Monday, August 10, 2009

On the Danger of Knowing a Little Psychology

One of the classes that was required for my undergrad was Philosophy of the Human Person.  I took this entry-level class as a senior with a good background in philosophy, so I wasn't particularly bowled over by any major revelations in the class, but the one thing that did stick with me was the distinction between self-presence and self-reflection.

Bear with me, you non-philosophers.  Self-presence is just living your life; self-reflection is being aware of the fact that you're living your life (and of how you're living it).  For instance: Picture yourself at a funeral home, alone in the viewing room with your deceased love one, just grieving.  That's self-presence.  Now imagine that someone walks in the room.  You are instantly aware of how you appear and sound, and (unless you have an enormous amount of self-confidence) probably interrupt your grieving because you are aware of being observed.  That's self-reflection.

So I tend to be somewhat psychologically oriented.  This is great, because Our Lord can point out to me that I suffer from this terribly silly insecurity that I'm an overbearing personality (a total lie), and I can look critically at my friendships to see that this is far from the case.  He can also suggest that I need to let Him increase a particular virtue in me, and I do so easily because I'm so aware of myself.

On the other hand: it often makes life more difficult.  When with a group of men, for instance, I usually have to fight the fear that I'm infringing upon guy time, which makes it much more difficult to just relax and enjoy myself / be able to give myself more freely to others.  When I'm not going through a particular crisis or growing period, I begin to ask God what He wants to fix in me next, as if it's all about Him improving me (whereas it's really about Him loving others through me).

Don't get me wrong: self-reflection is important and helpful and all that.  But it's like being that kid from the Wonder Years and always narrating your life.  Sure, it's funny.  But are you really living life to the fullest?  Are you really able to truly be there for the friend crying on your shoulder if you're thinking about the fact that she's crying on your shoulder (as opposed to listening wholeheartedly to her story that is the reason for her tears in the first place)...

For those of us who routinely first examine our motives to be sure we're not manipulating or using others, it's a tough job to trust ourselves to not screw up God working in us, and to just be present to those around us and to what's going on.  Like most things in life, however, difficult only really means entirely worthwhile.

* * *

Special thanks to Emmy for awarding me the Anti-Muffin Award in the sidebar to the left!  Reading her blog and corresponding occasionally with her has made me feel like I've made a new friend, which is a really novel and awesomely cool feeling.  :D


  1. "A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring: there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again."
    -Alexander Pope

  2. Anonymous7:44 PM

    Amen to the last statement!

    PS Dear, my blog title changed. Mind fixing your link?


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