Building Connections by Ending Bullshit

Whether you’re making up bullshit, or believing it from another source, it can lead to a lot of disconnection. At it’s worse, it’s so toxic that it can ruin friendships and relationships. In this video, Dr. Michael Salas talks about why confronting bullshit stories and conspiracy theories is important in helping you to embrace vulnerability and enhance connections.

Michael Salas from Vantage Point Counseling and today I’m going to be talking about bullshit… And I’m also going to be talking about how it doesn’t necessarily do that effective of a job helping you cope with anxiety and helping you have the connections that you want to have.

Before I get into this video I want to be sure to give credit where credit is due. Dr. Brené Brown has discussed bullshit and how it can impact connection and impact our ability to be vulnerable. And so some of this information may overlap with hers, but and at the same time, this is my take on it. So it’ll be a little different as well.

Anytime we’re dealing with a crisis or anything complex in our lives, or we’re faced with a really stressful situation, it’s (the situation) usually pretty complex. And a lot of times our logical brain will try to put some really complex issues in more limited categories. When we think about things in such a limited way, it can create a lot of division and a lot of separation in our personal lives. That ends up meaning that people who are close to us can end up moving farther and farther away from us, if they just so happen to have a different perspective that ends up on the other side of the topic at hand.

In our society, we’re surrounded by constant misinformation. We have this really fast-paced way of gathering information now than we ever have before. In a lot of ways, I’m talking about social media and I’m talking about news. But I’m also talking about if you find something out in your personal life about someone you love.

What we’ll do when we have tidbits of information is we’ll try to piece those things together and make some kind of cohesive story that makes sense to us. Unfortunately a lot of times that story is.. well, it’s bullshit. It’s not based in fact and once people walk into that territory where the story has been built, it’s really hard for them to let go of this.

The primary reason that we use stories or little tidbits of information is because we’re trying to do a couple of things. Sometimes it’s that we’re trying to cope. Sometimes it’s that we’re trying to protect ourselves from the vulnerability of opening up our own emotional insecurities or feelings up to someone else.

Although bullshit is used to help us cope, it’s often used as a way of keeping us out of vulnerability. The reality always catches up to us. Sometimes we can build a whole fort out of the stories that we make about other people, and try to keep us protected–with the illusion that that’s always going to keep us that protected. But it rarely works out that way. Usually, what ends up happening is that people have some kind of realization that they’re stuck feeling disconnected or isolated, or that their relationships have been negatively impacted. There are other countless ways that this can really impact us so there’s a real reason why we use this coping strategy and it’s because when we’re feeling stressed we tend to try to quickly categorize things in a really rapid fashion to figure out what we need to do next.

There are obviously some really dangerous situations where those quick decisions are really needed. However, it can also prevent us from looking deeper and taking our time to really contend with the emotions that we’re dealing with. And instead, sometimes what we do is we try to quickly get out of the emotions. We tend to avoid actually talking to other people about it or trying to gather more information. I’m going to be talking about some ways that we can deal with some of that, so that it doesn’t break down the connections or the relationships that you have and so it also helps you cope with what’s happening around you with authenticity, rather than trying to quickly put information together and build a story about it that isn’t really going to help you live the kind of life that you want to live. It may give you some temporary, short-term comfort, but it’s not going to last and there’s also a lot of damage that can come out of it too.

So what are some examples of bullshit. A lot of it can be based on rumor and gossip and it can be based on hearing tidbits of information and thinking that something’s [some other truth] behind the scenes. When I work with couples a lot of the narratives that are built about partners are actually based on bullshit. So I really try to get couples to start opening some of those lines up and share what that assumption was and have the other person discuss what parts of that story are not true. I’ll just say the couples who tend to be most successful are the ones who are able to accept that their initial narrative may have been wrong, or it may have missed a lot of pieces of information.

Again, we really cling stubbornly sometimes to those narratives and so it really takes people a long time to let go of what they’ve already assumed about the other person or assume that the other person’s intentions were.

Something that we have to start doing in our lives is talking to people who are outside of our echo chambers, who have different opinions, but we also have to do that with boundary. So I always encourage people to identify how they’re going to talk to people when they’re talking to people on any tense particular topic. Whether it’s controversial in a really broad way or it’s controversial just in your home, it’s really important to learn how to tolerate perspectives that are different than yours and recognize that people’s stories are different than yours. And that’s true even when it involves you. And that also means that things are going to get uncomfortable. When things start getting uncomfortable, we tend to resort to some really crummy tactics like insulting people’s intelligence, labeling people, and using judgment as a weapon. This ends up really constraining us, it constrains our relationships. It puts strain on our relationships and it really keeps us from just being ourselves because we’re less likely to open up about those stories because when we do, the truth is [that] a lot of those things are going to be broken down, and the conspiracy theory that you built is more likely to be shattered. Again we cling to them because they give us the illusion of safety and sometimes even security.

We’ve got four basic human emotions: contentment, anxiety, anger, and sadness. And we try to live our lives like we should only have one of those, yet we have all four of those columns of emotions. And those can even be broken down into more specific feelings and they’re all valid. We have to learn to build a relationship with them without getting stuck in them.. obviously. One of the ways that we do that is by tolerating things but also opening up lines of discussion that we wouldn’t have had before. So it’s really important to learn to progressively tolerate those emotions for what they are. They’re communicating information about us. As we’re learning to tolerate those emotions, we have to be very conscientious about them as well. Because a lot of times those are the things that fuel the story building that we can end up doing. I mean just think about it. If you have anxiety about talking to somebody, you’re likely to have a narrative that’s already built around that and in that narrative you can have all kinds of information that you put together. And only some of it may be based on actual fact. So as you hear, this is going to be tough.

What I suggest you do is don’t go it alone. Have somebody that you can talk to about what you’re feeling and what you’re struggling with at the same time. Also have people in your life who are going to challenge you a little bit. Who aren’t going to necessarily just make you feel comfortable about the bs stories that you’ve built. Instead they’re going to kind of push you a little bit to start challenging some of those things.

As you’re doing that, it’s really important to be very clear on your boundaries, and identifying those things that are things that you’re willing to negotiate. Things that you’re willing to have bigger, broader discussions about, and be open-minded about versus those things where you’re just really going to have to shut the door, because they’re dangerous, abusive, and harmful to you. So it is important that you have a pretty clear sense of your boundaries when you’re practicing challenging the narratives that have already been built.

I want to have a little disclaimer with that too. If you’ve been in abusive relationships, [such as] you’ve been betrayed or cheated on, or have a lot of relational trauma in your life, it can be really confusing to differentiate the bs from reality. And that’s usually a big part of trauma work with people who are dealing with betrayal and trauma in that kind of a way. I mean that’s the essence of gaslighting really, isn’t it. So I really encourage people to be very conscientious a lot of times. It’s a pretty good idea to have a therapist on board, where you can kind of process things and build that relationship with somebody who you really trust. And who you can talk to openly about whether or not you’re questioning yourself too much. And that therapist can also help you firm those lines up in your life.

What i recommend is when you are in those situations where you’re throwing a lot of judgment at a situation without a lot of fact, that you do a couple of things. The last thing that I would do is really look to understand what your feelings mean to you. If you’re having a feeling of anxiety, a lot of times that will mean that something’s going on in your life. If you’re having a feeling of anger, it may mean that somebody’s pushing on your boundaries. And if it’s resentment, for example, you might not be communicating those boundaries. So when you start to learn about your feelings and build up a tolerance to them, you can also use that as a tool to figure out what you’re going to do to further build those relationships with other people, and build the kinds of connections that you want to have.

So that’s it! That’s my thing on bullshit today and I want you to figure out where in your life you may be building conspiracy theories about other people about their assumptions about what they think about you. Or where you’re building assumptions about whole groups of people, and quickly over classifying, rather than asking questions and trying to dig deeper into the issue. Thank you for listening and if I didn’t put anything in this and I probably did not because it’s a very complex issue, please feel free to leave a comment and also don’t forget to like and subscribe.