This time I’m going to tie up a few strands of thought into a neat little speculative bow.
Last month I wrote I Hate the Plate, and it started like this:
My wife told me she has a “stress bucket”. When new tasks come in the bucket gets gradually filled up, and when she crosses them off her list it gets emptied. As long as the bucket doesn’t overflow she’s fine, but if it does, due to sick kids or things going pear-shaped at work, she loses her shit — snaps at the rest of us, can’t sleep, cries, and/or eats too much very dark chocolate.
I tell you this because once she phrased it like she did I realized it’s not how stress works for me. I don’t have a stress bucket, I have a stress plate. As long as there’s anything on it I have to get rid of it before I can feel restful, at all.
I don’t know why I have a plate because having a bucket just seems better. She has a greater processing capacity than me, as evidenced by her being, apparently, much less affected by the constant administration of tasks that comes with being an adult. Despite the neverending deluge she says she’s fundamentally happy with our situation, and I struggle to say the same.
When you have a stress bucket you’re ok with having outstanding tasks or obligations — things that need to be attended to, basically — as long as they don’t become so overwhelming that you can’t keep up. With a plate you’re not fine with any such at all. For example, we have different philosophies towards tidying up. She’s fine with leaving stuff lying around for a while to put away later, while I insist things must be taken care of immediately. If you decide to have a tangerine, for the love of God throw the peel inte the trash right away. To me, things lying around for any amount of time are “open tickets” that create stress by just existing. This has led to several heated arguments between us. Yes, with a plate you need to tie up all loose ends, finish all tickets, and close all cases before you can feel at ease, and in the long run, mentally healthy.
I also said that it’s not the magnitude of tasks so much as the number of them that matters to me. It feels like the effort required to keep track increases much faster than the number of things to keep in mind. Two things take four times as much effort as one, three takes nine, four sixteen, and so on. When I can focus on only one thing it doesn’t particularly matter how big or effortful it is. It’s not anxiety-inducing at all to, say, lay new flooring at home or mow the lawn, no matter how long it takes and how much I sweat. As long as I can focus on the thing in front of me without having to keep mental “channels” to the rest of time and space open, I’m far from lazy.
From Plate again:
I’ll do stuff like that for eight hours straight and come away from it refreshed as if after a good night’s sleep. But ask me to do a thing while I’m in the middle of doing another thing and I’ll struggle to not bite your face off.
One of my best days last year (not a great year for fun, admittedly) was all about building a windbreak for our wooden deck. A full day of light work with my hands, listening to relaxing trivia podcasts, and I felt no need to even take a break. But if she asks me to pack “all the stuff we need” to go to the beach for the day and I’m 40% of the way towards hyperventilating from the sudden stress spike.
I’m just the same way at work. When I have a single and clearly circumscribed task I’m pretty content. If I have to juggle more than one project, or deal with a more open-ended one when I can’t neatly separate what is from what isn’t part of the task — and thus can’t “close off” everything that hasn’t got to be considered — satisfaction drops like a stone. When I have several open-ended tasks going on at the same time I have to remind myself that it’s a bad idea to drink on a weekday afternoon.
What I’m trying to say is that it seems to be a feature of my psychology that I have to severely limit, ideally at zero, the number of open tickets I have in my mind. Everything to be considered has to be right there, on the table in front of me, and I must know there’s nothing else. Then I’m able to relax and dig into it.
But this post is called Platist Politics, so where’s the politics?
Well, politics are about relationships between people in a society, so how you relate to others likely has bearing on your preferred politics. And think about what other people actually are: fellow beings with interests, needs, wants, and desires which, unless you’re a sociopath, you recognize deserves consideration.
In other words, other people have to be attended to.
My next self-quotation is a footnote from Variations on the Tilted Political Compass from last december that discusses the trait personality psychologists call agreeableness. First, here’s what Wikipedia says about it:
Agreeableness is a personality trait manifesting itself in individual behavioral characteristics that are perceived as kind, sympathetic, cooperative, warm, and considerate. In contemporary personality psychology, agreeableness is one of the five major dimensions of personality structure, reflecting individual differences in cooperation and social harmony.
People who score high on this dimension are empathetic and altruistic, while a low agreeableness score relates to selfish behavior and a lack of empathy. Those who score very low on agreeableness show signs of dark triad behavior such as manipulation and competing with others rather than cooperating.
And here’s what I said in Variations:
I’ve never liked the agreeableness construct because it doesn’t make sense to me personally. It combines being highly empathetic, interested in people and sensitive to others’ needs with disliking conflict, confrontation and aggression. Those aren’t the same at all for me. I’m not particularly empathetic, and actively, continuously considering others’ needs and wants is, I’ve noticed, for some reason highly cognitively and emotionally taxing (and I consider blanket demands to do so to be a fundamentally aggressive imposition). At the same time I value kindness, courtesy, and respect a lot and judge aggression and meanness harshly (but silently). Those are just very different things.
My behavior towards others is not a function of “live” intuitive empathy for the most part (that’s reserved for a small set of people I have close personal relationships with, and it’s draining even then). It’s more of an inner moral code or idea of personal virtue — a precompiled, internal, idealized image of how a good person behaves — rather than an in-the-moment, on-the-fly sensitivity to what behaviors other people want and expect from me.
I just find it seriously effortful, tiring, and anxiety-inducing to constantly think of what other people want and how they feel. It means that I have to keep several concerns active in my mind at once, and that feels very similar to how I experience outstanding tasks.
Now given that my mind works this way it’s no surprise I prefer an ethical code based on rules and principles, and not on empathy or some fuzzy ideal of self-sacrifice without clear limits. An extension of that is, I suppose, a conviction that if you want something from somebody it’s your responsibility to ask; you should not expect others to anticipate your needs. To demand things like that means making unreasonable and unjustified claims on somebody else’s scarce mental resources.
To be clear I’m not saying I don’t care about what other people are feeling, it’s just that it’s typically reactive and not proactive (unless we’re literally talking about my family, but even that is tiring, no matter how rewarding in other ways). It also doesn’t mean that I don’t abhor harming people. I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Or, ok, I would in fact hurt a fly, but I do feel a little bad when I swat one.
Let me also say that I’m not trying to argue for or justify anything right now. I’m just noticing that this is how I feel.
When you extend this disposition to politics you get an intense dislike of, for lack of a better word, collectivism — the idea that we, by default, have a bunch of broad, implicit, and unarticulated obligations to our fellow citizens and society as a whole. The mere existence of such potentialities triggers the stress response. What you do tend to like is the concept of rights. Political and moral rights are specifically “no questions asked”; they’re designed to cut off any other, vaguely defined and delineated set of concerns you need to weigh back and forth before you know whether or not you can do something. Rights short-circuit all that: if you’ve got the right to do something, that’s all you’re need to know and think about.
That brings us to my third self-quotation, from the first tilted political compass post. There I had two axes separating the political left from the right and one of them was how much you prefer decoupled or coupled society:
In decoupled society the default relationship between two people is that of no obligations whatsoever (special circumstances like friendship or family bonds don’t count since we’re talking about the macro scale). The only obligations are to respect explicitly stated rights and agreements. No expectations beyond that are valid (for example, between employers and employees). Social problems can and should be adressed with formal means: contracts, property rights, tort law. Political decouplers like money and the market as institutions because they quantify and decontextualize social obligations.
In coupled society what it means to be a good person or what may be required of you at any point is open-ended. There are not clear boundaries between people and you are expected to take others’ or society’s interests into account as much as your own. Anything you do that plausibly affects anyone or anything outside yourself is everybody’s business; duties are not fully specified and can never be completely discharged or fulfilled. Social problems can and should be adressed by everyone taking on themselves to be more self-sacrificing and focus less on what rights they have to do what they want. Political couplers dislike money and the market for the same reasons decouplers like it.
In part two I explained it a little further in response to a few who confused coupled society with valuing social bonds in general:
You have social bonds to some people like family and friends, which means you owe them to think of them in three full dimensions, to feel their pain, to come to their aid, and to not just respect their interests but make them your own on a deep, emotional level. If you treat them instrumentally, transactionally or in a blind, rule-based way you’ll damage the relationship.
The “coupled” view I’m referring to is the ideal that we treat everyone around us as if they were friends and family. It’s unattainable in practice but still something we’re supposed to try to do if asked, and in any case not explicitly reject. It means that a competitive, transaction-based market society where it’s acceptable to model unseen strangers as objects — as means and not ends that you interact with indirectly through a law-contracts-and-currency interface, instead of fully-fledged fellow human beings you interact with through caring relationships — is on some level deeply wrong. Given this, we get a moral-political vision that is what I described: there’s no clear end to our obligations to think of others. This description of utopian communities is what I mean by seriously extreme coupling.
Decoupling is an explicit rejection of this overwhelming implied duty in the form of demarcation. You have open-ended obligations towards people you have personal relationships with and clearly defined obligations like “respect rights and agreements” toward others, but not open-ended obligations to people in general than can be invoked and/or expanded at any time. “Nobody owes you anything” is a decoupler’s response to perceived overentitlement. It is typically not meant to refer to family and friends.
Now, it’s nice when somebody says exactly what you think they mean so you don’t have to reconstruct it. Noted socialist Freddie DeBoer, in his book The Cult of Smart, says this:
As a socialist, my interest lies in expanding the degree to which the community takes responsibility for each of its members, in deepening our societal commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of everyone.
Yeah, that. That’s it. That’s what I’m talking about.
I don’t deny that it sounds “nice”, and I recognize that the far end of decoupled society is not ideal. I’m certainly not an extremist. It’s obvious to me though, that I start at the decoupled end intuitively and then moderate towards the center, and not the other way around. What I mean by that is while I accept that exceptions in the coupled direction is often justified, they need to be specifically argued for and justified every time. It is not and must not be the default. And here I think I have different, even opposite intuitions from many others (like Freddie).
I think back to an episode at work where I was collaborating with a nonprofit customer dedicated to combating a specific societal problem. At one point we were all discussing where the responsbility for this problem lied, and we concluded that none of the candidate actors really were — it wasn’t on anyone’s plate (sic). My immediate thought (which I didn’t say out loud) was “yes, this isn’t anybody responsibility in particular, so it’s nobody’s responsibility, which makes it difficult to adress” and I was ready to go from there. However, at the exact same time one of them said “right, it’s nobody’s responsbility in particular, which makes it everybody’s responsibility“. I highly doubt me and this person votes the same way.
You might say that the “coupled society intuition” corresponds to the classic maxim “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”, while the “decoupled society intuition” corresponds to its inverse: “if you’re not part of the problem, you’re part of the solution”.
I might go even further and say that some seem to have an intuition that Society is somehow a superorganism that has agency and responsibilities. Society —and Society is shorthand for “everybody”— is then responsible for everything that goes on inside it. There isn’t any particular distinction made between action or inaction, or between “doing something” and just “allowing it to happen”. Everything that happens in Society is something that Society “does”. It counts as an action and is therefore the subject of responsibility — Society’s (i.e. everyone’s).
The opposite intuition sees society very differently. It’s not an agent that does things but more an arena like the natural world where social outcomes aren’t so much done but simply happen, according to something like natural processes. Things that occur in nature are not considered “actions” and are not the natural object of moral evaluation, and “people acting according to their natural individual rights and incentives” is thought of like “the laws of physics playing out” in this view. Moralizing these happenings and intervening in the system’s working is thus not natural, no the default, and has to be specially justified each time.
This dichotomy isn’t new political philosophy by any means, I just feel that nothing I’ve heard so far has explained this particularly well in terms of intuitions.
To summarize this post’s message in one sentence: based on the infallible scientific method of introspection, I’ve come to suspect there’s a connection between having a “platist” stress response to tasks and preferring a decoupled, libertarian-like intuitive politics because an obligation to actively consider other people’s interests at all times is experienced as mentally overbearing and oppressive in the same way drowning in to-do:s is.
Now wait here a moment. Isn’t that just selfishness? Aren’t you just describing being a selfish person?
Maybe? I guess that’s ultimately subjective. “Selfish” means “too selfish” or “unacceptably selfish” in actual use, and where that line is drawn is a matter of some debate. If you want, you may consider this an exploration of the phenomenology of selfishness. What does it feel like and how is it justified to oneself?
If we were to accept that label it does make me wonder what it feels like to be an unselfish person in this sense. Do they not mind having to do this all the time, because they have stress buckets instead of plates (it’s true that my wife the “bucketer” is much more naturally concerned about others than I am)? Or are “unselfish platists” unselfish in a deeper way, and simply accept that they must endure this kind of stress and anxiety because it’s the right thing to do? That’s pretty hardcore. Or do they not experience having to perform tasks and having to take others’ interests into account similarly at all?
I’m really not sure.
• • •
We also think differently when going on holiday; she’s fine with renting an apartment and cooking our own food, while I want to stay in a hotel and eat out every meal. To me you’re not really on holiday if you have to cook and clean, at all.
To use a computer metaphor it’s like my mind runs out of memory as soon as I have more than one thing outside myself to think about and have to use swap space, which slows everything down by like an order of magnitude.
A comment said that political coupling/decoupling likely reduces to the agreeableness trait and I don’t entirely disagree. Although I think being very disagreeable and conflict-prone isn’t the same as preferring decoupled society, which is formal and distanced but not hostile.
One way to phrase this is that while I’m not a libertarian by politics I mostly am one by personality, if this article is anything to go by.
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11 thoughts on “Platist Politics”
As a complement: I was highly influenced by an article I read 30+ years ago (and have not found since) that claimed great thinkers often develop theories that are the opposite of their natural tendency. The only example I remember for sure was Popper: notoriously intolerant of disagreement, also founder of the modern idea that no scientific theory is ever proven, just not yet refuted.
One can imagine a platist or decoupled person reacting against their own nature to become in practice a collectivist. I myself have become something of a collectivist over time (but with some big gaps), despite remaining asocial.
Makes me think of Rousseau for some reason (might be totally wrong).
The “coupled” worldview suddenly clicked for me when I took the uncharitable step of turning each of them around:
A fully decoupled worldview says that other peoples’ obligations to you, outside of explicit rights and negotiations, are zilch.
A fully coupled worldview says that others can have deep obligations to you, especially “bowing to your tribe’s values”.
This makes the link between thrive-couple (uncharitably, the excesses of cancel culture) and survive-couple (uncharitably, religious bigotry) awkwardly clear.
> A comment said that political coupling/decoupling likely reduces to the agreeableness trait and I don’t entirely disagree.
E.g. “Mormon nice”.
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I think the talk of “collectivist” values and coupled vs. uncoupled worldviews may be eliding an important difference between merely formal obligations, like paying taxes for social programs, and obligations that actually force people spend a lot of time thinking about or interacting with members of their community. For example, the socialist philosopher Slavoj Zizek, in a somewhat ironic “leftist tribute to Thatcher” at https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2013/04/simple-courage-decision-leftist-tribute-thatcher , wrote:
‘It is this myth of non-representative direct self-organisation which is the last trap, the deepest illusion that should fall, that is most difficult to renounce. Yes, there are in every revolutionary process ecstatic moments of group solidarity when thousands, hundreds of thousands, together occupy a public place, like on Tahrir square two years ago. Yes, there are moments of intense collective participation where local communities debate and decide, when people live in a kind of permanent emergency state, taking things into their own hands, with no Leader guiding them. But such states don’t last, and “tiredness” is here not a simple psychological fact, it is a category of social ontology.
The large majority – me included – wants to be passive and rely on an efficient state apparatus to guarantee the smooth running of the entire social edifice, so that I can pursue my work in peace.’
I think there’s plenty of this desire to “be passive and rely on an efficient state apparatus” on the social-democratic, Bernie Sanders style left, where we would have more taxation to have something like a Scandinavian social democracy that would guarantee a higher floor in terms of living standards (maybe including something like a basic income) and guaranteed access to decent medical care and education–such a system, once in place, wouldn’t require that you go out and spend a lot of time attending community meetings or whatever. And even on the more radically anti-capitalist left, there’s always been a strand that thinks the goal should be some sort of post-scarcity society where the work needed for the production of material needs has been reduced to a minimum (or possibly fully automated away) so that people can be free to just pursue whatever projects they find interesting or creatively fulfilling (whether alone or in self-selected groups) without having the obligation to do drudge work for the “common good”. Consider for example Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” at https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/wilde-oscar/soul-man/ or Karl Marx’s own comment at https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/8116796-for-as-soon-as-the-distribution-of-labour-comes-into
Of course it is true that historically most socialists who have had this sort of post-scarcity society as an end goal have thought we’d need to go through some intermediate stage of a planned economy where most people are pushed into doing factory work or other types of drudgery for the common good. But this isn’t universally true, and on far left discussion forums one will often see discussion of the idea of jumping directly from capitalism to “fully automated luxury communism” (think Star Trek:TNG or Iain Banks’ “The Culture” series). Regardless of what one thinks of the near-term feasibility of such an idea, both this example and the Scandinavian social-democratic model seem like they point to some ambiguities in your notion of “collectivism” or a “coupled” worldview, since both might be advocated by people like Zizek who just want to pursue their own creative or intellectual projects in peace and not have to actually interact with or even think about people outside their circle of friends and families, assured that everyone is being provided a decent material living standard by some “efficient state apparatus” that just operates in the background, like plumbing or garbage collection.
I agree. I haven’t focused on this when I’ve written about this but it’s definitely there. The actually “coupled” mindset does exist and I find it more interesting because it’s exotic to me. I have much less disagreement on an intuitive, emotional level with the Zizeks of the world. They might not agree but under the scheme I set up in Tilted Compass they might be better filed under the liberal label, albeit near the left border. The coupled-decoupled mindset is a clear, determining distinction in my mind, althought I realize it might not be like that for others.
I liked the Zizek article, and it’s a perspective I lament seems sidelined in most leftist discourse today. Many seem to think that, on some level, the goal, the only acceptable goal, is for everyone to be politically engaged. I wonder if this is a small minority who project their own preferences on others and believe that people are duped or bought off or whatever if they don’t have the same desire to engage in politics.
Home? Over achieving workaholics.
School? Mine, a quasi religious militaristic single sex. Hated it. Excellent for breeding out of people say – hugging, cooperation unless via tribe. Awareness of others except via a contract enabling “I didn’t have to think about you as my bucket was (unbeknown to me) bashed into a plate”.
And now you are paying for it. All that knowledge, all those answers you help other people with, and still they cry. At least you have the ability ( or a relationship which makes you do this as I doubt you’d do it otherwise) to see what you lost before you hit puberty.
Plates are great for engineering. Human relations need a bucket AND A TIME LAG. Never counselled a person who has ptsd? You’d just induce retrauma and or suicide. Wife – close to the mark?
“Cellular Defense Automata
…”You might not think you are connected to the people you are around, but we breathe the same air, and because of reasons like that we are connected not only to all living beings.”
And beBoer. You’ve been reading Scott again. If you can get ism and ist from you thinking, you will start to stop swapping absolute and relative fuzzy idealigical and humanist concepts. And progress. Thanks.
Long-time reader, first-time commenter here.
I recently read How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett, a book that, besides laying out her theory of constructed emotion, explains how the brain, in order to save energy, simplifies the information it receives and forms concepts, based on similarities in input. This post made explicit for me how coupling is a way of forming concepts, with the purpose of making information less taxing to process. (This obviously won’t be news to you, but I’d kind of forgotten about the utility of coupling.)
In this view, one of the things that culture does, is provide a set of interacting concepts through which individuals orient themselves. Different societies have very different emotion concepts, for instance, meaning that the more homogenous a society is, the less taxing it will (generally) be to relate to people; you’re far more likely to be using the right-ish building blocks when constructing the experience of someone you have a lot in common with. To nerds, the inner lives of others amount to troops of nerd-snipers, overwhelming quantities of unreasonably convoluted information, which is why you find it “seriously effortful, tiring, and anxiety-inducing to constantly think of what other people want and how they feel” (lmao).
What’s interesting to me is the question of whether we can understand the concepts we use, and the way they interact with each other, to such an extent that we can work with them, instead of being at their mercy. Cultural engineering basically… How do we know when a system is too complex to bother trying to meddle with it? It seems to me that the consequences of abandoning agency is to leave processes that don’t care about us in charge.
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Like you, I’m not very warm and touchy-feely, but care about not harming people and generally being collegial and non-aggressive. (If I remember correctly, some Big 5 models include different subscales of Agreeableness for this.) I also lean toward social decoupling over coupling; my first instinct when I read your initial posts on this was that this was an introvert/extrovert thing. I sometimes feel like my emotional energy is my most precious and necessary-to-conserve resource.
I’m not sure which I am between plate and bucket. I was never one of those students who gets home and immediately starts doing homework, without doing something to relax or decompress first. But I will say that having something hanging over me for too long feels pretty bad. I often have several projects in progress simultaneously at work, which is basically OK until something starts to drag. My big nightmare scenario is that by failing to stay sufficiently on top of everything, some deliverable will be delayed and it will be ALL MY FAULT.
The other thing that this post reminded me of was that “ask” vs. “guess” culture thing (which is another dichotomy where I have traits of both): what are our duties when someone asks us to do something, and what does that mean about when it’s appropriate to ask others for things?…
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My intuition doesn’t really match either the “coupled” or “decoupled” view; I think that society can be responsible for things and does (at least sort of) have unbounded responsibilities, but individuals shouldn’t (by default) have unbounded responsibilities. That is, I don’t think “society’s responsible” necessarily means that everyone‘s responsible (and society being bad doesn’t necessarily imply even any of the people in society are bad); more like, the problem should be solved somehow, which could involve designating some person/people responsible, encouraging (but not requiring) people who have time/energy/resources to do something about it, possibly imposing bounded requirements on everyone if necessary. (An ideal government would be an organization whose job is to have things that are no one’s responsibility be their responsibility (probably giving everyone a bounded responsibility to pay taxes, unless we change to a very different economic system). I think my political views are close to the leftist views Hypnosifl’s comment describes (but not people being pushed into factory work etc.).)
Regarding plate vs. bucket, I think my views are based on the assumption that there’s a lot of variation (in that and other attributes that could affect how well one can handle coupled-style responsibility, like person-oriented vs. thing-oriented). This means that the existence of people who can’t handle coupled-style responsibility is part of what coupled people should be considering. It also means that having some jobs/roles require coupled-style responsibility seems reasonable, as long as it’s possible and reasonable for someone who can’t handle that to follow the simpler rule of just not taking those jobs. (I think some of my leftist economic views follow from that; being a corporate executive or a boss, at least/especially at a larger company, is a job that I see as requiring closer-to-coupled responsibility about things that are relevant.)
(Also I think personally I see taking something into account as part of an existing task as less likely to be an issue for me than doing a new task. Like, when I make things for my website, I try to keep in mind things like accessibility to colorblind people, making sure images include alt text for screen readers, etc., but if I notice an existing problem (of any sort) on something I’m not currently working on, I’m much less likely to do something about it soon.)
Regarding seeing societal things as natural processes… I think I do tend to see some things that way (and I’m less inclined than some people to explain systemic problems in terms of people morally being bad), but I don’t think that implies that we shouldn’t intervene; rather, those natural processes often produce bad results, so we should intervene (although we should still be careful about how we intervene). (But I also don’t necessarily think that people acting according to incentives is morally neutral; there can be bounded moral rules that don’t line up with or are at odds with incentives that exist.)
This is a good analysis, and I would extend this even further from a neutral framework to a qualitative judgement: The couplers *do not actually manage to achieve their ends of coupling everything together*. This is why you constantly hear them talking about “self-care” “emotional labor”, and being perpetually “exhausted” or “tired, y’all.” It’s not unrelated that people who support collectivist policies have self-report larger incidences of anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness – if you start from the assumption that anything that’s not anyone’s responsibility is actually everyone’s responsibility, you’ll quickly run into what appears to be a massive social engineering problem – how to get everyone to assume their proper amount of responsibility (forget even for a moment that *that* is still a fuzzy designation). If your commitment to shared social responsibility is actually without bounds, you’ve essentially created a bucket and poured every problem in the world into it. Forget even the moral framework, you’ve generated an unsolveable technical problem. The end result is of course that nobody can manage this amount of coupling, so that you end up with extremely (from the outside) narrow definitions of “empathy” that basically amount to cruelty when looked at from another direction, or “empathy” that only applies to a particular tribe, or rank hypocrisy – which isn’t really a personal failure, so much as the inevitable outcome of pursuing completely unrealistic level of coupling.
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Is it actually true that couplers tend to be more exhausted than decouplers? If so, it could be like you said, that being a coupler is exhausting (though it could still be worth it or necessary), or it could be that being exhausted (or things that make people exhausted) leads one to coupling politics. This could be the case if they’re exhausted because of problems that are nobody’s responsibility or that are currently considered to be the right of the person causing the problem, or because for them doing what’s required to actually get people to agree to do what they need is exhausting. It could also be that people who are emotionally affected by politics are more likely to be exhausted and also more likely to be couplers; for me, my views on coupling/decoupling are more complicated (see my previous comment), but I am emotionally affected by politics (completely involuntary, not something I can change other than just avoiding politics, which is hard) and often exhausted.
It also could be that decouplers are less likely to express being exhausted, perhaps because they see being exhausted as not anyone else’s problem and think they should just suck it up and deal with it. (And if that’s the case, then it could be that decouplers are more exhausted because they’re not actually getting any help.)