Oxford dictionary provides the following definitions for expression:
- The process of making known one’s thoughts or feelings
2. The conveying of feeling in the face or voice, in a work of art, or in the performance of a piece of music
To me both are too much! I have always avoided many forms of expression because I thought some things are too personal to be shared with anyone. Somethings like thoughts, feelings, ideas, perspectives, even comments. Many might things thoughts, ideas, and perspectives are the same things and I’m just being wordy and listing synonyms; but to me they are all different; each has a significant aspect to it.
I remember reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde where he said the artist puts too much of himself in a painting; or in any form of art for that matter. I could empathize with the character of the book.
Some people are very expressive and candid about their feelings, ideas, and thoughts. They even find it normal to share what they did during the day to a total stranger. This approach contradicts my mental organization of people.
In my mind people are categorized based on the level of intimacy and relevance. The level of intimacy, in turn, is determined by the concerns, plans and goals that we share. I cannot deny that feeling has a role in determining the level of intimacy but it doesn’t come first in the process. The categories in my mind are strangers, acquaintances and friends.
- Strangers: obviously, all the people that I don’t know fall in this category. Moreover, the people I know and I cannot find ways to connect with are virtual strangers to me. If I cannot find any similar interest or ideas to talk about with a person, they are labeled strangers. I am usually free to choose not to communicate or continue socializing with strangers, which is a good thing. It saves me a lot of energy finding something to talk about with those people.
- Acquaintances: they are an advances form of strangers! In fact, acquaintances are very much different from strangers except that they happen to be in a category that I am supposed to socialize with them. This situation is not necessarily voluntary but as a byproduct of social interaction these ‘acquaintances’ happen. The main characteristic of acquaintances is that there is usually one specific topic that works for our conversations; probably because we don’t know much about each other or maybe we are not really that much interested to know more either. The conversations are usually boring and most of the time of the similar nature, which to me is quite pointless. But it is at least something that keeps the social interaction bearable. In these situations, I usually remain silent and I prefer to listen to what they have to say — which usually is nothing new. Interestingly enough, the only thing I happen to ask them in the awkward moments of silence that happens in our encounters, is exactly about that dull topic. My brain sends out a signal when it sees Mr. X; it automatically goes to ‘bored’ mode and refers to topic Y to bring up. No doubt that the depth of the social interaction is quite superficial and technically at the level of strangers. I do not feel like sharing about my ideas to these people because I assume it will be as boring to them as it is to me.
- Friends: It’s a pretty complex category for myself. Not many people are in this category though. People of this category are usually placed where they are due to a certain situation that we are going through. Usually a tough or challenging situation; it could be study, work, a certain challenging situation like serving with a common goal; but that’s not all. If the friendship is based on any of these ‘situations’ only, the friendship will wear off once that specific project, course is finished or when the goal is met. The friendship starts forming when it involves some sort of shared feelings. The same level of misery or difficulty,we both may feel. I cannot say happiness, because happiness by itself is the same as reaching a goal; once it is experienced it goes away very quickly. But if the ‘path’ to reaching that moment of happiness is shared with a person, then the challenges and the happiness is valuable and includes the person in the category of ‘friends’.
In my experience, many people who are quite close fall in the first two category resulting many moments of silence with many people that I meet. I have tried to be otherwise, not that I feel how I am is wrong, but just as a test to see how it is like to be like others — it’s almost not possible, very superficial and disappointing especially when you see others are not that honest, in their approach of ‘seeming’ to be open and expressive.