In this episode, we discussed how any particular issue can become more or less granular and complex or simple and how simplicity often leads to problems in understanding.
Listen Through Website
Listen on YouTube
All right, hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Emotional Embuffination podcast. I am your host, David Enevoldsen, and here on Emotional Embuffination, we are training to become emotionally buff enough to overcome any conflict in life. And at the same time, we are trying to discover and optimize new levels of success and happiness. Just making sure that we're spending as much time as possible feeling all those really good, joyful, positive feelings in life. This podcast is just one of a number of resources I have available. If you want to learn more about any of that, please check out the Emotional Embuffination website, which is embuff.com. That is E-M-B-U-F-F.com. When you are on the website, sign up for the newsletter. There's a couple of different places you can do that on there. There's a little form you just fill in your email address and you will receive some quick weekly Emotional Embuffination tips to help you in your emotional embuffination journey. Okay. On today's show, we are going to be talking about something that, at least in my mind, is a bit of a piggyback off of our last episode, and that is complexity. More specifically, the fact that everything in life is generally more complex than anybody really seems to give it credit for. Now, on the last show we talked about, this is all going to connect, at least it already does in my mind. But in the last show we talked about not watching the news.
The theme there was basically just stop watching the news. It has a really detrimental effect on people. And it it causes people to go into this hardening. And I'll explore this again in just a minute here. But people kind of just perseverate on the news. They'll watch something, they'll sort of reinforce an idea and they get themselves so worked up and locked into whatever their decision is about, whatever it is that's going on, that they start to just not think rationally. They start to see things in a very myopic way and all they can see is their own position and they just keep reaffirming that and then getting very angry if anyone presents them with information that's different than that. Now, the reason that this complexity thing, the today's show theme I think ties into that is that I think people have a tendency when they're watching the news or picking a political issue to sort of come up with a quip or a simple thing, a quick rule that seems to fit some situations but often ignores other situations where it might also apply. Now, everything in life has a spectrum here, and a lot of times we can simplify things by reducing it down to its simplest elements or just having a couple of steps to something. But you can generally get more granular than we do than we want to. I think humans are sort of hardwired to try to make sense of the world because the world is a very confusing place potentially.
There's a lot of stuff out there that is just enormously complex that you can look keep reducing things down to smaller and smaller elements and all sorts of different ways, and it's hard to make sense of all of the stuff that we're facing in life. And so I think that as humans, we want to pull out some just key principles that you can use to figure out how to deal with situations, figure out how to operate through life. And that's great because that can help us to kind of make some steps forward. And you see this in marketing all the time, you know, where people are promoting the three simple steps to do whatever. Follow these three simple steps and we guarantee you'll lose weight in the next 90 days. Follow these three simple steps and you'll persuade anyone to buy your products. It's always these little simple steps, and we always want to reduce it to that. But generally things are more complex than that. Using let's use the marketing example there. Let's say that somebody wants to market to you the three simple steps to working out or let's say there's two, two simple steps. All you have to do is eat less and work out more. And we hear that all the time, right? If you want to lose weight, just work out more, eat less. That's the magic formula.
And there's some truth to that. But my own personal experience with working out has been very, very frustrating. And I have repeatedly found that that is just not nearly as as encompassing of all the various issues that go into losing weight or building muscle that really exist out there. Yes, there is some truth to the idea that if you and if you're operating from just no understanding of how to lose weight, eat less, work out more could be useful. But that really doesn't account for a lot. I mean, there's genetic variations that people run into. We've got things like insulin resistance that really confound things, intermittent fasting and, you know, do you use that or not that? It starts to confuse things. What exactly are you eating? The specific types of food that can change things. Are you counting macros or are you counting calories? Do calories matter? What happens when you're counting both macros and calories? What about training types? Are you optimizing those to do the thing that it is you're trying to do with your body? There's so much that goes into it. And in my own personal fitness physical fitness journey, I have just been slowly learning like a little thing here and there. And every time I learn a little extra something, that little extra something kind of pushes me a little bit more forward. But it's never as simple as just eat less, work out more.
In fact, sometimes those things are just flat out wrong. You know, there comes a point we know that you can overtrain and so if you're just if your mantra is just eat less, work out more, you could very easily starve yourself and then work yourself into the ground because you're working out every day. That might not be the way to get what you want. And so simplicity is nice and we all want to make things simple. And I think that when you look at things like the political arena, people love to just graft on to something. They've come to some sort of conclusion about the world that sounds great and probably fits at least some situations, but very often the reality is more complicated than what we really think it is. We find the same thing in memes. That I for a while I was putting out a lot of memes that just had like a simple quote. And you see this in the self-help community a lot and people quote these things all the time that sound great and have some truth to them, but they're not always completely right. You know, one example I think of is the discussion about getting along with people. You know, there's this idea that it's better to get along, not fight unnecessarily. Let's just get along. Everybody can be peaceful and cooperative, and et cetera. Et cetera. There's truth to that. And there's a lot of people out there that need that advice badly because they'll go out and just fight unnecessarily and create conflict when it doesn't need to exist.
But if that's the only rule that you're operating out of, you're inevitably going to run into situations where people just step all over you and take advantage of you or take advantage of somebody in front of you and you feel like you're spending all your time just trying to be agreeable and get along with people such that your rights are trampled on or somebody you care about's rights are trampled on and you can't do anything about it. So there's more complexity to the situation than just, Oh, yeah, it's as simple as let's all get along. I mean, it's not. Another one I hear all the time, this is a particular expression that sort of drives me crazy a little bit is "Just don't be mean, just be nice to everybody." What the heck does that mean? Everybody's perception of what is nice is so amorphous and it is such a complex question as to what feeds into the issue of being nice that it becomes almost meaningless as an expression. Racism, I know I'm probably stepping into a minefield here, but I'm going to give you some of my thoughts about racism on this. Racism, everybody wants to reduce it down to just these simple sound bites about whether or not racism exists and how to fix it. Either racism is everywhere and it certainly exists or it is nowhere and everybody just wants to be a victim. And I don't know how you can see it that simply. It is racism is a much more complicated issue than just it's there or it isn't there. Sometimes it is there. And I have personally had this experience where I have I've been behind closed doors and I've sat down with somebody who's white. I'm white. I know you can't see me if you're listening to the podcast, but I'm a white male and I've had times where I've sat down with somebody else that's white and then proceeds to say blatantly racist things, thinking, "Well, you're one of the white people. I can talk to you safely." Racism is clearly there. I have seen people that, in my opinion, were very clearly being discriminated against based on the color of their skin. It exists like there's zero doubt in my mind that it exists. With that said, I also think there are situations and I feel like I've seen in numerous times people who were perceiving racism when it didn't seem like anything was there. There I've seen people that just seem so primed to find racism everywhere that they bend over backwards to use that as an excuse to never have to really confront or deal with any problems. And they just turn themselves into victims by saying racism is everywhere. These two things can exist simultaneously. Like these two situations can exist.
Sometimes you have causals that seem to make sense on their face. But maybe have an alternative explanation that someone's not accounting for. Here's an example of this. I'm an attorney. I'm a tall, white male attorney. And I have a friend who is a colored person, who is an attorney, also went to school with this person. They went to court and as a criminal defense attorney, went there and had the judge and staff members think that this person was a criminal defendant, not the attorney representing the defendants, but a defendant. And so this was happening over and over and over again where this this attorney would go to court and the judge and or staff would confuse them with the criminal defendants, and then they would post things on Facebook saying, look, see like clearly there's a racism problem. And on its face, that sounds like it's a real issue. Now, me, the tall white male attorney, I heard this and I thought, wait a second, this happens to me all the time, too. I'm a big, tall white dude and I go in wearing a suit with my little flag lapel pin with an Arizona and United States flag on my, I don't think I could look more like a stereotypical 1950s attorney than I do, and yet I had the exact same issue. So I feel less convinced that the fact that it sounded like this was racism, but don't I'm not convinced it actually was.
And so there are situations like this, I think, where the causals are not necessarily as obvious as they might sound on their face. Here's another thing that confounds the racism issue. Sometimes I think it's coming from attention to the problem. Let me give you an example of this. When I was much younger, this was in, I think, the 90s. Yeah, it had to be the early 90s when this happened, I remember walking on the sidewalk and I saw two black guys, men of color, who were walking in the opposite direction towards me. And I remember seeing them and thinking, "Oh my gosh, those guys are black. Don't do anything racist. Don't do anything racist." That's what went through my head. And I remember stopping and going, "Wait, what? What the heck is wrong with me? Why am I immediately seeing somebody who's colored and thinking, 'don't do anything racist?' Isn't that in and of itself racist?" But it was coming from the fact that I had had this message pounded into me when I was little about, don't be racist, don't be racist. Everybody is racist. Don't be racist. Don't be racist. And so my automatic thought was I'm white and I'm racist. Therefore I got to not do anything racist. And so, in effect, the effort to solve the problem was creating the problem in that situation. And I think that's become a real problem, too, in our I don't want to get political about this, but in our sort of woke culture or the left in particular, when they've been fixating on the issues of racism, which again exist, I'm not saying that they don't, but I think in many instances the attention to it has created this effort to prove that people are not racist. So they sort of bend over backwards to treat people of color when they see them differently in a really positive way because they want to prove that they're not racist. Maybe subconsciously, maybe consciously, I don't know. I remember watching a Key and Peele skit where they made this whole joke about these these two guys who were sitting at a bar and everybody just kept coming up and trying to prove that they weren't racist. This happens all the time and it's happening a lot in our particular culture. And that's kind of a weird variant of racism in that it's coming from or at least seems to facially be coming from a place of knowledge about racism and its problems. Sometimes I refer to it, I never heard anybody else say this, but this is my own expression, I call it coddling racism, where people kind of bend over backwards to try to like help people of color or do something. And look, there are different solutions to different problems. You know, potentially if you've got just the direct, straight out blatant racism where somebody's saying, "I don't like you because you are black, therefore I'm going to throw barriers in your path and do horrible things to you."
That requires some level of education on a social level to correct. Now, on the other hand, the problem where people are just becoming racist because they're paying so much attention to the idea that everybody is racist, that almost requires not paying attention to it. So I'm not trying to turn this into a political debate. I'm also not trying to say everybody is right or everybody is wrong. What I'm saying is that the issue is complex. And there's a lot of different aspects to this, and it is so much more complex than just these this binary equation of racism exists or it doesn't. And yet on a social level, we deal with it as though it is that simple. And we see this at the highest levels of our society. You know, we there's this debate at the Supreme Court in the United States between like Chief Justice Roberts, who has this conclusion that I'm paraphrasing here, but in essence, like, we just need to stop paying attention to it, like that's creating the problem. And there's some truth to that. On the other end of the spectrum, though, we have like Justice Sotomayor, who is saying we need to increase education, which is sort of the opposite end of the spectrum of that, and is also true in lots of situations. But I think people just send a, crystallize into these polarized positions that say it's only one or the other thing and sort of ignore some of the situations where one of them might apply or the other one might apply.
And I think this is one of the big problems that we have on a political level because the world is so complex that we can very easily find examples to support our position. And then we get into this reinforcement loop, this this whole positive feedback loop where we are telling ourselves, "Look, here's the conclusion that I came up with. Here's an example that supports that," because you can find an example to support usually both extremes on a situation, and then you just keep repeating to yourself. And this is why the news from our last episode is such a problem, because you start looping through this and reinforcing this idea, and then you go into what I call, "the hardening." And I've talked about this in previous episodes, but the hardening is this idea that you're just getting stuck in an idea and you just keep pounding it into your head so much that you essentially can't hear anything else. Nothing else goes in. That's the only conclusion. When people talk to you about it, you just kind of explode. If they're not just completely agreeing with you, nobody can really tell you anything. And most importantly, you can't hear anything to sort of alter your position if some other important information comes along.
This is not just political issues. I mean, this comes up with another one is like narcissism, for example. And this is something you'll notice, these are things that I take positions on. So if you've heard me at all, you'll know that I have a position on narcissism, that we should basically stop calling narcissists, narcissists, stop using that framework at all. In fact, the Emotional Embuffination book, I have a chapter in there that's entitled, "Everyone I Hate is a Narcissist." And essentially the theme of that is that if you are going around calling everybody a narcissist then you do nothing positive to yourself, even if this other person actually legit is a narcissist. Then, regardless of whether they are or they aren't, you are already now altering the way that you think about this person, which is going to subconsciously alter the way that you react with them, which is going to subtly alter how they react to you, which is going to inflame the situation, generally speaking. Additionally, this gives you the problem of causing you to think that you are not the problem and that you then start to never even look at the issue as though you need to change anything in yourself. And almost invariably, people need to fix something in themselves when the problem is going on, even if the other person is entirely to blame or significantly to blame for what's going on, there can be boundary issues or various problems. There can be all sorts of things that you're contributing without realizing it.
But if your mindset is this is the other person's fault because they're a narcissist or they're whatever label you want to throw out there, then you essentially undercut the ability to make those changes because you've already said, "Well, they're evil incarnate, so it's not me, it's their fault." Now that's my position on things, right? But acknowledging that I think that this issue is more complex than just let's never call narcissists narcissists because there are situations where it makes sense to call a narcissist a narcissist. There are situations where it makes sense and it can be useful in various contexts to apply this this principle. And that's why you'll occasionally hear me still making reference to people that have narcissistic behavior patterns or have been diagnosed with narcissism. There are even situations just on a very low level where it can make sense to use that label to kind of move yourself out of a certain place. Here where this all came from for me was when I was working in family law and when I was going through divorces, dealing with custody fights, everybody like everybody came in and would tell me the other side is a narcissist and you don't understand what I'm dealing with. Like, that was the mantra. It was, I'm not even exaggerating, it was probably nine out of ten clients were telling me that the other party involved in the case was a narcissist, whether diagnosed or not.
When you have this framework, everybody that I was seeing was using it as this point of blame and contention and was doing nothing positive out of it. They were essentially just saying, look, this other person's a narcissist. None of this is my fault. They're the problem. And what I did was I said, "Okay, I can see how that's creating a negative affect in all of these different situations. So let's create a rule that says, I'm not going to do that anymore." However, I have seen situations and frankly experienced situations where it is helpful to see the other person as something evil. To say, well, they're just dumb and I need to get out of this. This is especially relevant when somebody is in, say, a domestic violence situation and they are so crushed and have so little self-confidence that they think everything is already their fault. You know, when you have, say, the domestic violence victim who is has been abused consistently for a long time and so she thinks that she is just utterly worthless, is hyper insecure, has started to believe these messages that the abuser has been dumping into her. Just saying, well, actually, some of this is your fault and you need to not call your your abuser, spouse, or significant other a narcissist, that's not a helpful construct in that situation. That person needs to build up enough confidence.
And sometimes that means going through a cycle of some level of anger. And that anger can kind of crystallize in the idea that I'm not the problem. This other person is the problem. They're the narcissist. That's where that framework can be useful. Now, that's not every situation. That's not what I was usually running into when I was doing divorces. What I was running into typically was people who were already hyper confident about where they were and the fact that this other person was evil. Sometimes they'd already cycled through that pattern. But most of the time, by the time they were talking to me as an attorney, that's not where they were. But this does happen. This absolutely happens. And even I have had situations where maybe I wasn't saying you're a narcissist, but I had to like create a switch in my head where I said, okay, that person's crazy. And the second I did that, conflict with them seemed meaningless, like it wasn't a problem anymore because I just say, "Well, whatever, you're insane." So I can more effectively be dismissive and not feel like I'm doing something terrible about that. So there is even though I sit here and I have a chapter in my book where I'm talking about don't call narcissist narcissists, I'm constantly advocating for the idea of getting rid of that. I recognize that there are times when it is useful to use the narcissistic framework and there are even academic settings.
I mean, this idea has been around for a very long time, socially speaking. I think we've kind of made it this sort of pop culture fad, but it has academic and clinical application. But on the aggregate, I just as a general rule, say don't use that framework, but it still has applications. So again, this is going to this idea that everything is more complex than just a simple soundbite. It's more complex than just a simple rule that we generate. And I think it's important that we kind of recognize the complexity in what's going on. Let's look at another one. This is the last one I'll give you just to kind of pound in this concept, fat shaming. You know, we have we've gotten into this weird debate in the political spectrum about whether people are fat shaming or talking about health. So, it's usually a liberal versus conservative dichotomy where on the left there tends to be this thing about let's let's stop attacking people, let's embrace people's bodies how they are. If someone is overweight by whatever generic, arbitrary standard we've designated for what someone becomes overweight by, you shouldn't be making them feel bad about the fact that they are over that arbitrarily created standard and that they happen to be heavier. On the other end of the spectrum, we have, typically the more right angle is, well, this is a health problem and if you're fat, then that means you're going to have all sorts of health complications and you're going to die early and you're going to have diabetes and blah, blah, blah.
So those tend to be the sort of polarized positions. Now, here again, I think there's truth on both sides of these things. That is to say, there are like we have abundant research showing that obesity carries with it a host of potential health problems. And there's a lot of like really bad stuff that's linked to obesity, I mean, not least of which is diabetes. You can it just goes on and on and on. I mean, there are clear health problems that go along with obesity. So there's a lot of reason to say, hey, let's not let ourselves go into this realm of obesity. And we had a previous show where we were talking about processed food addiction and some of the problems that can spin out of that. Well, I mean, a lot of that's coming from our diet. And it doesn't have to be like that if we just kind of eat differently. So obesity is a real problem. So to to that extent, the right is on point. Now, on the other end of the spectrum, there's a lot of people who implode and feel like they're over whatever this arbitrary weight or this socially constructed standard of what we should look like is. And then they start to just become hyper insecure, feel terrible about themselves, don't want to do anything, engage in any behaviors, lose all hope of actually becoming more fit or healthier or anything like that.
And they feel awful and are miserable and are not doing things that could be constructive or helpful in their lives. Those people need some sort of social protection from the vitriol that might be coming from everybody that's screaming at them to not be obese because it's not healthy to be that way. Therefore, nobody wants to love you. Nobody wants to care about you. Stop being obese. There's truth in that perspective, too, because that does happen. And I've seen that with people on the right. And I've you know, if you've listened to the show, you know, I'm an advocate for having physical health, you know, go out, work out, eat correctly, all of that stuff. I don't think obesity is a good thing. But I also don't think we should be crushing people who are overweight. Again, whatever overweight even means. So fat shaming again, is is another example of this. Like there's more complexity than the just little political soundbites that everybody wants to drop out or the conclusions that we come to about any particular issue. Now, one thing I want to highlight here is that I'm not just talking relativism. Now, there is a, I guess, sort of a this is another political issue where we see sort of the right left contrast in modern politics, where I think the left seems to embrace more of just a relativistic perspective.
And the right seems to hate the idea of relativism and just say there is truth. I do believe that there is truth. However, I also think that the truth is extraordinarily complex when we start getting very granular about what's going on, as with all of these issues. So when you have this wide matrix of stuff, I think that you have to account for it. And this kind of comes to the underlying problem about what's going on. So if you get like we described in the news, the stop watching the news episode, if you get so locked in to this, whatever your position is on any given issue, you get angry. You don't hear other potential positions and therefore miss out on some of the benefit of these other positions. You start to generate conflict around you. You get into conversations with somebody who might have an opposing viewpoint and you just immediately feel mad and typically say something that's going to piss them off and therefore make it all significantly worse. So this is a serious problem in my mind. However, the opposite end of the spectrum here is that it's a little hard to take a stand against the things that you care about or that you think are problems without kind of getting into this positive feedback loop to a certain extent. And so I do think it's important to make decisions about something and to kind of take a stand on something just like I did with the narcissism.
With the narcissism, for example, I've taken a position on that. I am offering the idea that narcissism is not a framework that is useful or productive and that we shouldn't be using narcissism. And yet I'm also simultaneously and I think this is the important part here I am offering the idea that that's not always right and we have to be willing to make exceptions for things when the exceptions make some sense. So really, I think this all boils down to, you know what my conclusion here is that you have to make calls. You have to make a decision. You have to figure out what's going to optimize in any given situation, the best resolution. And because it's really hard to come up with a conclusion that's going to satisfy all situations, but you want to look at what what's going to impact the most of the situations. When I was a family law attorney, I was seeing most of the people who did not need the idea of narcissism as a framework. And when they were using that idea, it was blowing things up much worse. That's why I started to say with most of the situations here, not fitting these criterion where people say, Oh, well, they're a narcissist and I'm hyper insecure and crushed because of these years of abuse, therefore I'm going to engage in this, like, narcissistic framework. Like that if that's not what I'm typically seeing, where people are just crushed like that, then the small number of people that I was being exposed to, that that would be applicable to were far outweighed by the number of people that it was very destructive to, and that's why I started advocating for that. There may be a better system. I don't know what it is, but I think you have to make, from everything I understand, I think you have to make a decision about where you want to go based on how is this going to impact the most people or have the biggest impact in my world in whatever way, make the decision and then fight the urge to just perseverate so much that you just lock yourself into the idea that there can be no other answer to anything and that this is the solution and that's the end of it. I see this constantly in politics. It's just I think it's dangerous. I think it's upsetting. I think it prevents you from seeing other possible solutions or other issues. I think it's alienating. I think it upsets people. I think it's hurtful in many situations and results in hurt to people that don't need to be hurt. But it's very connected to the news, which again, is sort of piggybacking off of our last episode. So that's it. Make a decision, but don't get locked into it and just be aware that everything is more complicated than we usually think it is.
I'm going to call it there. That's going to bring us to the end of today's show. I hope that you found this useful. You may or may not agree with with what I've said here, but I hope that you'll at least contemplate it. Think through, take some issues, take an issue that you feel really strongly about and see if you can, look at it from a reversed framework like play devil's advocate. This is something it was an interesting exercise that we did in law school where we would we did this thing called Moot Court, which if you're not familiar with it, it's essentially like you're before you were an attorney in law school we would do these kind of mock appellate arguments where you would have a panel of judges that would sort of grill you about some legal issue, and you had to go in and they would have whole competitions of these where you would go in and you would just argue in favor of one position on this legal issue. Now, the interesting thing about these competitions is you would go in and you would say argue position A, let's say it was A versus B, and you would argue position A. And you would passionately make your your explain your reasons for why you should win or your client should win. Then you would leave and you would go into a different room minutes later and then argue position B and you would passionately argue why position B was correct.
And it was a really fascinating exercise to me because it puts you in this framework of thinking about there are positives on both sides and how do I figure out what those positives are? I think this is a useful exercise. I know I said this was a wrap. I'd have some more thoughts here, obviously. I think this is a useful exercise for anything that you feel strongly about because I'm not saying you have to change your positions about anything, but stop for a second if you feel really strongly about a position and think about the counterarguments to that position. Even if you think that they're nonsense, just think about what the counterarguments are and try to think of what the best counterargument is and is there any conceivable situation whatsoever that that counterargument could be true in? Is there any way that you can possibly imagine, fathom that there is a situation where a counterargument might be true? And if you can acknowledge that, I think that you're going to broaden your perspective. You're going to become less hardened. You're going to understand a little bit where someone else is coming from, which is an important element, because now you're going to reduce some of the conflict with them, even if you're ultimately disagreeing and you're going to soften yourself to potential new information and maybe just make yourself a little wiser.
Okay. Now I really will stop it there. Sorry for that extra little add on thought, but I hope you find this useful. I hope that you can, even if you totally disagree with me or you think I'm being relativistic or whatever, I hope that you get this at least sparked some thought. And then I hope that you can take some nugget out of this. And regardless of what your takeaway is from today's show, keep working on figuring out how to deal with conflict. Keep working on improving your emotional fitness. Keep working on Emotional Embuffination. It's just like the gym, you know. You don't go to the gym one time, work out and say, "I'm buff forever." You keep going on a regular basis. You make it part of your routine. Same thing with Emotional Embuffination. You got to keep working on this. Don't just listen to one podcast episode and say I'm emotionally fit for the rest of time. Like you keep actively working on this stuff. Don't forget to go to the website. Check out the newsletter there. It's, the website is embuff.com. At the end of the day, I want you to be emotionally strong enough to go from saying things like, "The struggle is real," to saying, "What struggle?" Thank you all for listening. I hope you've enjoyed this. Have a great week and I'll see you on the next show.