Monday, July 25, 2005

The Secret Me

If you've read any of my earlier posts, you'll notice that I seem to be a bit obsessive about the idea of self-perception versus the perception of yourself by others. I guess I'm fascinated by this concept because it goes to the very roots of who and what we are as individuals. But if you think about it carefully, there are really TWO of each of us. The first is the individual WE think we are; the other is the person OTHERS think we are. Unfortunately, the two individuals that are each of us are rarely compatible and that leads to a lot of conflict.

I know myself better than anyone (at least that's what I tell myself). YOU know the other me, the me that is secret from myself. I don't think I'm a bad person; in fact, I think my motives for my actions and words are generally pretty good, pretty well-thought out and rational . YOU may think that I'm rude, obnoxious, self-centered and unfriendly. There may be truth in both versions, but getting you to see the me I know is pretty tough. If I babble on incessantly about my inner views, then I'm obsessive about myself; on the other hand, if I don't talk about my feelings and inner views, then I'm secretive and self-centered.

It reminds me of a line out of Kurt Vonnegut's great book, Mother Night. For those of you who've never read it, Mother Night basically involves an American whose parents moved to Germany in the post-WWI period for business purposes, so the boy is raised in German culture, marries a German woman and becomes a well-known playwright of light romantic stage works that become popular with the Nazi heirarchy. Just before the outbreak of WWII, the protagonist is recruited by an American intelligence agent to transmit information in codes during his weekly radio broadcasts; the only problem is that he can never tell anyone that he was working for the Allies and Uncle Sam will always disavow him, a situation that leads to personal tragedy. Anyway, there's a point where the protagonist, writing from an Israeli prison cell, awaiting his execution as a war criminal, says that he basically got along with the Nazi leaders pretty well--he saw them as regular guys for the most part--and only saw them in retrospect as trailing slime beind them.

I think that's why there's so much conflict on an interpersonal basis; we don't see ourselves as trailing slime behind us when we do something stupid or evil. That's usually left up to others to see and comment upon, usually to our consternation and dispute. That's why Robbie Burns, the Scottish poet, wanted a mirror to see himself as others did. Every once in a while we get that flash of insight that tells us more about ourselves than we really want to know and we hate it, since we don't want to see ourselves as anything but respectable. The insight usually comes from people we can't stand or from those who are closest to us, but the sting from the blow is just as painful either way.

Does this mean that the real ME is the one everyone sees and comments upon? No, no more so than the ME I see in the mirror, whose thoughts circulate around every action like a whirlpool, is the total person either. I think the person we are is an amalgam of the two individuals, the inner ME and the outward ME, and our lives are always going to be in a constant state of flux to get those two individuals to coordinate somehow, to help others see our thoughts and actions for what we intended them to be and to see the perceptions of those same thoughts and actions in the eyes of others.

Makes me just want to go home and have a cold beer for myself; the other me wants a shot of bourbon.

1 comment:

Merry Mama said...

great post. I like that style of writing.
Your response was not at all a long story to a short question. I actually thought it was quite concise. I too was in a cult- born and raised, and realise the complications that come from putting the life to description. Parts of my cult life defy description- so very outlandish and far from mainstream America. I actually tend to relate on many levels to those who have come from third world countries, though I will not go so far as to presume I had it as hard as they did.
Your choice to blog is, I think, (not that I am worthy to declare judgment one way or the other)a good thing. Keep writing.If you don't mind, I will continue lurking.