Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.
Last time, I talked about hard lessons in taking responsibility for my unique gifts in verbal intelligence.
Today, we talk about my ability to read minds.
Not via telepathy, of course. I don’t knows exactly what it call it, but it’s not like I heard people’s thoughts. Thank goodness. But I seem to have a very strong ability to figure out what makes people tick. It’s a combination of empathy, observations, insights, understanding, sympathy, and a certain fluidity of identity that makes it easy to put myself in other people’s shoes.
I am not sure when it began. Some time in elementary school, certainly. I remember hiding from my bullies and deciding that I wanted to figure out why they treated me like they did. It was, shall we say, a highly pertinent mystery.
And I remember that the seed around which the whole thing crystallized : the idea that everything everybody does makes sense to them.
And so I had to learn a few things about the world and how I relate to it, starting with the most important lesson :
1. Not everyone sees things like I do.
This was the hardest one because by understanding of others operates on a perceptual level so it is, metaphorically speaking, like I see into their minds. Things that are obvious to me are not necessarily obvious to others. I still have problems with this sometimes because it’s hard for me to figure out what other people see when they think of others. In that limited capacity, it really is like a sixth sense. Like being the one eyed man in the land of the blind.
Ironic given how weak my actual sight is.
But it’s very, very important that I try to figure out how others see things, because…
2. People really, really, really don’t like people who see right through them
When I was younger, I would talk about what I saw in other people’s heads to them as if what was obvious to me must be even more obvious to them. After all, they were seeing it from the inside. But that’s not at all the case. I had to face the fact that I often knew people better than they knew themselves. This would have made me a boffo therapist, but as a person, it’s creepy as hell and people quite rightfully will get mad at you for poking around in their head like that.
And I get that. I understand it even though I don’t share it myself. Honestly, if people took the time to figure me out like that, I’d be delighted. I have never been a secretive person. Partially that is because of my basic temperament. I like things to be honest, direct, and free of unnecessary complications. Secrets and lies are the opposite of that. I am heavily biased towards the truth.
But it’s also because I have never had to be secretive. When nobody is paying any attention to you, secrets become laughably redundant. Some people are born secretive, but a lot of other people became that way because they grew up in an environment where information control was a survival skill.
People need their secrets and illusions. They need them in order avoid feeling exposed to the world. Because….
3. When you see through people, you strip them naked socially
Again, this is hard for me to empathize with because I am not that way. I am, more or less, an open book. Perhaps that’s why people describe me as genuine, I dunno. But most people have a cultivated public persona through which they conceal their flaws and by which they control how they are perceived.
So when I blithely and bluntly talk about their deepest darkest secrets like it’s no big thang, it’s as if I had literal X-ray vision and casually say “By the way, that’s a very skillful circumcision.”
Uh no. That is Bad.
So in a sense, I have had to try to deduce the truth about things which are invisible to me. Luckily, once my siblings corrected me on the issue enough times for it to sink in, I at least learned to get the basics down. I knew I could not help seeing what I do. It’s how I perceive the world.
But I sure as hell could stop talking about it.
That left me with another problem, though….
4. The temptation to use what I see for my own personal gain is constant
I have enormous respect for people’s autonomy and the right to be alone in their own heads, if you see what I mean. It would be morally offensive to me in the extreme if I was take advantage of the unique access I have to people’s hearts minds and souls to twist or manipulate them into going against their own self-interest to the benefit of mine.
But the temptation is always there. Push someone’s button here, trigger a neuroses there… it would be so easy.
So I tend to obsess about the difference between manipulation and influence. We all try to influence one another and we all consider that fairly legit. But manipulation is bad. It’s not the sort of thing nice people do. It is considered underhanded and unfair and preys upon people’s weaknesses and flaws for personal gain.
But to someone like be, they can seem like practically the same thing.
So I could never define the difference. I know I can’t play by the same rules as everyone else. That would make me a colossal prick. Not for me the “I’m just doing what everyone else is doing, I’m just better at it than they are” dodge. I have never been able to stomach that kind of self-serving bullshit. If you don’t want someone using their natural advantages over you, don’t use yours on them.
It’s as simple as that.
Except that it’s not simple at all. I am going to enter the world of entertainment, where a case can be made that everyone really is out for themselves and using whatever advantages they have to get ahead.
So the rules, I think, are going to change. I will have to expand my definitions of acceptable use of mental force. I will still be able to hold to a strict sense of what is right and wrong, but it will have to become a tad more compact and well defined.
I’m not selling out, I’m buying in!
I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.