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Eternalist Obscuring Nebulosity Tactics

Amy K. 2018-01-16

While hunting my shadow, I’ve identified some individual-level tactics I’ve used, or seen others use, to hide from meaninglessness. These all come from my solidly eternalist and dualist upbringing.

Disgust/ Over-emotionality
Eternalists can hide under a blanket of high emotionality to avoid meaninglessness. These eternalists are set off emotionally by almost any random thing. This ploy allows eternalists to pretend that meaninglessness doesn’t exist by creating a high level of emotion-based priority around meaningless details about other things. By creating a high-stress response to just about everything, with a random reactive pattern, they obscure the problem of meaninglessness. In this tactic, meaninglessness might be significant, but so are these infinitely many other things.

Over-analysis of minutiae
This tactic pretends that all details are important enough to debate. Success depends on the behavior of debating without intending to take action. This tactic assumes that all subjects can break down to a granularity level that can somehow be handled by the eternalist system and that all subjects are worth debate. Eternalists can use the Over-Analysis of Minutiae tactic to fillibuster any topic. They can hide from meaninglessness by putting an infinite stream of debatable minutiae in front of it.

Wasting Time
Some hiding-from-meaninglessness behaviors rely on wasting time to make others flee the discussion. This enables eternalists to completely avoid painful topics such as meaninglessness. This is kind of related to the disgust and over-analysis ploys, but it falls into the stupidity bucket.

The Wasting Time tactic involves:
1) Constantly filling up time with worthless or negative chatter,
2) Solemnly discussing things that don’t matter, and
3) Endlessly defending the meaningness of things that don’t matter.

The Wasting Time tactic enables eternalists to delay the contemplation of meaninglessness indefinitely. It enables them to exhaust anyone who might insist on discussing meaninglessness. At the same time, the eternalists can convince themselves that they are using everyone’s time kindly.

Tactics for avoiding meaninglessness

David Chapman 2018-01-31

Thank you! This is an insightful list!

(Sorry to have taken ages to respond; I’ve had a cold that rendered my brain largely inoperative.)

Re: Amy K.

Emily 2018-01-31

@ Amy K. 

Yes, great observations!  I recognize almost all of the tactics you mention as things that my own family and friends (and I) have employed at one time or another (although since my family and friends are a mixture of eternalists and nihilists there is a haphazard frenzy to avoid or promote each stance, even within one conversation–which becomes totally chaotic). 

Especially resonant for me is the ploy involving over-analysis of minutiae.  For years I thought that if I could just hone in on something enough (for me it usually involved absolute psychological insights), I’d eventually arrive at something Concrete.  It was maddening to spend hours and hours contemplating and discussing something and feel that “I’m about to arrive!” only to have the whole thing dissolve into thin air.  Of course that never stopped me from trying again and again since, as you said, the whole scheme is mostly an unconscious effort to avoid meaninglessness (or, I would add, nebulosity).  (Which is not to discount sincere analysis of something, since this is often extremely valuable.  But the compulsive part becomes rather nauseating.)

I am wondering if you have had any success at re-directing these tactics in conversations with your family or others toward something other than the endless circle of over-emotionality, wasting time and so on, or if it’s simply too frustrating and takes too much time to even try?  If you have had any luck, are there any techniques you can recommend?

One of my closest friends is a sort of self-styled non-dual teacher and in conversations with her over the past 15 years we almost always hit a wall.  In my probably biased mind, the wall is her death-grip on Something.  When I challenge her notion of the Absolute (no matter how subtle or seemingly innocuous it may be), she eventually gets really, really angry.  To be fair, she is a very kind-hearted person with a lot of wisdom, but I think my point is that getting an eternalist to reconsider her stance is a tough job.  When she talks about the True Self as God (ie, Everything), I often ask her to really try to tell me what she means by the True Self, or just the self, for that matter. That’s usually when the conversation ends.  She’ll start to describe what it is and then sort of freaks out and often ends up attacking me.

Re: Emily

Amy K. 2018-02-12

I am wondering if you have had any success at re-directing these tactics in conversations with your family or others toward something other than the endless circle of over-emotionality, wasting time and so on, or if it’s simply too frustrating and takes too much time to even try? If you have had any luck, are there any techniques you can recommend?

“Smile and nod” comes to mind. Another thing to remember with drama triangles involving a victim (complainer), antagonist (the thing they don’t like), and rescuer (the listener): The only way to win is not to play the game. So you can just kind of wait before speaking until a new topic comes up. It feels a bit awkward but it forces some awareness about what was just said (often, it’s something pretty silly) into the silence.

Current management communication courses teach you to drop into the channel of the person you’re speaking to. So if they’re speaking from emotion, use emotional connection and motivation. If they use a relationships currency, talk to them using the same language: relationships. If they’re speaking from a systematic mindset, use systems, logic and data.

I’ve tried the above techniques. They work well, but they take mindfulness and practice. Lots of practice. Good luck and have fun :D

Alternative role pathways

Amy K. 2019-03-30

After more thought, here’s what’s worked for me.

When my loved ones are being unreasonable, I tend to flee. There is another option, though.

When conversations get silly, I can retreat into playing the closest enjoyable role. I don’t enjoy listening to arguments on either side of the culture war. But I can enjoy play as a sister, child, niece, or friend while my conversation partner waxes silly.

Playing a role can be its own escape from the silliness and kitch of eternalist disciples.

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