“Me: In my opinion it’s really hard to have interesting ideas if you don’t write them down. It’s much, much easier to spot flaws in your reasoning, to add complexity, to take account of -ll- if you write things down.

A friend: I quite agree

Me: It quickly became an argument for keeping my blog alive, back when I wrote a lot of stuff myself rather than leech off the ideas of others as is mostly the case now.

A friend: Why don’t you write more of your own ideas then?

Me: They are not interesting […] I’d much rather share knowledge with other people than [my] ideas.”

I know I shouldn’t quote myself, nor should I quote a friend who has not even agreed to be quoted. But I thought I’d put that out there anyway, because this is probably something people should have realized by now. There are people who happen to be quite good at getting good ideas, good at thinking about stuff. I realized a long time ago that I am not one of those people, and that I would be wise to limit myself to quoting the ideas of the people who know how to get good ideas, and otherwise just keep my mouth shut. Or share data, which amounts to the same thing when it comes to that. I sometimes fail and I open my mouth anyway, and I do it because I like to think about stuff and I do it a lot. But I’m well aware that there are lots of people who are much better at it than I am and that I really should try not to waste people’s time and humiliate myself in the process.

I know, but sometimes I just don’t care, so here’s something I’ve had on my mind for a while. I’m often asked ‘how I feel.’ We all know that question, and we all know how to answer it. Even a person like me is not unaware of the social conventions related to how you’re supposed to approach that question. So I usually answer ‘okay,’ ‘reasonable’, ‘not bad’ or something like that. It’s what people do.

But such questions always bother me a bit. There are two reasons. The first one is the rather obvious one that well, really, most of the time I have no idea how I feel. I need to think about that question in order to answer it, and the amount of time I’d need to give any kind of semi-sensible answer to the question is way more time than the amount of time that is usually allotted to the purpose, given the social context. Perhaps my emotional states are not as readily available to me as they might be to some people. A related concern here is that it is of course very unpleasant to feel the need to answer a question to which you don’t know the answer, and to be placed in a situation where you’re very aware of the fact that you seem to be trying to guess the teacher’s password. This is a situation you generally try to avoid. The problem is perhaps exacerbated even further by the fact that when I actually do spend time thinking about how I’m feeling in other contexts, quite often it is an activity which is predicated upon the fact that I, well, do not feel good at all; and getting asked how you feel when this is the way things usually work can be unpleasant, because getting asked that question can easily remind you that you’re in fact not as happy as you’d like to be. And then it’s easy to mentally jump along to the question of why you’re not as happy as you’d like to be, and most of the time there are lots of good reasons why you don’t seem to have anybody to blame for this sad state of affairs but yourself. But then you might go even further and argue that you do have happy moments sometimes, and that you’ve actually done some work on actively figuring out when they happen, as they happen – ‘this is a pleasurable moment’-type thinking – and what you’re doing when they happen, and this seems to help you and really there’s no good reason why you should not be having such a moment within a short amount of time and… Meanwhile, the person who asked the question is still waiting for an answer.

The other big reason why such questions bother me a bit is that I have no way of knowing if the answer even makes sense to the person to whom I’m responding, even if I do answer truthfully (which would require a complex and rather detailed answer). How do they define ‘feeling good/ok/not bad/reasonable’? I have never looked inside their heads or hearts, I don’t know the emotional range they inhabit very well. Maybe my answer is completely meaningless to them. Do people have well-defined emotional barometers where you can just go have a look and see; ‘oh – so that’s how you feel, 37°, that’s interesting…’ No, they don’t. Even in the best of cases it’s hard to figure out if the answer you give is actually conveying the information you’d like to share. And the real world don’t do with the best of cases, because I usually don’t answer truthfully, a fact I have no problem sharing here. I always have doubts, regrets and self-hatred bubbling under the surface, and I work on keeping those things far away from my own inner monologue; why in the world would I want to bring them out into polite conversations which take place outside my own head, with people who have perhaps no idea what they are getting themselves into?

I’m quite curious as to how people handle and understand their emotional states. Do people actually walk around knowing ‘how they fell’? I know I don’t and I have a hard time imagining that many other people do. It would be nice if people settled upon a different casual conversation starter – most people who ask this question don’t really want to know anyway.


June 15, 2012 - Posted by | Personal, rambling nonsense


  1. “But I’m well aware that there are lots of people who are much better at it than I am and that I really should try not to waste people’s time and humiliate myself in the process.”

    You are your own worst critic. Let other people judge whether reading about your thoughts/ideas is a waste of time or not. If they find that your own writings are consistently poor, sooner or later they will stop visiting. If they continue to read your blog, then obviously they have decided that it is not a waste of time to do so.

    In addition, as you said, writing ideas down is a way of improving your thinking process. If it is true that your opinions on various topics right now are not very interesting, then perhaps they will improve over time once you commit yourself to the habit of penning them down regularly. Everyone has to start somewhere.

    Comment by Miao | June 15, 2012 | Reply

    • “If they find that your own writings are consistently poor, sooner or later they will stop visiting.”

      Now some people might argue that they already have, and that the only reason why some people are still reading along is the fact that I toned down that part of the blog a long time ago… I might also, if I were so inclined, add to that that the reason why I’ve tried not to write many of these types of posts lately is that I myself grew tired of reading them, and the only way to avoid reading them was to not write them in the first place.

      I’ve written a lot of stuff over the years and deleted perhaps most of it by now, so it’s not like I ‘have to start somewhere’ – I started a long time ago. The posts and ideas didn’t seem to improve much over time at the point where I actively decided (perhaps unsuccesfully) to post stuff like this less frequently.

      I know writing sometimes helps me think more clearly, and as long as I’m reasonably sure this is the case I will probably continue to write ideas of mine down now and then. Whether to publish those ideas is another question entirely. Though I shall probably also continue to do that, as long as I still sometimes get good feedback from the few people who don’t run screaming away from those posts.

      Comment by US | June 15, 2012 | Reply

  2. I would also like to add that most people don’t really want to know how you feel when they greet you. So just reply, “I am fine”, or give some other harmless/uninteresting reply. If someone asks you, “What’s up?” They don’t really want to know what is going on in your life. If you respond, “I just ate some cereal with milk, but I forgot that I am lactose-intolerant, so now I am farting a lot, and I feel a sharp discomfort in my stomach so it could be that I might have diarrhoea later”, they would never ask you the same question again.

    Comment by Miao | June 15, 2012 | Reply

    • But I actually read this as an argument for giving a response along the lines of what you just outlined, not the opposite! I want them to stop asking stupid questions like those and replace them with smarter, more appropriate questions.

      Comment by US | June 15, 2012 | Reply

  3. I most certainly don’t know how I feel. I don’t even know how one could make a sensible answer: ‘I have a tootchache which bothers me, I’m really pleased at my efforts at work for the time being, but right now I’m a bit upset about something I read in the paper five minutes ago and whats that irritating noise’ equals what? ‘I’m ok’, ‘could be better’ or ‘shitty’? I don’t have one single feeling at one time, I have several, which can be pointing in different directions. Some of them I’m not even aware of, but they are still there. It’s a question I genuinly hate.

    Of course there a times where one particularly strong feeling overwhelms the others, making the question answerable. But in those situations people generally don’t have to ask, because it’s evident, that I’m happy, angry or whatever about whatevers going on.

    And while it’s true that it is often just a phrase not really to be answered, there are many times where people wants the right answer. Friends and family and stuff. Of course they are hoping to be reassured, that you are fine, but if somethings wrong they also would liketo know. Especially the implied hope made this question hard for me during my great illness, and after some harsh, unnecessary remarks I sometimes threw at my parents I started thinking, and ended up asking my family not to ask that question, ‘how do you feel’, as it was very stressfull, and I didn’t have the energy for that. But they were welcome to ‘chop it up’, that is to ask for particulars: how’s the mood, do you have pains today, how’s the appetite and so on, because in that way I could handle them.

    I think most people consider the above as crazy. I know it’s easy to consider yourself special, but I don’t believe I feel in the same way as the majority. If the majority had the same relationship to feelings as me, many things would be different. I think this is partly due to introvertism, partly due to me having some issues, that make me very protective not to be emotional vulnerable.

    I had an episode just this weekend. Me, my mom and her boyfriend were driving home from a family party, and she asks me “so did you and your cousins have good time?” And I answered “I don’t know how to answer that”. And my mom and the boyfrind repeated the question until everything got weird. But I still dfon’t know what kind of answer she expected.

    Comment by info2 | June 15, 2012 | Reply

  4. Sounds like this:

    Comment by Emil | June 17, 2012 | Reply

    • Oh. I just scored 130 in this alexithymia-test. So I’m apparently there.

      Comment by info2 | June 17, 2012 | Reply

      • Result: 88
        Non-alexithymia: You show few to no alexithymic traits

        Comment by Emil | June 19, 2012

      • And are you normally able to answer “how are you” and the likes of it, also when it is not just the polite “fine, thank you” that’s expected?

        Comment by info2 | June 19, 2012

  5. Sure.

    Comment by Emil | June 24, 2012 | Reply

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