>It’s easy to fall into a rhythm or a rut in day-to-day life, to find a groove and to continue along it without reflection. And it rarely occurs to us, I think, that our troubles, our depression, our emptiness, may all stem from the Way We Go About Life. A realization about myself and my friends has slowly dawned on me over the last few years. It’s been so slow that I normally don’t even notice the realization at all, but every so often I see through my social interactions, my past day, and don’t like what I see. And a pattern has emerged. At least that should mean I can change things.
Simply put, a sardonic sarcasm has come to dominate my friendships. I find it difficult to interact with anyone without relying on a wry sense of humor. I feel a need to always be funny while showing no vulnerability. I could probe into why this might be the case–I was a quiet kid who got picked on a lot on middle school, etc. etc.–but really it doesn’t matter, because 1) regardless of what might have shaped this approach to life, what matters now is changing course, and 2) it’s not just me. This sardonic sarcasm seems to have absorbed deeply into American culture, or at least the culture of my peers. And it needs to change.
The trouble is, how do you go about changing something so fundamental to how you act with your friends? How do you learn to be genuine with people? How do you learn to be comfortable with vulnerability? I had hoped that I’d explore these questions more deeply in this post, but nothing is coming to me. Nonetheless, I’m glad to have at least state the problem. Hopefully I’ll get some ideas about the solution soon.
>well, it seems like it'll be hard for you to do much changing of this while you're living overseas but this might be a good opportunity for you to approach the new people you meet with the purpose of being who you'd like to be with them. You know, give you a chance to try it out on a clean palate since it might be hard to change your already existing relationships right away because it's easy to fall into old patterns in familiar situations. That being said, I know for a fact that all of your friends (including me) who are also my friends are capable and open to being emotionally supportive if you reach out to them and let them know that you need it. Also, I would recommend cognitive/behavioral therapy which is excellent for changing unwanted behavior patterns and is used by most psychologists. Particularly a book called Feeling Good by Dr. David Burns which teaches you how to do it yourself.
>Korea should be good for this, at least to some degree. While all the white monkeys (er, I mean foreigners) you'll meet will be just as sarcastic as back home (this comment itself a case in point), sarcasm doesn't translate well and a lot of Koreans will be giving you blank looks when you use it on them. The problem is that sometimes life in Korea is just so Kafkaesque, or absurd, or whatever, that one ends up becoming sarcastic out of sheer incredulity. In any case, cognitive-behavioural therapy sounds like a bit much for this sort of habit-kicking. Being around people who express themselves in other ways would probably do the trick, as it seems a really norms- and group-driven thing. I remember shifting from one academic department to another and the difference was stunning, the newer department being lousy with people who were sarcastic, cynical, and dismissive of everything. I had to search for some people who spoke in any way besides that, mostly because I found those who insisted on being sarcastic all the time tended also not to have any significant passions about anything… which was the warning sign for me. It's perhaps not a coincidence that it was a bunch of Creative Writing people (not all my classmates, but a good number of them) who behaved this way. I think it's also no coincidence that the ones who were the most sarcastic were also the ones whose writing, technically often proficient, lacked any sort of drive or passion. (And I should note that there were several classmates in that particular class who were often sarcastic in their writing, but in a way that lent their stories energy, strength, and attractiveness. But interestingly, they were also the ones who never defaulted to sarcasm in spoken interactions.) So anyway, I think it's much less about vulnerability than a kind of laziness that can creep into relationships, into a worldview, and so on. I certainly know that when I fall back on sarcasm, it's sometimes because I don't want to think deeply about, you know, whatever I'm talking about. (One can chuck out caveats and qualifications a certain number of times before one gets fed up with all of that and wants to simply get to the point.) That said, I think you should maybe differentiate between witty, articulate sarcasm (such as, say, that of Ambrose Bierce), and the lazy, crappy, cynical sarcasm that most people bandy about today. I think the two are worlds apart, with Bierce's being pretty much a verbal art form, and ultimately very much engaged with the world, ideas, and questions; the other kind of sarcasm seems to me to represent the contrary: a kind of detachment and refusal to engage and care and take ideas or passion seriously.
Somehow, I only just saw your comment. I pretty agree with everything you said and have nothing worthwhile to add.