Me — Unlocking Your Own Secrets

I’m a very introspective person. I’m constantly thinking about things and framing my experience into sizable chunks, and a lot of my life is characterized by the need to constantly improve myself and my personality.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that we as people do things for the wrong reasons a lot, even when we ourselves don’t realize it. I’m constantly trying to better myself, but I often misdiagnose the problems in the first place simply because knowing who you are isn’t always simple.

Let’s imagine a person, we’ll call him Jack. He’s very extroverted, pretty attractive, gets along with everyone. The kind of person that goes to lots of parties and has a huge social media presence just because they’re so sociable. Jack has a problem, though. He never makes time for specific people. He’s too busy hanging out with and being everyone’s friend. He might say he’s too busy with other friends to actually spend time on any one person. His best friends are just the people that he hangs around most when he goes to these parties.

But what he doesn’t realize about himself is that he doesn’t make actual, meaningful connections with people because he’s scared. His mom left when he was a kid, and he never understood or overcame that. He doesn’t want to get close to anybody because he’s terrified that if he allows himself to be vulnerable, that person will leave him. He may not realize it, but the brain has a way of doing things even if you’re not aware of it.

I’m not going all Freud on you, I promise. But even when we try to learn why we are the way we are, we may not be able to find a solution. You have so much baggage surrounding your life that it’s hard to parse what is and isn’t relevant towards for determining the reasoning behind your behavior. It gets even harder when we rationalize actions based on false information to unconsciously hide ourselves away.

I wish I could know every objective truth behind me and my actions. It’s a lot like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle of your brain, only you don’t know what the picture is supposed to look like, you just have a pile of pieces with no edge to work with.

But when you tell a friend about your troubles, they’re not looking at the information the same way. They don’t have all the baggage that comes with your life, they’re just thinking about the information you give them. Imagine them watching you struggle to put this huge puzzle together and they say “Dude, the box is right here, why don’t you just look at it?” The answer seems so simple that it’s hard to believe, but the more you think about it, the more you realize they’re right.

Of course, this is what psychologists and therapists are for, but sometimes a good, close friend can do the same thing.

Self discovery is a quest never finished, but it’s a much longer journey when taken alone.

Learning! — Construals

Social psychology teaches us that each person behaves predictably given certain social situations. How we talk to family is not how we talk to friends or people we don’t know. This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but construals, (defined as “how we interpret situations”,) are super important for how we go about our daily lives.

You’re going to treat people differently depending on who they are. If you’re talking to somebody you haven’t met, our brains will try to tell us how we should interact with them based on who we think we are, and it’ll scramble to soak up all the information we can about that person. Consider the story of the Prince and the Pauper. When they switch places, people don’t notice because they don’t perceive anything being amiss.

But the thing I find fascinating about this concept is how it bleeds over into philosophy. Specifically, I’ll bring up Ralph Waldo Emerson. He teaches us that each of us live in our own, individual worlds, created by our own minds based on past experiences and our own personalities (I’m sure you’re familiar with nature vs. nurture).

Our own individual worlds are incomplete. We are never operating with all the facts. For example, I might hate the rain because I work in a job where I have to deal with a lot (and I did have a job like that). You might love the rain because it makes your grass so much greener the next day, and it makes your house looked beautiful. This could, in turn, lead us to regard something as simple as rain as a positive or negative influence/stimulus on our life. I might have terrible days because past experience has taught me that rainy days aren’t good days. Your past experience could say exactly the opposite.

Now, obviously we can’t say either of us is “right” or “wrong”. We’re both right, given the individual circumstances, but what is the “truth”? Is rain a positive or negative influence on society? Even a question like this is fundamentally impossible to answer in regards to Emersonian philosophy because it states that humans are incapable of perceiving reality. It isĀ always under the influence of past experiences, and these cloud our judgment. We can’t jump into the mind of the person that cut us off today to see that they’ve just had a stressful morning and are going to be late to work. If we knew them, we might be understanding, but to a stranger, we hate them because that’s all the information we have on their personality.

The closest we can get to finding the “true reality” is by learning as much as we can. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle. We can guess what the puzzle may be if we filled out the edge pieces, but the more we learn and understandĀ every aspect of the world around us, the more we start to see the full picture.

Long story short: Don’t jump to conclusions. It’s natural instinct to assume you’re right and the way you see the world as “correct”, but in the end, we’re all biased and seeing it through a narrow lens. So take those construals, figure out why you interpret things the way you do, and see if you can find another way of thinking.