June 28, 2017

Self-Knowledge Saves Relationships.

It’s useful to be aware of our own insanity if we are to have successful relationships.

If we could truly proceed from a knowledge of how seriously crazy we actually are—how deeply flawed our personality really is—then perhaps we could harness these psychic blemishes in a way that allows us to navigate through the world properly.

This is what it means to have self-knowledge.

Self-knowledge is most helpful when it is applied to understanding our weaknesses, rather than when we simply pay all of our attention to how perfect and angelic we are. (#Special #Snowflake)

Ask yourself: “Would I rather be a good person who thinks they are insane, or a completely insane person who thinks they are nothing but good?” Take that one in for a few moments.

This idea is particularly meaningful in the context of intimate relationships. Nowhere else do our imperfections shine through more brightly, and nowhere else is it more important to understand what our pitfalls really are.

Alain de Botton packages this idea quite nicely in his talk “On Love.”

“If you think that you are quite perfect, and that your partner is quite perfect too, then that’s trouble. It’s far better, I believe, to insist that all of us are, in various ways, deeply crazy. None of us get through the gauntlet of early childhood with our sanity entirely intact. All of us are warped and distorted and various, distinctive ways.”

This may seem cynical at first glance, but in actuality it is quite an optimistic sentiment.

It seems much more cynical to me to deny our own craziness—to neglect our deep-seated psychological turmoil and strife. If we don’t truly look at ourselves, then these unconscious inclinations manifest in the relationship in unhealthy ways.

If we presume perfection, then we will surely be disappointed. If we presume imperfection, then there is a much better chance that we will learn to tolerate those imperfections and build a lasting and worthwhile relationship.

“Why are we so unable to conceive of ourselves as damaged and crazy, and therefore so prone to self-righteousness? Part of the problem is that all of us have very low levels of self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is really hard to come by—partly because there is almost a conspiracy of silence around us. People don’t quite tell us what they think of us.”

The segment continues:

“We go through life where the average person that meets us for 20 minutes has a deeper insight into many of our flaws than we might achieve over a lifetime. Why don’t people tell us this? Well, there is really no motive to tell us.

Of course our friends are not going to tell us things about our character, the ways in which we are difficult and particular, because all they really want from us is a pleasant evening out. The don’t care! They don’t like us enough.

Now, our exes, you could expect, will somewhere along the lines have told us, but it’s not really worth their while either. They tend to take their leave by saying things like, ‘They need to spend more time on their own,’ ‘They need to develop their character,’ ‘They’d like to go traveling.’ Nonsense! Of course not! They see certain things about you, but they can’t be bothered. They just want out; let somebody else sort that out.”

It is up to us to bring about self-knowledge.

We do this by constantly inquiring into our nature, which is a tricky thing to do. We won’t always like our nature. We won’t always like what we see if we engage in the process of self-reflection, but it’s entirely necessary that we do so if we want healthy relationships.

It starts within. The more we understand about ourselves, the more effectively we act in the world. If we have insight into our own psychology, then we are certainly ahead of the game—and this will prove itself over time.

Self-knowledge just wins.

“If I was running the world, one of the key questions we would always ask each other at an early dinner date would be, ‘How are you crazy?’ That we’d be expected to have a really thoughtful, non-defensive, non-hysterical answer. Think how much time we would save! We don’t need people in relationships to be perfect, we need them to have a handle on their imperfections.”

We don’t have to be the ideal person to make our relationships successful, we simply must have a sense of where we might be a bit crazy and work to mitigate that craziness to the best of our ability. That’s it.

Curiosity is really important here. Looking at our problems with curiosity and earnestness, rather than egoic apprehension and malaise, makes the process of self-understanding much more comfortable and benevolent.

Let’s start from the assumption that we are quite possibly insane.

Any real improvement must start from here.


Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Pixabay
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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