Relationships and Social Issues26 Sep 2011 01:21 pm

I recently read a book entitled Money and Psychotherapy that pointed out how specifics regarding people’s financial situation are seldom ever addressed in therapy. A major point of the book was to say that there is a taboo in therapy regarding any investigative discussion on money, and that this taboo reflects a general avoidance of personal finance discussion in everyday life.

When reading the book I thought about how many taboos we have in our culture regarding typical conversation between friends and associates. In fact it is hard to think of a topic of conversation that doesn’t have restrictions on what can be shared. There are taboos and restrictions on open dialogues about sex, religion, politics, ethics, government, law, desire, fantasy, parenting and education just to name a few.

Sometimes it is acceptable to have a general discussion about one of these topics with a group of like minded individuals, or we can tolerate a quick professing of strongly held beliefs. Yet, usually these conversations are more an opportunity for individuals to state or express their opinions and beliefs and are not usually forums for a true exchange of ideas.

In general our society has many rules regarding “polite” or “civilized” conversation. Topics which are emotionally powerful, full of personal significance or socially important are not considered appropriate for daily dialogue and more often than not are considered to be “private issues”.

I will readily admit that personal realities, set beliefs and certainties are rather fruitless topics of conversation. At best one can express these views, but since they are fixed and rigid they are by definition not useful for conversation or dialogue. Yet, as growing changing human beings there should be much of our lives which we are exploring and learning in which shared dialogue would be helpful and productive.

While my distaste for typical social conversation is stronger than most, I seldom meet a person who finds most social and party conversation satisfying. Most people express some form of emptiness or lack in the quality of most social conversation, yet feel the sense of community outweighs the deficits.

The taboos and rules regarding what can be discussed in one-on-one or small group conversation are far less restrictive. While there is an openness and even sometimes a willingness for self-disclosure and an articulation of one’s personal reality, there still exists a substantial resistance to a frank exchange of ideas or working through opposing perceptions.

I myself find even the best of friends can have a relatively small threshold and tolerance of meaningful or explorative conversation. Even my intimate life long friends who used to energetically engage in these type of conversations in high school and college, now find it difficult to delve for more than a few minutes before seeking a distraction.
I do find my thirst for meaningful conversation has stayed strong through out the years. My closest friends are very appreciative of the quality of our conversations and often express regret that they don’t have “these type” of conversations more often. Yet, when it comes down to it, they honor the taboos and inhibitions of socially accepted discourse.

Over the last few years I’ve noticed an aggressive nature to the avoidance of intimate or meaningful dialogue, and that is to make the desire for meaningful dialogue into a pathology or a sign of social ineptness. Now, efforts to engage in meaningful or emotionally invested discussion are rebuffed as a sign of a person’s “inability to read social cues” or their honesty as “a lack of social filters”.

I have worked many years with people on the Autism Spectrum and so I’m quite aware of individuals who have neurological deficits that limit their ability to read social situations, or to see things from another’s perspective. Yet, now people are now using this fact as a defense mechanism in rationalizing their resistance or discomfort with intimate dialogue.

In a future post I hope to talk more on the role inhibitions play on limiting our basic drive towards intimacy. Those willing to learn more of my thoughts regarding intimacy, should go to the words section of this website and read my book “Exploring Intimacy”.

Yet, in this post I only want to conclude by once again emphasizing my sadness at the lack of intimate and meaningful conversation allowed by social protocol and conventions. The taboos we have restricting meaningful interchange strip our social world from much of the richness it has to offer. Of course, one is free to express these things in the arts, such as I do in lyric, song and books. Yet, life and experience could be so much richer if our society encouraged meaningful exchange thereby allowing us to more fully benefit by the perspective, experience and energy of others in an immediate fashion.

It is a shame that our wonder of the world and depth of our experience often is expected to stay mute. There is so little time, and so much richness to share, and almost every individual I know possesses so many gems that, do to social conventions, stay hidden from my eyes.

Jim Guido

One Response to “Conversation Taboos”

  1. on 03 Mar 2012 at 11:21 am Kim kolodziejski

    Jim, I really enjoyed reading your post here, for you sound a lot like myself, wanting to find stimulate conversation with others. I one time stood at a shopping center for 5 1/2 hours just watching the people pass by with their lives, some of them just there to pass the time away. Some come up to me and ask me questions and we find ourselves talking for hours. I do look forward on meeting you to get to know you on a friendly basis.

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