and maybe it’s this fear that we can’t connect with people if we’re doing better than they are. It’s also an assumption that that would offend or bother somebody. I love hearing about when somebody is doing well and it’s up to me to notice if I feel uncomfortable and deal with that. There’re many contexts. Some people do want to be validated by you and that’s why they’re telling you about their accomplishments. It depends on your motive, but maybe somebody is telling you about their accomplishments because they want to share it and it feels good to share or maybe this is somebody that cares about you. When my dad called me, he was like, “Is there anything new and noteworthy?” I’m sure there are plenty of things when nothing came immediately to mind and I felt bad. I wish that I had a great accomplishment to share with my dad at that moment.
I think if we train ourselves to minimize ourselves, we are taking joy away or our ability to connect with somebody especially the people that care about us and are hoping we have something good to share. This came up again in my Beyond Measure call where I had the members write out their accomplishments and their accomplishments from the past and reminding them that accomplishments can be small. They could be simple things and sometimes we don’t focus enough on these simple accomplishments, the small accomplishments. We minimize them so much that we don’t even view them as accomplishments. I think getting into that practice of noticing them for yourself and sharing them with others, we may find that people are not only comfortable with hearing about them, but they would be uncomfortable if you didn’t share them.
There’s an offshoot of this that I feel sometimes challenged by and it’s when I am with a person, a friend, and sometimes an acquaintance. I guess it depends on how it’s being delivered and who’s delivering it. Sometimes when I’m out to eat with someone and they will introduce me to someone they know and they’ll go, “This is Jason. Jason is this rockstar chef and he hosted the first prime time vegan cooking series in history and wrote this bestselling book.”
They go on and on, and it’s hard for me to hear sometimes because it’s like, “Are you saying this because you want to make yourself feel important by association? Are you proud of me? Are you trying to uplift your status by being around me?” Then I start to feel awkward because I don’t know what their intent is. That’s a tricky situation that I find myself in sometimes where I’m out in a social situation and they’re like, “This is Jason.” They then go on with a long diatribe about who I am and what I’ve done and I sit there and be like, “I want to crawl into a fucking corner now.”
I’m sure other people can relate. It’s like when a family member wants to brag about you to their friends or it’s almost like they feel like they need to put you into context in that way.
Almost in a grandiose way. As I’m dissecting it, is it that I haven’t celebrated my accomplishments enough and I’m trying not to see me egotistical? It’s almost like I’m watching someone share their perception of who I am and do it in a semi grandiose way and I feel uncomfortable in those situations. The other person will look at me and they’ll go, “Now I’m going to take you fucking seriously.” It’s like, “You’re going to take me seriously now because of the contacts?” It’s weird. It goes into the cult of fame, success and celebrity we have in our culture that I feel icky about all of it. Maybe that’s my current state, but maybe it’s because of COVID. The whole cult of personality, fame, influence, money, success and people like you’re “You’re so and so. Now I’m going to suck your dick.” I was nobody before, but now I’m somebody and now I’m important to you. I don’t like the way that humanity operates in that way. Maybe there’s no escaping it but it makes me feel gross sometimes to see someone like, “I should know you now.” It’s like, “You don’t want to know me before and now you want to know me.”
I feel like that could turn into a whole another conversation about handling that and as we wrap this up, I would love to end with some closing notes from Kathleen’s email where she doesn’t think that these behaviors are bad or unhealthy. It might be something that you’re doing as best you know-how for navigating a sticky situation but when there’s a pattern of distancing, it’s helpful to ask yourself, “Is this my best thinking or is this just my anxiety at work?” The good news that there are other ways to manage our own anxiety than creating distance. The bad news is that these actions usually require more temporary discomfort.
This was the line where I read and thought we got to talk about this on the show because we’re all about helping you the audience get uncomfortable as a way to grow and that temporary discomfort is usually worth it. It could require you to spend more time with your family. It could require you to engage in hard conversations about things like race, politics, religion, and history. It could require you to put down that glass of wine, turning off the television, getting away from your phone, and saying to people like, “I’m not great. Let’s talk about challenging things.” This is something I’m discovering through Beyond Measure. It’s amazing to me how many people are used to having superficial conversations.
When you give them the opportunity to talk about their challenges and their struggles, it takes some people time to realize that you’re sincere in asking about them. That’s probably one of the most rewarding parts of this program Beyond Measure that I’ve been working on and realizing about people. Kathleen Smith says, “Change doesn’t happen when we always choose distance. Change happens in relationship with other humans when we are willing to sit down and sketch out who we’re trying to be and then look for opportunities to activate that image in real-time.” She encourages you and I will encourage you as well to ask yourself some questions after reading to this. How do you use distance to bind anxiety?
What are some other ways that you can calm yourself down as you engage with others? Lastly, looking for opportunities for you to interrupt your distancing habits. I hope that through reading this episode, that you’ve had a lot to reflect upon and noticing how you feel uncomfortable when you feel uncomfortable and can you move into some temporary discomfort as a way to benefit yourself to manage your anxiety and to develop deeper relationships with others. Now that we have moved through all that discomfort, this is an interesting episode. We went deep in a lot of different subject matters.
It was a thick slice of uncomfortable lasagna.
We like to close out our episodes typically with two segments. One is called Frequently Asked Queries, which we are going to skip on this episode simply because this has been quite lengthy and frankly, Jason and I are had long days and are a bit burnt out so, for our sake, we are going to leave that out. Perhaps you’re not a big fan of Frequently Asked Queries anyways so maybe you don’t care, but if you do care about Frequently Asked Queries because you’ve read some of our past episodes that include them, stay tuned because they will be back in the upcoming episodes. What I don’t want to skip over is mentioning some of the products and brands that we’ve been loving. Jason, who would you like to give a shout-out?
A little bit of a throwback because we haven’t talked about this brand in quite some time. I believe you were the one who introduced me out either one of the natural products expos or perhaps the Fancy Food Shows the past few years, Truff Hot Sauce.
I love anything truffle related.
I remember I freaked the fuck out when I tried this. I remember you saying, “You’ve got to try this.” My girlfriend, Laura, texted me and she’s like, “I’ve got a new hot sauce for us.” We both love hot sauces. We’re both adventurous when it comes to trying new things. It’s one of the things that I adore about her. She’s open and adventurous with food and a lot of other things we won’t go there. She comes and it’s Truff. I’m like, “I know that hot sauce.” I hadn’t tried it since whatever trade show we were originally introduced to it, and that fucking hot sauce is good. We have decimated the entire bottle in five days. There’s the essence of truffle. It’s like chili peppers, organic, agave nectar, black truffle, and a blend of proprietary spices. Readers, if you are into hot sauce, this is one of the best hot sauces I’ve ever had in my life and now it’s addiction status. Now that I have a bottle at the house, we’ve been putting in on the Korean Japchae, with Beyond Meat sausage, on pizza, on salad dressings, on bowls, pretty much near any savory thing. If you are a hot sauce connoisseur, dear reader, check out Truff Hot Sauce.
They also have a delightful bottle. I must say the cap on that hot sauce is satisfying. It reminds me of a crystal or something like that because it’s textured and it’s pleasing to the eye. It’s making my mouth water too. I love hot sauce in addition to truffle and my favorite truffle product is called Sabatino, which is the brand. They make a black truffle powder that you can sprinkle on anything. It’s $15 and a little bit goes a long way. It’s a great product to have if you’re a fan of truffles because you can sprinkle it on anything as Jason’s describing so you could have your own hot sauce and then add that on top.
There is a big difference between different brands of truffle. There’re different types. There’s white truffle and black truffle. There’re many factors. I love trying different truffle products. I agree that getting one that’s blended perfectly is a different experience. If you want to have consistent access to truffle and be able to play around with it in a lot of different ways, that black truffle powder is a great investment. That is not the brand that I was going to shout out though.
The brand is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a beauty brand called trèStiQue. All of their products are in a stick shape. It’s makeup and it’s convenient because almost every product has a magnet on it, which will connect them all together. They have mascara, eyeliner, concealer, foundation, and bronzers. I think they have a blush which I haven’t tried and a few other products. With the magnets, they’ll all click together so they’re convenient and it’s easy because they’re all similar shapes.
I also have one for the eyebrows that will define the eyebrows a bit. That’s not the only thing that makes it cool. They also have like a 2 in 1 design where on one end of the stick is the product, let’s say like the eyeliner and on the other end there will be an applicator or a tool. You’ll apply eyeliner for example and the tool in the end will be a brush so you can blend it in or a little sponge. The concealer will have a sponge on another end so you can blend it in. It’s neat. One of my favorite tools is on the mascara.
The opposite end of it has a crimping tool. You can use it on your eyelashes to shape them a little bit before applying the mascara and that’s super handy. All of the tools can be twisted so you can easily clean them. What makes them neat is that they have great ingredients as well. They’re cruelty-free, mess-free, and lightweight. They come with a little traveling case depending on how you buy them. You can buy them on their own or in packages. I got from the brand, it’s called The Essential 8. It’s cool because it allows you to choose a bunch of different products and you get the case as well.
It’s a little on the pricey side, but I’ve had them for a few months and found them convenient. I like to keep my makeup on the simpler side. I like to easily grab what I need to travel or grab it if I’m trying to apply my makeup quickly. Considering all the things, the cost is good. It’s $175 to get these eight products and now, that’s almost all the products that I use, especially because the tools are included. I don’t need to use some of my sponges and brushes and stuff. I love them. They’re great all around. They’re made in Italy.
I think that’s also part of why the price is high. They feel high-end makeup. I’m not generally a high-end makeup person. I like the $20 product range. They have free returns and exchanges. They have a 60-day warranty. They have free shipping over $30. They check off a lot of the boxes and their whole mission is to make shopping for makeup online easier, high-performance products, cruelty-free, and a less mess. I’ve been enjoying them. I wanted to give them a big shout out and go into detail. I know we have a lot of women reading so we thought that that might be a good fit. I’ve been like looking for an opportunity to bring them up.
We haven’t done anything on beauty since we had Sunny on our show. We do use affiliate links whenever we can and we’ve been trying to offer alternatives to Amazon, but some of the products like Truff Hot Sauce, it’s easier for us to link to Amazon. If you find it elsewhere, we’ve purchased products like Truff in their store. We encourage you to look outside of Amazon, but if it’s convenient for you, I think everything we’ve mentioned can be found on there as well.
For the audience, if you want to connect with us, we always love hearing from you, whether it’s suggestions for new episodes, comments on existing episodes or if you want to review this on Apple Podcasts, we always love those. We’ve got some lovely reviews. Thank you so much if you have done so. We are easily found at Wellevatr.com and you can also email us directly, which is [email protected]. We are on all the major networks. I’m going to be posting some new content especially on our YouTube channel and our Pinterest board. Until next time, thank you for being with us through the deep dive of this episode. We appreciate your time and as always, thanks for getting uncomfortable with us.
*We use affiliate links in our show notes. This means we receive a small sales commission if you purchase an item based on our recommendation.
- Kathleen Smith
- Everything Isn’t Terrible
- Celebrating 4/20: In Praise Of CBD – Previous episode
- Rejection, Ghosting And The Culture Of Avoidance – Previous episode
- Truff Hot Sauce
- Cruelty-Free Lifestyle, Conscious Beauty and Ageism with Sunny Subramanian – Previous episode
- The Essential 8
- [email protected]
- Apple Podcasts – This Might Get Uncomfortable
- Your Anxiety and Relationships: Are You a Good Match? – Psychology Today article
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