It’s hard to make sense of the world we live in. Every day we are bombarded with images and information, many of which contradict each other and some may not even be true. Who do you trust? What is the truth? Is there a way to find out what is really going on behind all the noise out there?
Can one person have an understanding self and others that reflect reality for everyone else? In this blog post, I am going to talk about how self-understanding can help us navigate through life more effectively by giving us a better understanding of ourselves and enabling us to know when others are lying or telling the truth. Emotional Intelligence is a must in today’s world and this article will help you with that and everyday life.
Self-understanding allows for better relationships with others because it provides a framework for understanding how other people see the world. It also allows us to interpret others more accurately and understand why they say or do what they do. It starts with internal self-awareness. This is exactly why everyone should spend some time alone, working on self-understanding because it provides a framework for understanding not only ourselves but also anyone else who is involved in our lives.
Let’s Dive Deeper into This…Art lovers will enjoy this…
The idea that people can never completely understand others or themselves has consequences for how individuals cope with their pain and suffering. In this article, I will examine the potential benefits of letting go of any desire to be understood or to understand others. I will do so by first looking at how Western approaches to psychology view a lack of understanding between individuals and then examining ancient Eastern ideas about human nature.
The Desire for Understanding in Western Psychology
A number of Western psychologists have written about how we can find fulfillment in our lives when we stop trying to understand ourselves and others. In his book, The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts writes:
The man who makes the discovery that “what I do not know is vaster than what I know” sees his own being from outside as a limited and finite thing, and no longer mistakes himself for the whole of being. He sees his own being as a phase, an aspect, a facet of the universal process.
In this passage from his book, Watts suggests that we stop trying to understand ourselves or others because our limited perspective prevents us from understanding either ourselves or others completely. In this way, we can see the error in believing that our “limited and finite things” are actually infinite.
Our inability to understand others is a function of our own finitude-the fact that we will always remain fundamentally limited beings who can never completely know anything.
Likewise, the psychoanalyst Carl Jung suggests in his essay The Undiscovered Self that we need to stop trying to understand ourselves and others because there is a part of both that remains unknown:
We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. And everything can be liberated from its like by like. Good can only be liberated by good, evil by evil, falsehood by falsehood, and sickness by sickness.
One of the most important things when it comes to understanding others is not to expect anything in return. No matter how much you understand someone, there will always be something that remains a mystery to you both-and this is okay because you can never really know what’s going on in someone else’s head. This is a difficult thing for many of us to accept, but it’s a necessary step in finding peace with ourselves and others.
In his work on Eastern philosophy, Alan Watts emphasizes that the greater our desire to know ourselves or others-the more we try to access what lies beneath the surface the less likely we are able to “see” what is before us.
We are distracted by the fact that we cannot penetrate through to anything solid. This, Watts claims, illustrates the basic absurdity in our lives; an absurdity that has prompted some Eastern philosophers (and poets) to conclude that life itself was a cruel joke played upon us by some unknown power.
The work of Rene Magritte, known for his surreal paintings of ordinary objects in bizarre settings and juxtapositions, often puts the viewer face-to-face with such an absurdity. In The Mysteries of La Grande Voile (1935), a painting that depicts a pair of legs and feet standing before what appears to be a large sailor piece of fabric, the absurdity is perhaps more pronounced, but no less unsettling. As Magritte writes in his painting of The Mysteries of La Grande Voile, “If they are surprised by what confronts them, it shows that the person viewing my picture has not yet understood his own presence in it.”
We don’t know who we are or what we’re looking at or why it should have this effect on us.
The same kind of absurdity is the premise for Magritte’s other famous paintings, all of which are carried out in a similar surrealistic vein.
In The Menaced Assassin (1927), for instance, we see an ordinary-looking man holding a gun to his head while standing before an apple, the traditional symbol for knowledge (the fruit Eve offered to Adam in the Garden of Eden).
The painting is called The Menaced Assassin because it recalls an early assassination attempt on Queen Elizabeth by a man who attacked her with an apple. Magritte’s The Golden Legend (1954) depicts bowler-hatted men floating like angels on a cloudy day inside of what appears to be an old window, but the men’s feet are over the sill; over the edge of reason, as if they were acting on faith alone.
The key point in all these paintings is that we never feel like we know exactly what is taking place before our eyes and why it should affect us so.
We can easily imagine an art critic attempting to explain The Mysteries of La Grande Voile by claiming that it is a painting about voyeurism and the prying eye because we all feel like we’re looking at something we shouldn’t be.
Yet this is Magritte’s point: that our lives are filled with such images because we live them in a state of perpetual anxiety over what we are looking at, or how it might affect us. We never feel understood by others because our entire lives are lived on the outside, as if we were always standing before something else, peering into some unknown space that makes us anxious or afraid, which is why Magritte’s painting seems to stare at us so penetratingly, filling in the space that is ours alone.
The absurdity of life is not just indicative of our alienation from others or ourselves; it’s also indicative of our inability to know anything at all.
We’re always looking for something outside of ourselves with which to understand everything else, but when we look, we only find the same “mysteries” we saw before.
The more we look, the less we actually see. Standing before Magritte’s paintings, we feel anxious and perplexed-as if we were looking at something we shouldn’t be or perhaps don’t understand, but it is our own presence in these images that drives us mad: seeing ourselves looking at something we can’t understand, knowing that it is this very fact which alienates us from everyone else.
This is what makes Magritte’s paintings so surrealistic: they depict the way things appear to us on the surface without any of the depth or meaning we think should be there. One critic describes Magritte’s paintings as “the depiction of the visible, not the mental state that accompanies it.”
This is what makes life surrealistic-we are always looking for depth or meaning to things, even when they take place on the surface. As Cormac McCarthy said in an interview once, “I think we all search for patterns. For reasons. For the revelation of a structure behind the inscrutable world. But sometimes, rarely, it seems as if what’s there is all there is.”
Life can feel surrealistic for precisely this reason: we never get the impression that anyone understands us at all. We look for depth from everyone around us, but what we get instead are the things on the surface. We get words, actions, but no one ever seems to understand what we mean or think or feel.
We never see this more clearly than when we have a conversation with someone. No matter how much you try to convey who you are and what you’re thinking, it’s all reduced to a string of words. What you mean never gets across.
The only person who ever seems to understand us is ourselves, but this can be a problem too because we’re never quite sure whether or not we do. The truth of the matter is that it hardly matters; even if you had someone on Earth who truly understood you, what would there be to do? What would happen?
It’s no coincidence that some of Magritte’s paintings are of empty halls, with nothing at the end. McCarthy said, “Sheer solitude is not quite enough on which to build a life.” We keep looking for people in this empty hall because we know there should be something there; if not for them, then what?
It’s no coincidence that Magritte painted the sky as a patch of blue surrounded by nothingness, where sometimes birds can be seen.
He tries to convey this same feeling in his works: the idea that the sky is there even when it isn’t visible, and so are we. There’s more than meets the eye with people too, and this is what makes life surrealistic. And like the empty halls in Magritte’s paintings, this can be a terribly lonely feeling.
The solution isn’t to stop looking for what’s on the surface-that would hardly help at all. Instead, it’s smart to enjoy what we see while also knowing that there’s more down below. The same goes for the people around us; we shouldn’t ignore them entirely because they’re not deep, but neither should we expect them to be. If you would like to dive deeper into self-awareness, do not hesitate to contact me!
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