Relatiodynamics: A [Amateur] Chemist Looks at His LIfe Through a (Very) Different Lens

January 29, 2007

Warning: You’re entering the land of metaphor, analogy, and science. This combination may be dangerous. Proceed with extreme caution. This ride is not for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. Side effects may include insomnia, narcolepsy, diarrhea, decreased sexual desire, dry throat, and death. Please ask your doctor if this treatment is right for you.

Eureka! Breakthrough! It all makes so much sense to me now! I’ve found that “Theory of Everything” necessary to explain human interaction. A grand scheme to explain it all.

Or at least me. And in the end, who else should I care about? You’re a closed box to me. I’m a closed box to me. The only difference is I might have a key to my box.

Stay with me here. This is important. This explains me. This is the ultimate explanation of my behavior. If you understand this post, you understand the inner and outer workings of anything I’ve ever done or will ever doing. You know who I am more than I myself might know. So let’s go:

It starts with chemistry. [Have the new viewers left yet?] Thermodynamics, to be more specific. The thermodynamics of relationships. Before I get into the metaphor, it’s important that you have a grasp on the actual science. In that case, I advise that you scrounge up your notes from 10th grade Chemistry. I can think of no better explanation. But in case you burned those like you said you would [heathens!], here’s my primer.

There are three fundamental laws governing energy in the universe. Truth be told, this post has nothing to do with any of them in a direct way. What this post will discuss is the concept of Gibb’s Free Energy. Free energy, G, is the energy in a system available to do work. ∆G, read delta [or change in] G, our best friend on this adventure, tells us whether or not a reaction releases or takes in energy. For our purposes, a negative ∆G corresponds to a reaction that can occur spontaneous, while a positive ∆G corresponds to a reaction that requires additional energy to begin. Your body decaying? -∆G. You being born? +∆G. The circle of life [zaaaaaaa zaaaaaaa bimyaaaaaa]: 0 ∆G.

Only one more component until we have the complete theory [as far as I’m concerned]. Activation energy. E sub A. The energy necessary to get from the reactants to the products. That final push that gets the components to do the tango, come out the other end, and curtsy in a completely different form. Because even a spontaneous reaction doesn’t have to happen. It will, given enough time [if you have the billions of years to wait], but you don’t have the time. You need the activation energy.

And now we have [most of] the parts necessary for my theory. The thermodynamics of relationships. Relational dynamics, if you will. All the same pieces in place: ∆G, the likelihood of any sort of relationship / friendship forming; activation energy, the bit of energy necessary to actually form the relationship. That’s it. Two variables and you have it all. Now for the explanation.

[Note: This regards interactions with myself and the world. While I imagine this metaphor can be expanded to cover many more people than the minority of me, I have no data on you, so your mileage may vary.]

If most relationships have the chance of happening, then they all have a negative ∆G. I imagine that some human relationships may have a positive ∆G, but that’s an extreme case. No matter how small -∆G is, it’s still existent.

So that leaves activation energy. I imagine that varies greatly across the population. In a bell curve sort of distribution. Some people are outliers. Others lie in the middle. Most, in fact, lie near the middle.

I myself, do not. I live in one of the outliers, the one lying towards a very large E sub A. I make myself at home there, in the area of the graph now easily labeled introversion [this will all make sense as I continue]; but the neighbors don’t tend to leave me alone. They’d rather try to push me towards the other end. Now a bit more information.

If activation energy pertains to whether or not a reaction [relationship] will happen in the near term, then a person with a high relational activation energy will find themselves much less likely to make friendships. The ∆G may be something completely attainable. The high activation energy person may perfectly enjoy most of the people in their life. The effort may seem minimal. But the activation barrier will set up a more or less insurmountable barrier.

In more relational terms, activation energy for me is getting to the point that I find interacting with you more interesting than interacting with myself. This may sound strange to someone that’s not introverted. And it shouldn’t be taken as an insult. I enjoy all forms of interaction with all forms of people. But all things considered, I get most of my ENERGY, my joy, my happiness, from my internal world. That internal world MAY involve communicating with others through writing or reading or any other mode of non-personal communication, but it still involves residing in my own personal internal world. Any trips out of that world, while refreshing, are at the same time exhausting unless you and I have reacted. Unless we’ve already gotten over the E sub A hump that makes communication between me and you so painful (to me).

There’s so much more I have to say about this, but I think I’ve already gone on too long. And yet said just enough to make me look like a giant asshole. Sigh. I realize this “revelation” may seem trivial to all you out there, but you couldn’t imagine the light it’s shed on how my internal landscape and external relationships interact to create my life.

Look for more posts on this in the future as I further flesh out the idea. Some thoughts to consider: catalysts, increasing temperature, and other extenuating circumstances. And a view of my (school) life from this relatiodynamic perspective.

Truly, namaste.

PS If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that we’ve already “reacted.” I don’t want you to think that I think of my friendships in these dry terms: I don’t. I just found this metaphor too powerful an explanatory model to leave by the roadside. Stay with me as I flesh this out, and maybe you’ll have something to help explain your own behavior [or at least understand mine more].

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One Response to “Relatiodynamics: A [Amateur] Chemist Looks at His LIfe Through a (Very) Different Lens”

  1. Mrs. O said

    I really enjoyed reading your Relatiodynamics theory. The idea of activation energy being larger or smaller for different people really hits home. And it’s a great way to explain to people how much energy it takes (literally) to just have a conversation sometimes.

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