Intentional compartmentalization of our conduct is at the heart of the emotional trauma accompanying trauma. It is physical and relational. Separation and cleaving are possible feelings of intense alienation, disconnectedness, and loss. Fortunately, something can be done about that: Distortive distortions can be corrected with introspection.
Suppose that a group of friends is gathered in front of the television to watch the Super Bowl. They all share the same feelings, the same needs for attentive proximity, mutual satisfaction, and transformative support and passion, but they are being distracted by the stimulation of different mediums — each group member channels its feelings toward different aspects of the television experience. Their narcissism is discordant with their brotherhood. Their interplay is easily disjointed and therefore unpleasant. The challenge here is to change the way the parties engage with each other. To not look at screens, not attend parties, not lose friends. Anything that raises their awareness.
If you ask me about problems that can be solved by addressing psychosocial aspects of how people experience our social relationships, my first list of problems is intentionally disconnectedness. Or, something like it. But, if you ask me the same question about those concerns, my list of solutions are what feels best, what pleases most, or what feels least like a problem to me. It’s not good to discuss this; it’s just the way things are. I choose to forgive, but if that is the best I can say, I’d better go.
Max J. Casanova is on the faculty at New York University. He is the author of Rationality: Willful Inconsistency, Intentional Compartmentalization, and Modifying Terminal Goals and the author of Philosophy of Light and Dark.