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Self-revelation

Someone left a comment to the post about smugness, the post that ended with me suggesting that I might often be smug too.  The person said: "I still can’t understand this penchant for self-revelation."  I’m sure there are other people who think it odd that I talk about certain ‘personal’ things.  So, let’s talk about that.  Why do I have this penchant for self-revelation?

Well, first of all, I believe that if you are open with people they are more likely to open up too.  Many people are not interested in opening up, for whatever reason.  I realize that nothing I say is likely to make them open up, and more likely they’ll simply be put off and feel awkward if they are exposed to this sort of  behavior.  I’m not writing for those people, and I’m sorry if they’ve been made uncomfortable by what I say.  Hopefully, they’ll alleviate the discomfort and stop reading this blog (and, by the way, I don’t believe the person who left the comment I started this post with is one of those people).

Okay, so here’s the thing: we all tend to act like we have a complete sense of why we do the things we do when, in fact, we often don’t really know why we make certain choices.  There are lots of books that discuss this elusive truth (a recent one that I highly recommend both for content and engaging style is Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert).  But, no matter how many intelligent people remind us of this phenomenon, we pretend that we know ourselves perfectly, that we have a complete grasp of why make every choice we make.  Then, armed with that foundational delusion, we go on to make assumptions about why other people act the way that they do.

So, what’s the remedy?  How can one break the habit? I believe it requires brutal honesty: you have to admit that you often have no clue about your own behavior or the reasons for it.  I have to remind myself every day that this tendency exists, or I’ll quickly forget about it.  I can ask for help from other people, but that’s not really what I need.  What I need is firm resolve and attentiveness, which the spiritual people call ‘mindfulness.’  Whatever, you call it and however you attempt to attain it, I think those who have dealt with the problem all agree on one thing: it’s really hard.

So, back to the original question: why do I tend to be self-revelatory on this blog?  Answer: (1) because it helps me admit to myself that I need to pay attention to certain things, and (2) it allows other people to see what I’m doing, and, maybe in the process, it can help them pay attention too.  It’s better to be unsure of something and admit it than to pretend you know things that clearly you don’t know. 

How well do we all know ourselves?  That’s the question I like to focus on.  But, actually, being selfish, I really only want to know about myself.


P.S. If you appreciate these kinds of observations, you might want to read this as well.

7 Comments

  • charlotte says:

    This may sound simplistic, but I think there are basically 2 types of people. Those who are comfortable sharing their thoughts & feelings and those who aren’t. My S.O. is incredulous that I share as much as I do on my blog. Little does he know, I am “mindful” of how much I do share.

    Anyway, I think you attract those who are comfortable with self-revelation I do so enjoy reading you. 🙂

  • Marco says:

    “It’s better to be unsure of something and admit it than to pretend you know things that clearly you don’t know.” So true, and yet hubris rules in much of th world.The first step to some sort of wisdom is to admit that we know nothing. Keep on pushin’.

  • Michael Fox says:

    Since I now get your blog through an aggregator, I don’t often come to your website, but when I do I find things, like the comment from Daniel Gilbert, which reminds me that sometimes it is good to go to the real source. Many of us probably have thoughts similar to yours, but may just not yet be “evolved” to the point of sharing. But thanks for being on the “bleeding edge.” And I agree about Gilbert’s book; I just finished it last week. And since I don’t come, and even more rarely leave a comment — thanks for all the reports on NO, one of our favorite cities. We have to come back soon.

  • Mojave Joe says:

    I was only making a . . . comment.

    And you’re right, I won’t stop reading your blog, which I enjoy.

    There’s another aspect here that I find interesting, and I’m sure this has been discussed elsewhere: we (i.e. bloggers) write to be read. Having an audience, communicating to that audience, is intoxicating. And this pleasure comes from more than just self-expression. We don’t get the same kick, nor do we take the same care, in writing and then deleting (or tossing in the recycle box). So three cheers for having an audience!

  • Ray says:

    There is a flip-side benefit to “mindfulness” in that revelation exposes your thinking to people who can call you on your bullshit.

    I have a close friend who is going through a very trying time right now…severe depression, PTSD, substance abuse. And she prides herself on her mindfulness, on her ability to introspect and logically analyze her thoughts and feelings, to arrive at firm resolve on what she needs to do.

    But her mind is broken in a lot of ways, and so her conclusions often end up being faulty and harmful. Sometimes it’s easy to fool yourself when you aren’t really fooling anybody else. And a tendency towards revelation at least gives other people a chance to intervene and influence your thinking a little, when your patterns of solitary thinking aren’t working for you.

    At any rate, I enjoy your writing immensely and I hope you keep doing it.

  • Daniel Gilbert says:

    Re: this topic, even better than my book, STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS, is Tim Wilson’s book, STRANGERS TO OURSELVES. Check it out.

  • ed says:

    There’s a lot of self-revelation going around since the storm and I think it makes a lot of people uncomfortable to be reminded that like myself I thought I knew who and what I was until my world got turned upside down. I really don’t like the feeling of drifting. Please keep up the self- revelation because we are all on the same journey and it helps to have someone who can at least point out the road signs. Hope all is going well – miss you around here.

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