Friday, December 29, 2017

Self 101

I wrote some prompt notes for possible use in today's blog and shared them with Lynn.  I don't do that usually but I wanted to see if anything jumped out at her.  She laughed a little at "Guess who it is easiest for me to sympathize with? Me!"

That got me to thinking: Why do I get along with myself better than with others?  Other questions came up: Do I?  Maybe it just seems that way.  Do others have a special arrangement with themselves to see things their way, agree with their thoughts, sympathize with their own (perceived) feelings?  If we tend to take ourselves more completely and sympathetically than we do others, why do we behave that way?

I thought of Sarah Bakewell and Michel de Montaigne.  Bakewell is a London librarian of today who wrote a book about Montaigne (1533-1592) called "How to Live".  She since has another book "At the Existential Cafe".  I had read about Montaigne before.  He is sometimes said to have invented the essay as a form of writing and to have been one of the first writers to sit alone and examine his thoughts from what today might be considered a psychological point of view while staying aware of himself and his place in his view of history and philosophy.  In other words, he was both introspective and extroverted. 

It only took a few minutes before I remembered how often I surprise myself with thoughts and opinions and feelings I didn't expect.  I have read "Incognito" by Eagleman and "Before You Know It" by Bargh and "The Hidden Brain" by Vedantam and other books about the mind and the subconscious.  I remember Eagleman's comparison of the conscious mind to a passenger on a giant, complex ship thinking he himself was doing a fine job handling the boat while in fact it ran without him.  So, I am aware that what I think I know about myself is only a tiny, temporary bit of what my brain and body are up to. 

I am old, cranky and critical.  I often question my thoughts, my memories and my convictions.  I frequently compare my second guess to my first guess and dismiss both.  In fact, doubting myself and looking for evidence for and against an idea or conviction is one of my favorite pastimes.  I like myself all right and I seem to be pretty good-spirited and have a good humor but I was probably overestimating my self-knowledge.

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