You’ll never really know what others around you are thinking. Not really. You may assume what they have in their heads is a seething caldron of witch’s brew with ingredients, degradients, greedients, and whatnot, just like what you find in your own heads. Everything that is possible for you to think, you think. You probably only give voice to the more respectable of those thoughts, but you can hear all the voices of your unrespectable self-talk from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep.
My boss at work asked us to read one of those self-help books on emotional intelligence. Now don’t get me wrong about this. I do believe emotional intelligence is a good idea. After all, we’re talking about gaining intelligence about one’s emotions. It’s just that after reading one of the many books on the subject and taking the self-administered assessment, I’m not so sure about the rigorousness of the science behind it. The authors of the book had a rather simplified conception of personality. They seemed to think that each of us has only one personality and it remains pretty much unchanged from the time we’re four years old until we shuffle off this mortal coil.
I’m an introvert. That means I feel more at home looking inside of me than outside of me. For instance I know for a fact that I have a different personality at home than at work. I have a different personality with my friends and I had different personalities in high school, university, the US Army, and the Israeli Army. A personality evolves as a response to one’s environment. It makes sense that, when the environment changes, the individual responds to it with a different personality. At home and with friends I have a more human personality. At work I have a more robotic exoskeleton of a personality. That is reasonable since, although some organizations may go through the motions of seeming to care about the humanity of their employees, they really need them to operate in predictable rational ways and organizations pay their employees for their utilitarian value as long as it is profitable to do so. Ergo the human robot. At home my wife would prefer that I be a bit less predictable (and a little more romantic) and tends to get irritated when I’m a tad too rational. Fortunately she still loves me in spite of my lack of utilitarian value at home.
I also know that when I was growing up I decided that I didn’t like the personalities I had at home, with friends, and at school, so I changed them until they were the way I wanted them to be. Personalities are learned. They can also be unlearned and relearned. They are the software of our neural computers.
What about the core personality that rules all the other personalities? That’s the seething caldron of witch’s brew I mentioned above. I’d venture to say it’s pretty much universal. It is not a response to the environment. It is more like a demand on the environment and it refuses to go gently into any night. It is infantile, primitive, and reptilian. This is where we are most undifferentiated. It is the role and function of the various outer personalities to provide an acceptable visage to the outer world while feeding and placating the core personality as best they can. The success of these personalities in fulfilling their roles and functions depends to a great extent on their abilities to maintain a level of integration, balance, and synchronization among themselves. Schizophrenics, as a counter example, suffer from a disintegration of personalities.
What do you hear when you turn your ear inward? What do you see when your eyes do an about-face? What do you feel when you hold your heart in your hands? When you know the answers to these questions, you’ll also know what other people are thinking.