Cool: A Debilitating Disease

Overview and Facts
Cool – Dirty Communication with your own soul

Cool kills. Stops a person from living. From following their heart and their passions in a given moment. In people of all ages, this destructive impulse caused by Cool is helpful to name as a “Wall of Cool.” A big, plain, vanilla, veneer (though its appearance may be flashy, blingy, designer, and jewel-studded) that plants itself like an imposing dam in the middle of the river of life.

Usually this spirit-killing phenomenon can be described in one word: No. An opportunity arises that may elicit feelings of beauty, wonder, awe, or surprise. But NO.

Children usually begin to show symptoms of Cool as they enter puberty, though in today’s fast-moving culture Cool is afflicting youth ever earlier. Generally, puberty is a time when we become more aware of ourselves and our place in the world. At this time in our lives we are in the midst of a major transition, from children who are told what reality is, to adults who are beginning to understand the freedom we have in making our own choices and defining our own reality. We begin to individuate from our parents and even our peers. We are making decisions as to what we believe, what we stand for, what we are passionate about, and what truth we want to pursue. We begin to compare ourselves.
These comparisons can lead to fear…fear that our true feelings and true emotions are too different from society, among many other fears. If those feelings and emotions are shown, the fear is that society will judge us, isolate us, or pick on us for being different. Cool, we are taught, can protect us and make us successful (especially socially), because it meets our needs for security, acceptance, accomplishment, and expression, among others.

The way we handle Cool is a strict shaper of our personality during youth, and carries into adulthood, echoing through our lives.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Cool can include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of interest in almost everything that’s not accepted as “Cool”
  • A tendency for almost everything to be classified as ‘lame’
  • Body language and/or words that say “No”
  • Sunglasses (literal and figurative)
  • Arms crossed
  • Whining and questioning of almost everything
  • Social exclusiveness
  • Put-downs to others’ stories
  • A person afflicted by Cool
  • Note the general attitude
  • Not performing a talent you have or are working on
  • Not asking someone something for fear of response (a date, a raise, a question)
  • Convincing yourself to be a certain way
  • not expressing yourself fully — thoughts, feelings, actions.
  • Not saying something you’d like to for fear of judgment
  • Not thinking things that don’t align with your peer group / culture
  • Being different in different contexts/situations because you’re unsure

When You See Others Struggling with Cool

Defining the symptoms of Cool is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Unfortunately, most of us do not have billions of dollars to invest into the research and development of Cool-eradication treatments. However, we do have many other resources and tools available to us for treating Cool. These include compassion, empathy, patience, acceptance, and love, among many others.
Let’s face it, you’re going to run into people, especially if you work with youth or have kids, who are too cool. If you’re mindful, you may even catch yourself looking at the Wall of Cool.
The doctor is in. A first step in treating Cool is, simply, to be yourself. As much as they may try to convince you otherwise, Cool-afflicted people are watching what you do. They are testing you. Consistency and confidence in your own character is one of the most valuable things you can offer those people, and it’s a beautiful offering to yourself. Sometimes people will test you. They may push at you for being too out there, too weird, too un-Cool. Don’t take the bait! Leave it, and face their judgment and criticism of you with a smile. Be true to yourself and your intentions in that moment. They want to see strength, patience, perseverance, and consistency…show your integrity.

With needs for Power and Love behind most cases of Cool, one of the things Cool-afflicted people need most is to be listened to. To be validated in their thoughts and feelings. In a society that does not listen to them, and that tries to hand them a pre-packaged identity, being listened to and validated is one of the most powerful treatments anyone can be offered.
Think back to your teens. How often did you have an older peer sitting with you, devoting all their time to you, listening to your thoughts and opinions on
life and the world? If you were fortunate enough to have received such a gift, it likely has stuck as a precious memory.
Further treatment includes freedom within your own actions. Be a goofball, a buffoon, whatever. Be a living testament to the ability to re-create oneself. You and whoever around you that’s ‘too cool’ can live with the freedom of being outside the box. In truth, the world will often acknowledge and recognize our individualities when lived authentically, and applaud them.

It’s important to note that it may sometimes help to meet that person at a certain level of Cool. For example, if your friends frequently use curse words to set the tone of conversation: you know they won’t hear your point if you don’t adopt their style. Sure, you can work to rise above that, but it also may be worth considering a compromise. Perhaps some swear words are appropriate, even if it doesn’t feel authentically you, with an understanding that once outside that context, the language is no longer needed; this olive-branch may grant you some ‘street cred’, allowing you an access to them that might otherwise be unavailable, and which you can use to achieve more meaningful ends with them. This is like injecting ourselves with a small amount of poison in order to immunize ourselves against the bigger disease. It’s a fine line, so know your boundaries, and know exactly how far you are willing to go to
meet them at Cool. If you relax too much you will soon be walked all over and defined by others instead of yourself, and the integrity you hold as a person immune to Cool will be lost.

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.

Cool can be a barrier to creativity and expression. You can check out how the Wall of Cool relates to Expression and some other barriers and solutions HERE.