To explore someone else’s interiority is not just to flash, at this moment, to what you think the other person might be thinking or feeling. It’s a layered, almost literary thing, to imagine the history of their experiences (known and unknown, actual and possible) and to think through those experiences, thoughts, and feelings all the way through to the end.
Classic Hax. You have to be pretty open-minded and self-aware to be able to sympathize with those who appear to be (and may objectively be) more fortunate than you are.
Or she’s genuinely unhappy. It can, of course, happen amid gaudy equity, lovely kids, an attentive spouse, a flexible career, stable finances and ambitious travel; just because these have societal value doesn’t mean they’re valuable to her.
And just because the decisions were “very-thought-out” doesn’t mean they were the right ones for her. If a person’s baseline understanding of herself is a degree or two off, then her choices can lead her, over the years, hundreds of miles off-course.
Focusing all experiences through the lens of the Internet is an example of not being able to see history through the eyes of others, to be so enamored of one’s present time that one cannot see that the world was once elsewise and was not about you.
I’m not very interested in political satire because it works on the assumption that They Are Assholes. Fiction works on the assumption that They Are Us, on a Different Day.
When we get better at expressiveness, we get better at understanding, better at sympathy, better at bullshit-detection, better at experiencing pleasure, better at true engagement (with others, with the world, with ourselves).
Shyness had made me so deficient in empathic experience that I could only view social life in terms of risk rather than opportunity. The best way to manage that risk, I thought, was to be unapproachable but legibly fascinating at a distance, to present myself as an object to be read but with a message that’s inscrutable and fleeting, one that could convey the complexity of the real me without reducing it to something superficial. I could not get past the wish to broadcast my identity without having to interact with anyone.
Facebook, of course, caters to that desire.
Odds are good that you primarily know one sort of person: highly educated, high-achieving, extremely cerebral, etc. Odds are also good that you give too much weight to feedback and ideas from this sort of person, while discounting arguments and complaints from people who don’t know the right way to persuade you. Try to keep that in mind.
Anger is an attempt to coerce a person into surrendering their reality, so that there’s only one reality in the relationship instead of two. And when the anger triggered by the anxiety doesn’t work, people experience depression. Depression is the experience of the loss of power: “I can’t make my world happen.”
Once they go into depression, couples—if they stay together—will then enter a bargaining stage. The bargaining goes like this: “Well, OK, I’m different and you’re different, so let’s make a deal about whose reality is going to be in the forefront.”
The most influential books, and the truest in their influence, are works of fiction. They do not pin the reader to a dogma, which he must afterwards discover to be inexact; they do not teach him a lesson, which he must afterwards unlearn. They repeat, they rearrange, they clarify the lessons of life; they disengage us from ourselves, they constrain us to the acquaintance of others; and they show us the web of experience, not as we can see it for ourselves, but with a singular change—that monstrous, consuming ego of ours being, for the nonce, struck out.
An interesting mental experiment. “The core of the exercise, I think, is that you see yourself as just another person in the space—an opaque bag of bones—instead of as, you know, the movie camera. The privileged POV.”