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Old 07-24-2009, 06:32 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Cheshire, UK (since 2006)
Posts: 5,014
Anyone gone from being uptight to being fun?

My husband wants to be less uptight and be more fun, and I'm wondering if any dopers have ever gone through that transformation?

He was a single child in a difficult family situation, and consequently did not experience much fun in his childhood. I came from a really fun family so being (and having) fun is just second nature to me and I'm not very good at explaining why I find certain things fun.

I've found a good website, which I've suggested he read through, called Succeed Socially and it has a good article about loosening up. From having known him for twelve years, I think the opening paragraphs really nail his 'uptightness:'
One broad way to do better with people is to lighten up a bit. A common thread running through a lot of my old unsociable behaviors and attitudes is that I was just too uptight.
- I got irritated by social annoyances that most people let slide.
- I cared too much about whether people were being inconsiderate and thoughtless or not.
- I looked down on what I saw as silly, immature behavior.
- I thought I always to had to be controlled and well-behaved. I couldn't let loose and enjoy myself.

Naturally this got in the way of my getting along with people. As I learned to do better in various social situations, it often struck me that what I was really doing was just learning to loosen up. When you're more easygoing as a whole, the benefits affect so many different areas.

Uptightness is a complicated concept. At its heart are traits like:
- Having rigid, unrealistic standards about how you and other people should act, and how the social world should be.
- Not being able to relax and ease up on your standards.
- Being too sensitive to little irritations from the social world, and in people's breaches of your standards.
- Being too touchy and tending to overreact when things do go wrong.
Does anyone else identify with those lists? Has anyone been able to change those attitudes and traits, and if so, what was your process?

I'm really interested in hearing some real-life examples of change that I could potentially share with my husband. He isn't comfortable raising this on the smaller forums he frequents, so we figured me asking the Dopers would be a more 'anonymous' way for him to gather some more information and stuff to think about.

Usual disclaimers, you are not a psychologist, you are not my husband's psychologist, yadda yadda yadda. I'm really just looking for real life stories where someone made a change, rather than advice on how my husband should go about making his own change.
Old 07-24-2009, 06:57 AM
Charter Member
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: On the beach!
Posts: 8,954
I really doubt that such ingrained attitudes and behaviours can be changed by just 'wanting to'. Of course, others might chime in here and tell of such changes, and then I'll have to admit to being wrong....c'est la vie!!

However, just reading your post brought immediately to mind Laughing Groups. I dunno if you have them in NZ, but they're a loose collection of people who gather in parks on a regular basis to just, well, LAUGH. They're dead-set silly, but they do release inhibitions about being silly because you are doing it with a whole lot of other people who are just as silly as you....and that makes you laugh even more, at just how SILLY it is. And once you've been really silly there, it makes taking the risk/s of doing other fun stuff easier I've heard (anecdote, not cite folks).

What about joining an adult circus-skills group? Male belly-dancing? Joining a pub-trivia night? There's an old saying about 'faking it 'til you make it'.....if he's doing fun STUFF regardless about how he actually feels about it, the chances are that he might end up enjoying the activity and the camaraderie as well, and who knows how THAT might end up!

The more pointless and stupid the better really.

Once we come to realise that everyone is just as shy and inept and full of foibles as we are, it makes life easier to handle.

I'm old now, and I KNOW. My word is my cite.
Old 07-24-2009, 10:50 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 222
Wear a funny hat.
Old 07-24-2009, 05:14 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: noitacol
Posts: 4,562
I confess to not being a particularly fun person. Unlike your husband, though, it's not something I really find myself wanting to change. My idea of hell is a meeting of the Red Hat Society: The circus skills thing may be a close second, though. I guess I don't really relate to this idea of getting together to be happy for no reason. When it comes down to it, I usually would prefer to be home reading some non-fiction related to my job than making small talk with people about their families.

The advice further down on that page seems to get at the idea of social experience. That if you don't have the social experience, you won't realize that people having a few drinks and getting loud or whatnot isn't the end of the world. In my case I don't think a lack of experience has much to do with it, I used to socialize quite a bit, because I felt a lot of pressure to do so. It turns out I'm more of a natural grouch. But I can see how getting experience could help someone who wanted to be more social. Worth a try. In my case it too often seems like socializing = pretending to be interested in something that bores me to tears. Like having to read every single post in every thread in MPSIMS.

Your husband might consider doing some things that are both social and productive. I have a lot better time if I'm volunteering to help with registration at an event than if I'm just milling around trying to make small talk. And classes in something only semi-practical, like cooking or recreational foreign language, can be a good bridge. I think you could overwhelm the limited fun capacity in a grouch with something like circus skills or belly dancing, though. Start slow, work up to it.

Happiness is not quite the same as fun, but he might check out the book Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman. It's quite empirically based and I thought it gave some good insight into happiness.

kambuckta, I once saw a documentary about those Laughing Groups (Called "The Laughing Clubs of India"). I did really enjoy watching the documentary, it was hilarious.
Old 07-26-2009, 12:52 AM
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 2,022
I am going through this right now too!

I'm 23 and a lot of those points mentioned in that quote pinpoint me exactly. I'm fucking sick of it. haha. So I'm trying to change.

I think there's a lot of variables to be dealt with here, but the two leading ones I would say is your husbands relationships with others around him and his general outlook on things.

I find myself most open and fun with those I am most comfortable with i.e. my close friends. Perhaps the first step may be to develop a better relationship with others around him, even if he has to do it on his terms, which you might find boring, but will eventually lead to him feeling more comfortable and open to fun. For this to happen, most importantly, he has to actually, honestly, truly try.

The other is just too complicated for me to get into right now. I'll try and post back later. Thanks for the link by the way, I'll be sure to check it out.
Old 07-26-2009, 03:28 AM
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 1,467
I'm not sure how much success I've had, but I have been trying to make that change as well. One thing I do is to model myself on my partner, since he is much more relaxed than me. I think: " Would C be stressing about this?" and if I think he wouldn't, I let it go. There a lot of things I think I have to get right, or keep under control, that actually don't matter very much. If I let it go, it's still 'wrong' but that that doesn't actually make any difference. I can do this because I have a lot of respect for my partner's judgement, and I'm willing to accept that if he thinks it's OK, then maybe it is OK.

I guess sort of related to that is the voice in my head that is constantly weighing and measuring, foreseeing consequences, always alert for things less-than-perfect. I don't try to shut this voice off, but I have learnt that it is not a good judge of how important something is. So I accept its observations that someone was rude, or something was done with less than perfect efficiency, or whatever, but decide to wait and see on whether this turns out to be a major disaster. As it happens, a lot of issues end up forgotten within the hour, so they obviously weren't such a problem after all. It's a kind of thought experiment, to treat things more lightly that I might think they warrant, and see what happens, whether dire consequences follow or not. Most of the time they don't, which is educational. I slowly learn where it is safe to lighten up.
Old 07-26-2009, 03:42 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Cheshire, UK (since 2006)
Posts: 5,014
Thanks for your responses, guys, I really appreciate it!
Old 07-26-2009, 04:11 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Miskatonic University
Posts: 10,269
I've been trying, unfortunately my idea of "spontaneous fun" is "let's go on an adventure!"

And by adventure I mean "explore secluded places in the middle of nowhere and/or the washes under the city."

Most of my friends (need a buddy system for these sorts of things) are young, innocent females. I wonder why no one has taken my up on this?

Maybe I should start off with easier, lighter stuff.

Okay, that's not an entirely accurate judgment (though I really do want to do those things!) I think part of doing it is to just work on nonsense. I mean pure, utter nonsense. I probably wouldn't enjoy the circus stuff and whatnot, but I frequently spout of lines of gibberish, talk in free association, and yammer on about world domination and whatnot. People see me as a somewhat fun person (so long as I'm not on one of my emo urge streaks which I think I've gotten over), so something must be there.

If he really wants to try just walk up to him and say something ENTIRELY off the wall, a line of Jabberwocky, the word "trout," whatever every now and then. Don't stop with the free-association and non-sequitors until he joins in (caveat: unless he gets really irritated of course).
Old 07-26-2009, 10:24 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: DC area
Posts: 29,510
Yes, I went from being very uptight to being very laidback.

I can't say what would work for other people, but I can tell you what worked for me.

I was very shy and self-conscious. At some point, it occurred to me to pay attention to how I was thinking about people as I walked around. I found that I generally wasn't paying that much attention to people, or that when I was it wasn't intense interest. It was just a casual glance or thought. Then I turned it around and started thinking about what that probably meant for how they were looking at me, and I realized that I wasn't very likely to be garnering much of their attention at all. So that untied a knot in me.

Next, I started thinking about what irritated me in others, really thinking about it and turning that back around to me. Could I see myself doing what that annoying person is doing under circumstance X or Y? The answer was almost always yes. Was I uptight about people judging me and then turning around and judging them? Yes. Is that fair? Not at all.

Next, I started thinking about why I took various things seriously when others didn't. What was I doing/accomplishing/thinking? Generally, I found that, again, it had to do with how I was relating to others, how I was comparing myself with others. Essentially, because I never felt like I really understood all interactions, I found myself trying very hard to control them, rigidly, to maintain my own comfort level. Once I understood that, and once I thought about the earlier steps, I was able to relax that control.

Once I relaxed that control, I was able to enjoy things for what they were, no matter how they might possibly make me look to people who don't matter even if they are paying attention which they most likely aren't.

Essentially, my uptightness was a symptom of insufficient empathy and a maladjusted sense of self-importance.
Old 07-27-2009, 02:07 AM
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 2,022
jsgoddess, I couldn't agree more. I can't think of how many times at parties I've spent in my head thinking about stuff instead of paying attention to whats around me and the many different opportunities I had. Even more, the people who were being loud, laughing, having fun I thought were obnoxious jerks. So I just sat there, dead silent, no smile, just watching, observing, judging. And who was the real jerk there?

But like you said, it's just a reflection of who you are. I think part of the reason I didn't act out was because I was afraid of what people might think or say about me. A lot like I did to them. Truth is, people mostly don't care what you're doing unless it's affecting them.

What's been working for me lately is just not caring. Especially if it's what other people think. I just try and do what makes me happy but not hate on anyone else either.

My problem lately has been why I hold myself back when I know better. For example, I was heading downtown to a bar when I randomly run into this chick who I've had a crush on for forever. We make small talk for a little, and in my head I think, "ask her to come to the bar with you." FOR SOME STUPID REASON, I shoot this down almost immediately and she ends up going the other way. I spent the rest of the night
Old 07-27-2009, 04:01 AM
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chicago,IL
Posts: 14,962
As I get older I get more mellow. Put on an Olivia Newton-John record and relax
Old 07-27-2009, 08:46 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: DC area
Posts: 29,510
Originally Posted by Scotty Mo View Post
I think part of the reason I didn't act out was because I was afraid of what people might think or say about me. A lot like I did to them. Truth is, people mostly don't care what you're doing unless it's affecting them.
Absolutely. In many ways, I think shyness is a symptom of overactive self-esteem. "Well, if I'm so involved in what I'm doing, everyone else must be, too!"
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