Don't ask to be understood

Haha, vibraters

— @theorangealt, Sep 15, 2020


I tweeted some tweets recently, they got a bunch of likes, and some smart people followed me. Oh shit.

I mean, genuinely. I use my Twitter account for self-therapy. Even if I also use it to socialize and to think about things, I still need a place to do self-therapy, and it is more important to be able to say anything than to keep the followers.

That's why when I saw this tweet—

The year is 2030 and we’ve finally abolished schedules, since you can’t schedule feelings. Instead, powerful AIs continually rate our vibes and pair us for what we’re best at right then. People relax better and work better. Every big companies makes Viberaters, and they free us

— @nickcammarata, Sep 15, 2020

—I immediately thought of quote-tweeting it and adding "Haha, vibraters". In fact, heck, I want an illustration for this post, let's do this now.

Okay, done.

The reason I immediately thought about "vibraters" is that I am very aware of the danger of losing the ability to use my account for self-therapy. And the primary reason I can use Twitter for self-therapy is that I have a mantra in my head: "This acc is for me, not for you". The moment I start caring about others' experience and acting on it, all is lost.

Hence "vibraters". I had a fleeting thought and I wanted to see: can I act on it? If yes—it's a tiny step up the slippery slope. If no—down.


I didn't want to spoil others' experience or to sabotage my self-therapy, so I came to a compromise: I will tweet "haha, vibraters" and then explain myself. Much like the first section of this essay.

And then I realized it was a horrible idea.

It is horrible because no matter what I said, I would essentially ask to be understood. "I hope you understand why I had to make this tweet and break your expectations. It's because X."

This pops up everywhere. Every disclaimer is a plea to be understood. "I have depression" on the first date. "I am not a native speaker" in a talk intro. "I come from a different culture" if you're Russian and everyone else is German and you're about to say something mildly weird. Etc.

And the bad thing about asking to be understood is that you reinforce, for yourself, that not being understood is not alright.

This fucks you up.

As a side-note, this also fucks other people up—because you will nag them to understand you even if they don't want to, "I hurt you but please tell me you understand why I had to do it? please?".

But most of all it fucks you up, because those other people probably have somebody else in their lives, somebody who doesn't demand to be understood, while you are surrounded, 24/7, by people who you have to convince that you are actually sane and reasonable. If even one person stubbornly refuses to understand you, you're screwed. You are not free to act anymore. You have found yourself in someone else's social reality and they don't agree to understand you just so that you can keep doing what you wanted to. Those fuckers.

This is how I lived for most of my life. Story time: when I was a kid, hating on Windows was a popular thing to do. I read somewhere that Windows was actually pretty good on the tech side, and thought: "If I was Bill Gates, I would have a special team of people to argue on forums that Windows is actually good". This comes from the same desire to be understood. You can hate me, but you can't hate me for the wrong reasons.

If you are like me, and you still want to be understood, all of this advice doesn't apply. You can't avoid wanting to be understood. Hence the disclaimers.

But if you have already drifting away from wanting to be understood, and have allowed yourself to act in this world as if it is your world—you might still be putting the disclaimers in, by inertia. This is what you want to avoid.

Try not adding disclaimers. Try doing something, and then basking in the feeling: somebody will not understand this, somebody will dislike this, somebody will think I'm [not who I actually am]. 

Before some point in time, it will not be possible. After some point in time, it will not be useful. But there's a window when it will be both possible and useful, and it should have been in the childhood but instead it is now, so start doing it now.


Found another example:

So one thing that I fucking hate is the need to make a fuckton of disclaimers before I can bitch about something to another person. Sometimes I just want to say things that sound REALLY harsh and rude. And it boggles my mind that some people actually take them seriously.

Like, bitch, don't you KNOW me? Isn't it obvious that I'm just venting? I don't need your advice, I KNOW all this shit myself, probably even better than you. I'm just my shadow parts loose because it FEELS GOOD.

Even posting these tweets makes me wanna add stuff like 'oh, but of course some people might feel uncomfortable, of course they might not know you well enough, I know all this and take it into account', blah blah. Yikes.

— @peak_valley_pea, Sep 10, 2020

Not the same thing here, but similar.

Adding disclaimers in itself is a good thing. Not making people feel uncomfortable is a good thing. Not making people think you are an asshole is a good thing. (People don't like seeing assholes even if you aren't being an asshole to them specifically.)

The bad thing is that every time you add disclaimers, you sabotage yourself. When you add a disclaimer—even if you still manage to sound harsh and rude—you don't get a chance to experience being a small standalone island. Instead, you see yourself from aside, constantly. This is tiring and soul-crushing. You can't connect to yourself.


See also: Classic style, which extorts you to read a somewhat similar thing, but written by Steven Pinker instead of me. Two explanations are better than one.