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Learning from the Lessons You Learn


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#1 Michio

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 12:06 AM

Many cliches are floating around there concerning the importance of introspection, learning about yourself, being honest with yourself, being mindful of your own thoughts etc. But, you have to wonder, is this process of observing yourself helpful in the end? The gurus say we need to become mindful of our thoughts, lest they run wild and ruin ourselves, but how is it helpful to be aware of your own faults? how is it helpful to be aware that you are doing something wrong, but you lack the wisdom or knowledge necessary to improve the situation? What use is a confession to ourselves, if we will simply forget our own awareness and do nothing to change our character on a fundamental level?

I know I've talked about these sorts of things a lot, and that only serves to prove what I'm talking about right now. We learn things about ourselves, perhaps some only learn a little about themselves, and others will learn much about themselves, but the former and the latter have achieved equal results if there were no fundamental changes. Maybe the only difference in the two, is that those who learn a lot about themselves will become (1) neurotic and insecure or (2) become increasingly self-deceiving, because if the introspector believes they are actually accomplishing something, it will become increasingly difficult to improve theirself because it will be harder to re-realize past realizations that have no become buried under their own ego and forgetfulness.

When I started typing, I was reminded of that final scene from the movie American Psycho, this is just a random example, I can't think of anything else that is relevant. That famous quote was about nihilism and insanity or something like that, maybe Hugo or Campanella can tell you about it, but if we remove it from  the context of the movie, it serves as an example of what I'm trying to say.

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There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the  uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I  have caused and my utter indifference toward it I have now surpassed.  My pain is constant and sharp and I do not hope for a better world for  anyone, in fact I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one  to escape, but even after admitting this there is no catharsis, my  punishment continues to elude me and I gain no deeper knowledge of  myself; no new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This  confession has meant nothing.

Yes Mr. Bateman, with no road signs, no maps, and no one to give you directions, what use are headlights in the dark? What use is there, of confessing things to ourselves, and saying, "This is who I am, this is the confession to my current loathsome self, and I want to change." This is the confession of someone who still believes that road maps exist, and they simply haven't found it yet. Keep driving, you'll get there, eventually.

A nihilist would say, "This is who I am, this is the confession to my current loathsome self, and absolutely nothing has changed as a result of it. The roads lead nowhere. My introspection has served me no greater good, and will only solidify my current self." Keep driving, the headlights dim over time, eventually the battery will die and the ego will be entirely bearable.

Let's assume there are road maps, either created by others, or yourself (does it matter?). Then what shall we do, as we confess to ourselves what we are?

Even while I am aware of my own self-deception, the manifestations of my ego (expressed in this very piece of writing), the excuses I create, the narratives I invent for my life to distract me from myself, and the narratives I invent to distract me from the narratives I just created, where do I go to stop this introspection into oblivion? What steps must be taken to move beyond observation and fundamentally change the self?

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#2 Hugo Holbling

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 12:51 PM

View PostMichio, on 07 June 2010 - 12:06 AM, said:

We learn things about ourselves, perhaps some only learn a little about themselves, and others will learn much about themselves, but the former and the latter have achieved equal results if there were no fundamental changes. Maybe the only difference in the two, is that those who learn a lot about themselves will become (1) neurotic and insecure or (2) become increasingly self-deceiving, because if the introspector believes they are actually accomplishing something, it will become increasingly difficult to improve theirself because it will be harder to re-realize past realizations that have no become buried under their own ego and forgetfulness.

This is a great point. Introspection can undermine our confidence or it can give us false confidence if we take the progress we've made to be indicative of our own assumed greatness, particularly if we suppose that those who don't do the same are somehow inferior to us. It strikes me that this happens often with people who convert or deconvert, interpreting the change as a move from falsity to truth and subsequently behaving as though they now have all the answers or at least the correct way to find them, rather than taking their decision as yet another development that is only potentially a progression if they learn from it and don't allow their vanity to take over. How do we guard against this?
"In everything that he'd ever thought about the world and about his life in it he'd been wrong." - Cities of the Plain

#3 Michio

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Posted 07 June 2010 - 06:51 PM

View PostHugo Holbling, on 07 June 2010 - 12:51 PM, said:

View PostMichio, on 07 June 2010 - 12:06 AM, said:

We learn things about ourselves, perhaps some only learn a little about themselves, and others will learn much about themselves, but the former and the latter have achieved equal results if there were no fundamental changes. Maybe the only difference in the two, is that those who learn a lot about themselves will become (1) neurotic and insecure or (2) become increasingly self-deceiving, because if the introspector believes they are actually accomplishing something, it will become increasingly difficult to improve theirself because it will be harder to re-realize past realizations that have no become buried under their own ego and forgetfulness.

This is a great point. Introspection can undermine our confidence or it can give us false confidence if we take the progress we've made to be indicative of our own assumed greatness, particularly if we suppose that those who don't do the same are somehow inferior to us. It strikes me that this happens often with people who convert or deconvert, interpreting the change as a move from falsity to truth and subsequently behaving as though they now have all the answers or at least the correct way to find them, rather than taking their decision as yet another development that is only potentially a progression if they learn from it and don't allow their vanity to take over. How do we guard against this?

I may take back the extreme way I worded my thoughts earlier. There are some realizations, that are helpful in themself I think, as long as we make an effort to remember them. Simply by remembering that you do not have all the answers even though you have made small progressions to yourself, may guard against vanity and grandiosity. Of course, the whole point I made this thread, was because forgetfulness is an issue with every person. It's a cliche that people quickly forget the lessons they learn, because they do. But, I was taking that a step further, and pointing out that forgetting a lesson you learned may put you back even further than square 1.

There is also an assumption that needs to be called out: Who said introspection is helpful in the first place? It may be quickly pointed out that if one does not examine oneself, you will continue to live your life in self-deception, but I just argued that introspection, combined with forgetfulness, is a cause of even greater self-deception.

Adults and children both believe they have all the answers, but they differ in the way in which they believe it. A child believes they have found the answer because they have made a minor progression, and lack of experience will cause that minor progression to seem massive. An adult has diminishing returns, their minor progressions seem ever minor, but over time, their disappointment has become a starting point for their self-described wisdom. An adult and a child are the same in that they both often believe they have found "the answer", but they differ in the amount of disappointment they carry.

Experience is a curse, it causes us to believe we are wiser than we actually are, unless we remain mindful of the fact that we aren't.

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