Self-Awareness and the Evolution of Tolerance

Looking at the effect social interaction can have on each of us throughout life and how important it is for each of us to pay attention to and measure our own capacity for social connections.

Life is a cycle of interactions- every moment of every day we are coming in contact with someone else, whether that is through physically meeting someone, reading something someone wrote, listening to a song someone wrote/sang, etc.. No matter how introverted you are, you are bound to interact with someone outside yourself each day. We are social creatures at heart and often thrive off of these connections. That is why solitary confinement is such an intense punishment and is often see as cruel and only to be used for people who are a danger to others around them and even then it is rarely a permanent arrangement.

None of us can truly live separated and isolated from the people around us for long periods of time or we could, quite possibly, go insane. We’re our own worst enemies at times, always stuck in our own thoughts and feelings- speaking or interacting with the mindset of someone else gives us a break from that reality. Of course, the opposite extreme is not recommended either as being too surrounded and pressed in on by the rest of humanity can slowly drive you insane or prone to violent outbursts: ‘All things in moderation’ as the saying goes. Truly, we need interaction, but too much or too little can damage our mental capabilities and even our health.

The latter of the two is clearly understood and has been studied, but people don’t often talk about the former one: the danger of too much interaction. After all, extroversion is a widely and commonly accepted way people are to live their lives and in order to survive and even thrive in life, we are naturally meant to meet other people. But, peace of mind is largely dependent on the mental fortitude and strength that we individually build us, a fortitude that is often attacked when we meet those around us who live differently from us, viewing the world around us in a unique way. Each attack is relatively harmless, though that can largely depend on how different their words or actions are from our own world view or how loud they speak it.

If you are pricked by a needle, that is ok. There may be a bit of pain, but it quickly fades and you move on. But, too many of these attacks one after the other with little to no break can truly damage our defenses. There is a reason why one of the worst physical punishments is ‘death by a thousand cuts’. Too much social interaction can create a emotional or mental situation that parallels such an act. When our world view has been battered and bruised again and again with little to no rest, we are prone to outbursts. Gritting our teeth, clenching our fists, yelling, or even physically attacking someone else.

We each have different levels of tolerance which ebb and flow as the days go by so something you could have handled well yesterday could be something you blow up at today- that is just the way life is. We must always be careful and aware of what our individual threshold for social interaction is and realize that it really does change day to day so that we do not put ourselves at risk whether through a worsening of our moods, thoughts, words, or even actions. Our optimism or pessimism levels also play a role in this situation. If you are a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, you are usually more likely to let such attacks roll off your backs, but you are also prone to sudden powerful changes in your threshold. If you are a ‘glass half empty’ kind of person, you often spend your days edging close to your threshold of tolerance, but rarely make large, sudden, and dangerous jumps to your composure or mental stability. It is all about perspective and awareness, really.