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Trust Deconstructed

Posted on 2012.01.13 at 09:15
Current Location: 67114
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Presupposing for just a moment that everyone in the world I may ever interact with breathes air, is beholden to the laws of physics, and can articulate why they hold a belief, "That's just how I feel" is woefully inadequate. Inadequate because it leaves no room for discussion or compromise. Woefully because there will never be a possibility for understanding or compassion between us. Relationships, be them friends or lovers or coworkers in order to be successful demand these four things beyond the fleeting interests of feelings or activities.

  • Discussion - A spontaneous, interactive relatively equal exchange of information.

    • "That's just how I feel" imparts very little usable information.

  • Compromise - To make a deal between different parties where each party gives up part of their demand - a concept of finding agreement through communication and a mutual acceptance of terms.

    • "That's just how I feel" has zero demands and zero terms therefore zero room for compromise. All of a sudden its "my way or the highway!" Very poor relationship material.

  • Understanding - A psychological process whereby one is able to think and use concepts to deal adequately with that object with respect to knowledge sufficient to support intelligent behavior.

    • "That's just how I feel" is the opposite of sufficient knowledge and does not support intelligent behavior.

  • Compassion - There is an aspect of compassion which regards a quantitative dimension.

    • "That's just how I feel" is void of quantification - there's nothing in which to measure. For those of use who lack empathy, compassion is our guiding star. But compassion demands we know why the feelings are there - not what the feelings are.

The proclamation of, "That's just how I feel" speaks volumes to me. None of them complimentary.

Sadly, my presupposition is fantasy for most, because while our bodies instinctively process oxygen and physics cannot be ignored, people do hold beliefs without knowing why. Unlike physics where incomprehension behind the science does not negate being subject to them, I'm not asking that they understand the complexity of their beliefs - only that they know why they hold them as such. "Why believe in x?"

"That's just how I feel."

Interestingly enough, feelings, like ideas concluded from logic, are also subject to change. But because feelings are psychophysiological in nature and subject to biochemical and environmental influences, they're much less stable. What I think about something is not dependent upon my mood - and that's downright frightening knowing that those who have no logical basis behind their beliefs can be swayed by a emotional state.

When I'm considering changing my viewpoint on an issue or idea, I don't change the logic I used to get there - I review the information, and if applicable, apply new data to the logic to see if it fits. People who don't know why they believe something cannot assimilate new data into their construct because that's not how they arrived at their conclusion - it was something they felt. And because they have no arguable basis for their ideas, they're disallowed from even recognizing the new data as applicable to their conclusion. In other words, there is nothing in which to apply new data even if they were to recognize it as such.

This brings me to two ultimatums which invariably follow - both of which are falsehoods; lies. I have personally heard both myself. The first ultimatum is:

"Why won't you just trust me?"

Pretending that the above four items necessary for a relationship are not really necessary, let's define how I perceive use of the word trust, and why that's the wrong word to use. First of all, questioning a belief is not an accusation - and seeing it as such is indicative of much deeper problems, of which asking for trust is not going to solve nor fix. Furthermore, questioning that belief is not an attack on honesty, fairness, or benevolence - things in which trust are built upon. I'm questioning their origin. I trust that before it was embraced as an idea it was given due course. What I want to know is the confidence of the data used in its acceptance. Its that I don't inherently "trust."

Certainly I should be expected to trust the source if I trust the person who trusts the source, right? Wrong. Ever since unearthing the Govering Dynamics of lessons learned, I've been very wary of statements of absolutes - for those reek of misapplication of concepts. Every time I hear, "I do" or "I do not" I cringe at the possibility that the knowledge that it comes from may be a long line of recent decisions built upon incorrect assumptions based upon the mishandling of past errors. Simply put, I would not be doing my due diligence by not asking, thus potentially perpetuating the cycle of endless fail. In short, I'm showing my honor of the belief by asking how it came to be without relying upon the supernatural. [I wrote this prior to dentin's comments on Within Reason which should certainly be considered.]

The second ultimatum:

"I'm entitled to my feelings."

Nope! And this is why - entitlement itself is nothing more than another feeling. In asking for reasonable evidence behind a belief, I instead get "I feel that I have the right to feel." Yes! And I would never deny that! Only - it means almost nothing, and certainly cannot be expected to suffice as reasonable evidence. Entitlement is the belief that one is deserving of some particular reward or benefit. Which simply means, whomever is unable to explain why they believe something to me, is also unable to articulate why they're entitled to feel that entitlement. "Double Fail."

I ask because I thirst for knowledge and want to either enrich, or deprive our relationship based upon the depth of our discussion, compromise, understanding and compassion. Guess which one "That's just the way I feel" engenders within me?

I'm not asking for everyone to be a genius. Only that they have a very basic comprehension of themselves.

Sometimes, that's asking too much.


pcofwildthings at 2012-01-13 19:07 (UTC) (Link)
I confess to only having read the first half of your post (will come back later, but just have a minute before starting the work that's downloading), but let me perhaps play devil's advocate here for just a moment because I am one of those people who, while I will probably not answer with "That's just how I feel," I do (believe it or not) struggle at times with articulating why I feel the way I feel at a particular moment. I am basing that "feeling" on the sum total of experiences and knowledge I have accumulated over the years. I'm not the greatest at recalling specifics, but I know there were specific instances that led me to whatever conclusion. So there's that. Will be back later to finish reading, but just wanted to comment off the top of my head.
ehowton at 2012-01-13 22:26 (UTC) (Link)
THANK YOU for playing Devil's Advocate! When I write all this stuff down only half of it is because I think I'm right. The other half is that I may be wrong and don't yet know it.

So yeah, I guess I'm weird that I occasionally expire my known baselines in order to continually test them - so I always try to know why I feel a certain way if I begin to stray from the straight and narrow. Its not a game as much as it is a survival technique I suppose.
pcofwildthings at 2012-01-13 23:20 (UTC) (Link)
Okay, so I've been processing while working this afternoon and actually jotted notes as the thoughts popped into my head. And now I have read the entire post.

First, I can understand your frustration when met with that kind of response. You are seeking to understand a belief or viewpoint but the conversation is seemingly shut down with that kind of comment. Some thoughts:

Though you may not intend pursuit of an explanation to be that way, some people may view it as coming from a place where you obviously have a differing opinion. As such, that perception puts the other on the defensive. It could be like a kneejerk reaction, like when you catch a kid doing something they shouldn't and you ask why, and they keep repeating "I don't know," ad nauseum. They probably do know, but in light of what they're perceiving the outcome of the conversation is going to be (i.e., a consequence) they decide it's "better" for them to shut down and deny and hopefully end the exchange sooner than later without having to divulge more. Deliver the punishment, and let's get this over with, so to speak.

Kind of the same thing when kids incessantly ask, "Why?" and, sooner or later, the parental response may be, "Because I said so."

So yeah, in that sense, such a statement is a defense or a means to end a conversation they perhaps don't want to have.

Now, why wouldn't someone want to have that conversation in the current instance? Well, let me ask this. If you and a party are in agreement on a subject, do you tend to ask why they think they way they think or believe what they do? I'm guessing not (but I could be wrong). The assumption is that you're operating on similar groundwork and have reached the same conclusion. So, if you probe for the rationale behind an opinion or belief, my assumption would be that you disagree or have another take on it. So another case where someone might choose deliberately to not discuss the issue further. It is, in fact, how they feel, but they do not choose, at that moment, to go into the basis for that feeling. Not that it makes things less frustrating for you or deepens the relationship, but it could be that it's a choice made.

Again, these are just some things that may explain the behavior, why people use that phrase, not saying the behavior isn't for you as you have described, a communication roadblock and barrier to further discussion and understanding and compassion.

A final thought, just semantics, because a person says he/she "feels" that way, doesn't necessarily mean that they are relying entirely on emotion of the moment (or past moments) and/or that that feeling can change just as arbitrarily. I think the way you "feel" encompasses, at least for me, that backstory of knowledge and experience. You are therefore inquiring as to that knowledge and experience, which the respondent may interpret as ending in dispute and perhaps judgment, and they just aren't "feeling" like getting into that right now...maybe ever. That said, I think such a response can quickly become a habit, if not challenged. Perhaps nobody has probed them deeper on the subject and they just never had to think about it much. It's a system that has worked, in other words. Not that it's "good" or "bad" but it's the OS they know.

Does any of that make any sense, from a behavioral perspective?

Edited at 2012-01-13 11:20 pm (UTC)
ehowton at 2012-01-13 23:37 (UTC) (Link)
Interesting. And yes, it does make sense as my hetero-lifemate used to pull that shit on me often, when he would become le'tired.

But you bring up many, many points I would accept wholly and without further question! For example, I would unflinchingly accept, "I don't want to have this conversation with you right now." Or, "I deliberately choose to not discuss the issue further at this moment."

Instead, I get something which semantically tells me that a back-story of knowledge and experience as basis of that feeling is a fabrication in my own head.


What I'm trying to say is you're probably right. Challenging ideas must be pretty risky business. I am fortunate to be surrounded by many people I can openly and honestly discuss these things with.

Thank you for your comprehensive response!
catttitude at 2012-01-13 21:20 (UTC) (Link)
Sometimes your ranting gives me a headache and here is why.

#1. it never stops
#2. just because you say it louder and faster doesn't make understanding your 800 part question any easier.
#3. If you don't trust what I am saying to be what I believe after all these years and I am unable to tell you to your satisfaction why. I am sorry.
#4. Passion for me is not disusing a problem for 8 hours.
#5. There seem to be many restriction if someone wants to have a relationship with you.
#6. How on Earth can you judge feelings when you yourself are not capable of understanding yours.
#7. How do you keep your head from blowing up?

Oh, and I FEEL like I may want some chocolate, I FEEL it now, however I may not FEEL like it later. Just have to see how I FEEL about that. Ass Hat.
ehowton at 2012-01-13 22:33 (UTC) (Link)
One man's rant is another man's exultation! It pains me you are so adverse to it :( I try to have these conversations in my head, and when I cannot hold anymore, or require feedback to save me from the Q&A loops which play out in my head, it spills over into livejournal. Granted, I have been very busy here lately. Idle hands and all that I suppose - which hopefully answers your question!!
ehowton at 2012-01-13 22:34 (UTC) (Link)
Heh - I just caught the avatar. Nice job :P
michelle1963 at 2012-01-14 17:40 (UTC) (Link)
"That's just how I feel," is not a problem over small things like what sounds good to eat; what color clothes I want to wear today, what movie I want to watch. Where the issues arise is in situations in which it is necessary that some measure of mutual understanding be achieved for functionality.

In a work setting, managers often accompany their instructions with logical reasons or the latest information they have at their disposal in order to get the best work from their employees. A manager will say something like, "We're giving this project priority because we are under a deadline due to the contract." A manager never says, "We're giving this project priority because we feel like it." I realize anyone reading this would say my example is ridiculous. Of course it is!

In personal relationship ~ friends, lovers, family, and especially married couples with children ~ the issues in which we interact run the gamut from deciding what to make for meals, to values, ethics, religious / spiritual ideas, code of interpersonal behavior, money, child-rearing, ad infinitum.

The question is in which of these many topics is "that's just how I feel" adequate communication in the relationship, and where is it not. It's probably not a good way to handle child-rearing and money. (Just take one look at all of those people with credit card bills that won't be paid off for decades, and ask if "that's just how I feel" is a great way to handle money. I suspect they've learned that it's probably not.)

Religious / spiritual ideas could probably be addressed with "that's just how I feel," because by their very nature, these concepts are designed to speak to emotional well-being.

I think where we often get in trouble is in the interpersonal behavior between those we are closest to. When you're in the most intimate of relationships ~ married, lovers, significant others, etc., how we feel, our moods, deeply affect our partners. If those moods are negative, unhappy, then our partner is going to feel it too. And it is natural for that partner to care, to want to fix why we are hurting.

If the one we love is depressed, we want to know why in order to be able to address it. If the depressed person says, "that's just how I feel", then that leaves no avenue for helping. What are we supposed to do? Guess? Do a little trial and error, groping blindly in the dark, and hope that we hit on a solution that relieves our loved one's depression? Or let the one we love wallow in misery?

If the one we love is angry, and even worse, angry at us, and we have no clue why, the response, "that's just how I feel" is a slap in the face. It gives no avenue for rectifying the current situation; it gives no way for us to avoid the situation in the future, and it pretty much says what we think and feel just doesn't matter. I can't imagine a more hurtful scenario.

"That's just how I feel," is not acceptable in those circumstances. We owe the person we love a hell of a lot more than that.

suzanne1945 at 2012-01-14 18:12 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, so well described. Responses are not "one-size fits all". I agree the "That's just what I feel" response is so isolating, both for the responder and for the receiver. There is no communication at that point.
Yes, a person is entitled to feel what they feel. They are not entitled to express those feelings to others in a way that is damaging and hurtful. Some people never take into consideration how their words effect those hearing them. Their "entitlement" to express, overrides their ability to communicate successfully with another which ultimately works against them. One can express feelings without being a terrorist to those that are the recipients and still be true to their feelings and beliefs.

I'm reminded of the old story about the guy sitting next to a woman on an air plane holding the ugliest baby he had ever witnessed. The woman asked, "What do you think of my new baby?" Now he could have responded, "That's the ugliest kid I've ever seen!" But what would that gain him. Hurting someone? Disdain? Instead he responded, "Now that's a baby!"

Sure in communication with our significant others that we care about, a little more direct communication is needed. But those communications need to be open and mindful of how one's words will be received. Otherwise you are just shooting yourself in the proverbial foot.
ehowton at 2012-01-14 18:43 (UTC) (Link)
We had this finance officer who took over our intelligence squadron after we lost our senior officer and she took a hard-nosed approach to management. Shortly thereafter I'd volunteered for temporary duty in Saudi Arabia where I ran across a senior non-commissioned officer who was bitter about his own apparently involuntary assignment there. "What do you think about our new officer-in-charge?" he asked me. Half a beat later I exclaimed, "She was a brilliant and effective finance officer, I'm sure they miss her!"

After a moment of incomprehension crossed his face he laughed and laughed and laughed. Who says I can't play the political game?

And that officer? She seemed to appreciate protocol, so I gave it to her in spades when I returned. I won't say we liked each other, but I was only one who would play her game and it behooved me in the end.
ehowton at 2012-01-14 18:55 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you. Your linear thought always trumps my sporadic disorganization. Or, like catttitude said when I told her you were smarter than me, "I know."


Edited at 2012-01-14 07:27 pm (UTC)
michelle1963 at 2012-01-14 22:38 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for your kinds words, but we all investigate these philosophical mysteries together. Without the backdrop of your post, I would not have had the opportunity to think about this most excellent topic.
michelle1963 at 2012-01-15 18:17 (UTC) (Link)
My knowledge on the subject is more than theoretical. I've had personal experience as the recipient of an angry "that's just how I feel", more than once, and it gave me a lot of..., perspective. Let's just say, I'll never again entangle myself with someone who pulls that shit on me. No one deserves to be treated like that.

Edited at 2012-01-15 06:24 pm (UTC)
michelle1963 at 2012-01-14 18:38 (UTC) (Link)
pcofwildthings makes mention of "that's just how I feel" as a method for avoiding conflict ~ a defense mechanism. Excellent point.

I would also like to point out that it can be a method of getting one's own way. "That's just how I feel" brooks no argument and ends the discussion. There is no room for negotiation. It's either do it the person's way that invoked, "that's just how I feel," or disregard that person's feelings. Most of us give pause at the idea of disregarding another's feelings whether that person is our spouse or is co-worker with whom we must work as a team.

It's a crappy power play that basically says, do it my way or you'll be hurting me. And it's definitely not playing fair.

Edited at 2012-01-14 06:46 pm (UTC)
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