As within, so without

One of the more fascinating aspects of psychology is how people often project their inner world to the outer world – a greedy person will be suspicious of others, an angry person will think people want to fight them, a trusting person assumes the best from a stranger, and so on. It makes sense of course when you realize that what you are inside manifests itself outside.

If one were to look around and take stock of the world around them through this lens, a rather ugly and self-destructive picture begins to paint itself – one primarily dominated by ego and its derivatives of fear, anger, greed, pride, lust. This is not to say that there isn’t also incredible beauty, peace, love, creativity and selflessness in the world and an amazing potential for humankind, but to gently point out the obvious and distasteful truth that humans have been fighting and oppressing each other for the majority of recorded history and continue to do so seemingly unabated – despite the increasingly likely chance for total annihilation brought about by nuclear war, irreversible climate change, or another Fast & the Furious sequel.

Ah yes, this was supposed to be a personal critique – I guess it was easier to dodge the subject. In my case, the aforementioned psychological curiosity generally revolves around judgment, criticism, and defensiveness.  As is often the case, my psychiatrist Dostoyevsky lays it down with hilarious honesty:

“It used to occur to me: why does no one except me fancy that people look at him with loathing?  There was one in our office who had a disgusting and most pockmarked face, even somehow like a bandit’s.  With such an indecent face, I think I wouldn’t even have dared to glance at anyone.  Another hadn’t changed his uniform for so long that there was a bad smell in his vicinity.  And yet neither of these gentlemen was embarrassed – either with regard to his clothes or his face, or somehow morally.  Neither the one nor the other imagined that he was looked at with loathing; and even if they had imagined it, it would have been all the same to them, so long as their superiors did not deign to pay heed.  It’s perfectly clear to me now that is was I, who, owing to my boundless vanity, and hence also my exactingness towards myself, very often looked upon myself with furious dissatisfaction, reaching the point of loathing, and therefore mentally attributed my view to everyone else.”

Perception of judgment, opposition and, more tellingly, “otherness”, where none exists; this is the acute symptom of my particular brand of egoism that I continue to battle with. What it boils down to, as Dostoyevsky gets to a couple pages later, is the idea that:

“no one else was like me, and I was like no one else.  ‘I am one, and they are all,’ thought I, and- I’d fall to thinking.  

Which shows what a young pup I still was.”

And there we have it, the central fallacy of the human mind and the cause of so much suffering and destruction.


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