Let’s Go the Long Way Around

Yesterday my 5-year-old son explained his experience with the piece of gum I’d given him: “I smashed it with my teeth so many times…” He went on to explain that suddenly all of the flavor disappeared. I’m sorry I can’t recall the exact wording of the rest of the sentence. I was too busy being smitten by his long-way-around description of chewing.

That made me think about our use of words, especially the ones with moderate-to-lengthy definitions. “Chew” does not require a long definition to explain. It’s fairly straightforward. But when you don’t use the word and take the long way around an idea, it has the potential of illuminating the way toward other ideas.

The kind of words that I’m talking about are shortcuts. “Jealous” has to be explained. “Vivacious” as well. Furthermore, many words are loaded with nuances. Instead of vivacious, we could say lively, but those two words each have their own subtle differences, their own character, their own “feel”.

When we describe someone’s personality, when we describe our own personality, we use loaded words. When we use these terms in conversation with others, we use these words in order to spend less time to get the idea in the sentence out, keeping the pace of the conversation up, but we make a bargain in the process – these adjectives, adverbs and idioms don’t always provide any shortcut to understanding or, in the case of your own personality, being understood.

What someone else thinks of when they hear you say “anxious” may not be exactly what you mean of when you use the word. So often we have to further describe: Anxious how? Then you end up performing some kind of corrective measure with an explanation of what you mean by “anxious”. Your “shortcut” is no shortcut after all.

We have art for self-expression. Paintings, dances, novels, sculptures, plays, films, poems, etc. Each work of art comes from someone trying to express something. They are taking the long way around. Although some could argue that working with words is the long way around. It could depend on what you’re trying to express.

Back to personalities, telling someone what you see in your own personality may be best served by taking the time to avoid terms that might trigger a mental image or response that you don’t intend. It will require more care before speaking, and a bit more time to finish a thought, but being as close to perfectly understood from the start is far better than having to repair what you said in haste.

Your Possible Selves Want to Talk With You

If I watch myself on tape, I’m not only viewing with my self-concept in mind, I’m comparing “me” to my “possible selves,” the “me’s” I wish to become. Here is where an unbridgeable gap opens up between people: I will never have a sense of anyone else’s possible selves, nor they mine.

via Metaperceptions: How Do You See Yourself? | Psychology Today

Ever seen Defending Your Life? It’s pretty good. The part where they go to the Past Lives Pavilion and get to see who they once were and how they lived in past lives is the part I’m latching onto here. Those were other selves, weren’t they? Other me’s, he’s and she’s?

If we could have a Possible Selves Pavillion, we could each watch what we could have been (or are, if you’re game for the concurrent alternative reality concept) and at the very least see your potential on display. Could be depressing, could be inspiring. There’s no reason you couldn’t aspire to what you consider the best of your selves.

Ooooh, what if you could carry on conversations with your possible selves? Then they could tell you their alternate-reality stories, and you’ll get to know what they’ve been through and what worked for “them” (namely, you). You would benefit from your (their?) experience.

You and the possible you’s could work as a team for the benefit of all of you’s (that sounds kinda mafia).

And what if in said Possible Selves Pavilion others could view your possible selves? Wouldn’t they get a more well-rounded idea of who you are? This is what the author quoted above is lamenting about, and there is something of a solution for now, though not nearly as cool as what I’ve been talking about.

Here’s the solution: share more of yourself. Let people get to know you in as many different ways as you can. Even those silly online quizzes of “Which color do you gravitate to?” and “Which dog breed are you?”, “Which Star Wars character shares your worldview?” are valuable for your Facebook friends to reconsider another take on their impression of you. If there isn’t already, there ought to be a website where all of those results from personality tests and less serious quizzes end up in one place. Then your “friends” can get a better look at you. It’s not just based on chance experience.

When you consider any given moment of your HPA Axis, and the way the world went down those nights when you went out with your friends (plus whatever was going on with them), you have to admit that soul-connection moments are fewer and further between than you might prefer.

You need to make up for what a roll of the dice didn’t deliver, and that’s by being a little more insistent on getting people to see you in new lights. Of course, it’s up to you to be as jarringly honest about yourself as you can. And that’s not easy to get right, even if you’re willing.

The great thing about writing is that you can hammer it out, put it under your bed, and read it in the morning to see if you still agree. If not, make changes. Then sleep on it again. Eventually you’ll feel good enough about it to let it be. But before that happens, let it go. Throw it into the public for all to see. Maybe there’ll be something in it that you didn’t mean to divulge, but is nonetheless true of you. (See my post on the Johari Window for a decent explanation of the value of this.)

Baring yourself is scary (trust me, I feel it in a very real way). But baring yourself is good for your soul, no matter the outcome. You can be proud of yourself for taking the chance. Beyond that, you can royally complicate your life, but that’s just part of the fun! C’mon, what are ya, a Scorpio? Don’t you want to find out who can withstand your true self (true friends) versus who would turn away from you (fake “friends”)? Weed them out. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, energy and heartache.

I had to get rid of a friend that I’d had for over 25 years. It wasn’t easy, but I’m glad I did it myself instead of tolerating that person and maybe suffering worse. I came out the winner. Some people just won’t value you the way that you deserve to.

Dump Vultures

How much of your personality is your intrinsic self? If y0u are braving against mere survival instincts, then against comfort, then in spite of these influences insisting on having your personal preference – are you then displaying true personality? It takes some comfort level before types will declare their independence and take a chance on their guns to see them through. Some types won’t be needy, will test fate even when they’ve got next to nothing to depend on. Others will need to be much more self-assured before they’re willing to risk (astrological Cancers, I’m thinking of you). Where do we draw the line between the effect of our environment and the effect of our soul’s urge to change our experience of our environment?

Where do you draw the line? I want to know as much as you do. I want to sleep at night, amidst both my dreams and my nightmares, knowing whether I’m being true to myself or giving in to impulses based on fear, even when I’m afraid. I want to know what I fear is being taken from me, so that I understand that fear better. So that I understand me better, so that I might become a stronger person in its wake (no pun intended – but not too shabby, eh?).

“True personality” might include an acceptance of childhood environment and adult environment into its calculation, but I have a hard time accepting this. If we were born and raised in our personal rendition of Utopia, and still there, among other Utopians, who would we be upon our choosing? Or better yet, if we could design it, what would “Utopia” be like?

On my route back from work I usually see many vultures circling over the dump. They are attracted by the scent of bacteria in the wind, their best chance of eating in the way they are designed. I want to believe that humans are more than that. When we are assured of our basic or “physiological needs”, our “safety needs”, and perhaps our “love and belonging needs”, according to Maslow, we seek to satisfy more personal desires. That’s where personality may shine brightest, for we are no longer burdened by the seriousness of our needs or the grasp it has on our minds. When we feel a sense of desperation or duty and we must stave off less immediate concerns in order to accomplish a basic level of security, making adjustments to our personality to do so, we are some other version of ourselves. Are we each one personality, or a set of personalities tailored according to the situations we find ourselves in?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Here’s an interesting version:

Murray’s Needs

One final question: Is a unique personality a total combination of all consistent traits in action or reaction to the fulfillment of needs, wearing a slightly different “mask” of the self as befitting the needs of the moment?

Idiosynchronicity

The top line: You probably do know what people think of you

But it’s likely you don’t know any one person’s assessment. “We have a fairly stable view of ourselves,” says Bella DePaulo, visiting professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “We expect other people to see that same view immediately.” And they do. On average there is consensus about how you come off. But you can’t apply that knowledge to any one individual, for a variety of reasons.

For starters, each person has an idiosyncratic way of sizing up others that (like metaperceptions themselves) is governed by her own self-concept. A person you meet will assess you through her unique lens, which lends consistency to her views on others. Some people, for example, are “likers” who perceive nearly everyone as good-natured and smart.

via Metaperceptions: How Do You See Yourself? | Psychology Today

I dunno. My view of myself seems deeply influenced by my mood, but if that’s what she thinks is within the realm of “fairly stable”, I guess I’ll go along with it.

I asked my wife if I seem like a nervous person. She said no. I was surprised. I told her that a lot of times I feel like a nervous wreck, and then she was surprised. She assured me that I don’t come off that way. I believe her when she says that. I’d know if she were only trying to make me feel better, because I know her so well.

I do agree with the above statement that we each have “an idiosyncratic way of sizing up others” according to our self-concept. People expect me to hold opinions of them that are not what I caught on to when I met them. Then I wonder what kind of face I was making when I met them. I was probably aloof, off in my own head, trying to think of something clever due to my ridiculous desire to say something funny to make them laugh, because that’s what I think will have the best chance of making them like me and not think I’m boring.

If I get to know them well enough, we’ll probably agree. Or at least I will have addressed the disparity in their expectations and the actual outcome of what kind of person I believe they are.