A friend of mine, a psychology student, once told me “you cannot fully know someone’s inside”. At the time of this statement – my first semester at uni (fall 2013), I still held the position not wanting to believe this could be true.
I always wanted to think that we can truly and deeply know fellow people. Three years later, and hundreds of encounters with new and familiar faces later, I am willing to agree with my friend.
Back in 2012 I stumbled upon the work of the Scottish psychiatrist, R.D Laing. I particularly studied The Politics of Experience. What really caught my attention in this text was how Laing so clearly demonstrates the commonness of thinking one thing but saying another.
How often isn’t it that we want to utter the word No but instead emphatically say Yes? I don’t know about you but despite having practiced saying no for years, I still have a hard time doing it, especially to the people I hold dearly.
How many parties have you attended when all you want actually is to stay in, watching a movie alone?
Of course, sometimes we do need to leave our own world to be there for others. But to what extent should we do that?
To what extent should we keep quiet to avoid hurting the ones we love?
Some words are just plainly impossible to say, because we know they will hurt. Sometimes it seems like an easier quick fix to just swallow the most important sentence we have to say.
You know when you have prepared something like a speech in your mind, prepared yourself mentally and are determined to say those words you have had on your mind for months, or perhaps years, and then when the time comes, you shy away and say something completely different? You just cannot do it.
Apparently it is sometimes even easier to just disappear for a while, hoping the words won’t be as relevant at the time of one’s re-appearance.
Human psychology works this way though, when we have something important on our mind, that we really need to get out, if we don’t say it directly we will show it indirectly, one way or another, hoping the recipient will get it. We get frustrated if they don’t, we wish they could understand what we think, because it would be easier than just explicitly say what we want. But, citing one of the smarters young ladies I ever got to work with – people are not mind readers. Most importantly, we all live in our own little universe, slightly detached from the rest of the world. In other words, we all interpret each situation and word differently. We are all different individuals with different psychologies. For example, you will never hear the same story if asking two different people about an event.
You might think that you know someone well, that you are close, that you can read their mind, perhaps even that you are kindred spirits and know exactly how the person feels. This might be the case to an extent, but each interpretation you make on another person’s feelings, views, thoughts, intentions and opinions, your own biased self will always have an impact on this judgement. We cannot fully reduce our own standpoint or position. We cannot fully not project ourselves onto our analysis of another person, or an instance.
So to an extent, my friend was right, you cannot fully know another person’s inside. You cannot know to a hundred per cent what another person feels or thinks. You just simply need to rely on their expressions – both in terms of language, body language and behaviour.