Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Crystal or Iceberg?


...[T]here's ... an unsurmountable difference between the way I understand you and the way I understand myself. I might understand you by analogy to myself, but I cannot understand you as a self. A self, by definition, can only be understood as such from the inside. That understanding isn't necessarily accurate;...self-knowledge, too, can fail us. But it is very different from understanding someone from the outside, which is the only way I can understand other people.

This fundamental difference in perspective has an important practical corollary. Because we know other people only from the outside, we assume they can be known from the outside; we think we can understand people reasonably well based on their words and deeds. At the same time, because we know ourselves from the inside, we think we can only be known from the inside. Each of us lives, day in and day out, with an intricate internal reality: with the fluctuations of our moods, the complexity of our emotions, the ongoing committee meeting in our brain, the things we think but never say out loud. As a consequence, it's easy to feel that no one can grasp our true nature without access to this rich and dynamic inner world.

...It's as if we regard other people as psychological crystals, with everything important refracted to the visible surface, while regarding ourselves as psychological icebergs, with the majority of what matters submerged and invisible.

....[W]e think we can know other people based on criteria we reject for ourselves."

(Footnote: "This assymetry can take a toll on relationships of all sorts. Psychological studies have shown that people in shared living situations generally think they do more chores than their housemates, that people in relationships tend to think they try harder than their partner to resolve conjugal issues, and that each of the colleagues collaborating on a project typically thinks he or she is pulling more weight than everyone else. Granted, sometimes there's a genuine disparity between one person's work and another's. But at least as often, the hour I spent scrubbing the scum from the bathroom tiles (or talking about intimacy issues with my therapist, or drawing up a five-year budget for the project proposal) is just particularly real to me, whereas whatever work you might have done remains an abstraction--at worst unnoticed and at best fleetingly appreciated, but certainly not minutely calibrated in terms of time and energy expended.")

BEING WRONG by Kathryn Schulz


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