I sometimes encounter a strange form of social awkwardness as a result of this blog. Here’s how it works in pure form.
I have a blog and you don’t. Let’s say we meet. You tell me you’ve read my blog, and you ask me about one of my ‘personal observation’ posts. At some point I come to understand that you have read a lot of my blog, obviously trying to get a sense of who I am. Lately, this has happened a lot. Some people send me emails, but mostly it’s people who wait until they meet me. It’s hard to describe the exact type of encounter I’m talking about, but let’s just say that I have run into a number of people who feel they know me really well through my blog; some of them are men and some are women.
The women seem to be more open about telling me how much they’ve read. But it’s not the openness that I find interesting; it’s the guardedness.
Most of these people, in fact almost all of them, are guarded about telling me exactly how much information they have gathered. In a lot of cases I can sense that it’s a lot of information, which is fine with me. Every once in a while, in one of these strange encounters, the person will hesitantly tell me that they have a question. Invariably what they will focus on is how I often speak freely about certain personal observations. They just don’t quite understand that. Aren’t I afraid of the consequences? How can I be so open? That’s what intrigues them.
I guess I understand that curiosity, but I really don’t know how to explain my actions.
So either I don’t explain and divert to a new topic, or if I try to explain then I always do a horrible job. Why?
First of all, I don’t like to talk too much about why I blog about certain things. I don’t mind talking about why I blog in general, but if someone is interested in why I chose to talk about a seemingly personal observation, then they are really asking me for further insight into my personal motives. I don’t mind giving them further insight, but I really don’t feel like I can. And that’s why I don’t like talking about it, and that’s why I do a terrible job when I do talk about it.
I’ve never been able to figure out why I feel that way, but I think I’m beginning to understand something that may be at least related to the real reason.
I’m reading a book now by psychologist Timothy Wilson called Strangers to Ourselves (recommended by Arnie Herz when I was at LexThink). The gist of the book is that there is a huge part of our ‘selves’ that is deeply unconscious and inaccessible. This probably doesn’t sound like a major revelation. After all, Freud taught us that the unconscious is clever and hidden. But Freud believed it was somewhat accessible through ‘free association’ and other techniques of psychoanalysis. And Freud certainly thought that the unconscious played a large role in our conscious choices.
But, it now appears that our unconscious plays a much greater role in our choices than even Freud thought, and that our unconscious is far more inaccessible to us than he ever thought. Timothy Wilson’s book suggests (and provides strong evidence) that other people can often know us better, at least in some important respects, than we know ourselves; the reasons for this view I can’t explain here (just read his book, which is written in a plain, easy style and supported by extensive references to psychological studies). If Wilson’s postulate is true then I suppose that it’s possible for someone to know me better than I know myself simply by reading my weblog.
And I guess part of the curiosity that people express is based on the notion that we should guard our selves from scrutiny by others. I think that’s the real question that I’m being asked: why would I want to let so much private information out? Well, first, I’m not so sure that I really do. I know that I don’t know a lot about myself, but there are some things I do know and that I consciously don’t reveal. Some of the most important stuff I’ve learned through meditation and introspection (and from reading books by people who are ‘spiritually-inclined,’ for lack of a better way of putting it). One important thing I’ve learned is that I’m basically insecure, fearful, craving of approval and overly-concerned about what other people think. And I’m not as patient and compassionate as I’d like to think I am.
Does that come out in the weblog? Well, I guess it just did, but my real question is: have my pasts posts conveyed that part of my personality? I would think not, but then I don’t have an outsider’s view. Wilson’s book suggests that we all have dual personalities: one personality that we are conscious of and have conscious control of, and another that we are oblivious to and have no conscious control over. It is much easier for other people to see that latter personality than it is for us (obviously, because we are unconscious of it; whereas they have an objective view of our behavior that isn’t colored by a ‘self-conception.’)
So, when people ask me about why I post certain things (to gain additional insight into my personality or my motivations) I guess I feel like I don’t really have any additional insight to offer. But if I say that, then it sounds like I’m holding something back. I don’t ever like to ‘hold back.’ I feel like, consciously, I always seek to completely and honestly answer people’s questions, even if they ask me about myself. But the truth is I don’t know as much about myself as some people (or I) might think. They may be able to know aspects of my personality better than I do.
Does this bother me? I don’t think it does, or if it does, then not very much. At least not consciously. So feel free to comb through my weblog for clues and feel free to form judgments about my personality. Just don’t ask me to explain why I am the way I am or why I talk about certain things. I really don’t have a good answer. I’m flattered that you ask the question, but I politely suggest that there are more important questions for you to be asking. Aim your curiosity at something truly important, which is not certainly not me and my motivations.
If I were you I’d just go outside and enjoy the nice day. Or, even if it’s not a nice day, then surely there’s something more interesting to do than read my self-referential blog posts. Don’t you think?