A personal story about self discovery and self-awareness

I’ve got a problem. Under certain circumstances, I spontaneously dismiss, even deride, others’ discussion contributions. It’s either “Uh huh” or “Oh yeah” with a self-satisfied, I coulda told ya that, tone. This behaviour has only come clearly into my view in the last 6-12 months, though having a foggy presence in my repertoire for some 10 years at least. I suspect it’s more like my whole life, the easiest evidence for which is that I’ve always had a tendency, confirmed by disinterested others, to be a wise guy, or occasional smart-alec.

I am trying to stamp it out. To do so requires that I follow my advice to my patients: be aware of the triggers, interrupt the behaviours and eventually pre-empt them in the most likely to trigger circumstances. Easy, no?

Dismissive me seems to arise either from irritation at others’ failure to see what’s obvious to me or from my own pleasure in seeing an obvious which I wasn’t aware was coming in the conversational path I was on. I think these two sources are interwoven, and perhaps a third source is irritation with myself that I didn’t see the obvious – a brand of intellectual perfectionism…just enough to keep my eye on the rolling ball of life and only get fixated on its irregular movements.

I work in the obvious because truths come to me wholly formed out of an opaque inner process which is seldom wrong, once it produces. Intuitions seem and feel obvious once produced. Any pretenders to the title of an intuition must pass this internal comfort or fit rating to be the real thing. If an idea doesn’t feel right it can’t be right for me. This is not to exclude counter-intuitive ideas, which are often among the most revealing just because they do not immediately ‘fit’. So, to a certain extent my dismissiveness is rooted in exasperation at the difference in my mental style from theirs and /or my occasional failure to match my own requirements / expectations of my performance.

I should get a grip on this because I have a patient who thinks he’s mentally quicker than I am, and anyway feels he is because he can roughly see where the logic of my thoughts are going…what he can’t see is their emotional roots, which is why he’s still in the chair. But his slight disdain for my lack of pace has become a development point for both of us. He is experienced by others at his work as arrogant, distant, etc. and he doesn’t want to make that impression any more than I want to in my work…but I do, as does he.

So what? Well, “Oh yeah” is often heard as disrespectful by others, unless it’s a self-inflicted, resigned self-recognition, as one patient mumbled in reconnecting with a pattern of resilient dysfunction he’s trying to reduce. What position do I take on this ethico/politically? Ken Wilber proposes the following schema for working with differing levels of consciousness/ awareness/ knowledge:

  1. That all truth is partial, approximate, ( “In this Theory of Everything, I have one major rule: Everybody is right. … everybody … has some important pieces of the truth, and all those pieces need to be honoured.”)
  2. That there is a developmental sequence in human history, which we all go through, and that movement along it is likely to be very uneven for individuals and groups / societies
  3. That there is a developmental pathway for engaging people in transformative activities, lubricated by respect

(A Theory of Everything, Ken Wilber, Shambala 2000)

 “lubricated with respect” is a nice idea, that is, a good one finely poised, in my view.

Respect as proposed by Wilber includes respecting everything about us in principle, but most especially when we have a shortcoming from the perspective of domains of understanding we are largely inexperienced operating in and through. This includes the ‘heights’ of our own reflective overview of ourselves. It means that to respect others I must also respect myself in my less developed, more immature, faulty states and stages! With this approach in view and embraced, what can I do to mend my disrespectful way? Here are some starters:

  • Warn others about my propensity for “Oh yeah…” moments, and their likely sources if they are in my / our awareness.
  • Invite others to point out when they are getting the “Oh yeah…” treatment from me.
  • Continue investigation of the forms of ‘oh yeah’, the associated circumstances of their emergence and their inner and outer effects.