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Thread: Self-awareness

  1. #1

    Self-awareness

    Is it always a good thing?

    Plato's JohnClay, Socrates, frequently espoused the maxim "know thyself" and it's one I've always instinctively followed. But at what point does knowledge of your own motivations, fears, and limitations become a hindrance, if at all?

    Is all this obsessive introspection actually in my best interests?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Lurker's Avatar
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    If you can use this self-awareness, it's useful; however, if you're stuck in rumination and paralyzed, not so much.

    That's the predictable answer. Here's another situation -- self-awareness is a stumbling block if it leads to vague half-realized notions that haunt you. You can't entirely grasp them, because you don't possess the faculties (being human, whatever). But...you know they exist, just out of your reach. Tantalizing yet frustrating.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Spartan26's Avatar
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    I wish I had greater self awareness when I was younger for many reasons. Relationships, springs to mind. Career-wise it's so vital. I'd get bits and pieces of people telling me what they thought I was like when they first met me vs getting to know me and the answers were all over the charts, angry, conceited, shy, extroverted, don't like people, artistic, humorless, serious, goal oriented, I don't know how they came up with stuff. Some things weren't necessarily wrong but I don't know how they'd pick certain things up. What I didn't realize was that I had some input or control in determining how people saw me. Nothing's worse than trying to be something you're not but if I wanted people to see me as say my three strongest traits, I could have had more of a hand in that. I don't think I liked limiting myself and perhaps still don't but I am a bit more focused and am willing to help guide people's perception now. I just wish i had done/know this 15 yrs ago.

    But, never to late!

  4. #4
    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    usually i see it as a good thing. at least it bothers me when i come across a friend/acquaintance after years of being away from them & they're still repeating some fatalistic narrative about themself & their life, as if no time has passed and they haven't done any living or growing. that reminds me of this. self-awareness is recognizing little habits and things that aren't helping anyone. the sucky thing is that it doesn't automatically come with the strength/courage/other means required to change things.

    i don't see myself as the most self-aware person cuz i actively resist my own mind sometimes, but i'm playing with the idea that it's better to live this way, sort of like it frees you from you. cuz my mind isn't always my friend.

  5. #5
    Recently I've been fixated on tracing back the motivations of my (and others) behaviours and attitudes.

    Spoiler: Self-indulgent ramblings

    The only motivations seem to be feelings, and all values are just judgements on the estimated emotional impact of something. One of the strongest emotional responses felt is (the anticipation of) changes to the perceived relative value of the self (which can extend to include in-group). Almost all of my behaviour that isn't directly caused by the basic pleasure/pain/hunger/excretion/sex/fight/flight responses is an attempt to make myself feel more valuable in comparison to others in some way. Sublimation of a competitive urge perhaps, or maybe social hierarchy is innate to humans.

    I have a strong desire to explain things or correct to prove my intelligence or understanding. I'm doing it now. I know many people who use moral virtue, empathy or 'selflessness' as criteria to establish themselves as superior. Attractive people use physical appearance to feel better than others, while some use self-discipline, charm, cunning, material possessions, or technical skill to distinguish themselves favourably. Negative values are even more common, many people content themselves with 'not being' whatever they think is seen as bad or low status.

    Every time I interact with people now I try to infer the values they have and how they use them to establish self-esteem(as well as fears, insecurities, cognitive biases and MBTI type). Any value they derive from interacting with you is essentially just how you affect their ego and levels of emotional stimulation (serotonin and oxytocin surges facilitating empathy and bonding).

    Most of my hobbies/intellectual pursuits can be boiled down to the dopeamine release I get from recognizing patterns, exercising already known patterns to increase my ego's perceived value, and the comfort from familiar stimuli with desirable emotional associations. Any pleasure derived from games, music, visual media, humour, dancing or whatever are just stimulating forms of these three factors.

    To me the sensation of happiness and everything that feels good and valuable stems from a perceived increase in the relative value of ourselves, and negative feelings come from a perceived loss of that value. Nietzsche ascribed everything good to the feeling of power in all its nuances, but I think that its just a means to the feeling of 'gain'. This is why we are so driven to acquire status, possessions, emotional attachments, knowledge etc. - because the feeling of 'acquiring' (and it's anticipation) is so strong, and the feeling of 'loss' (and the anxiety/insecurity of potential loss) even stronger. This is why having an inflated ego is maladaptive, as everything starts to feel like relative loss. You need a slow steady increase to constantly feel good, or a cycle of peaks and troughs to keep experiencing the whole spectrum.


    I suppose what I'm getting at is if you had total understanding of the mechanisms that determine all of your thoughts and actions, can you really still go through the motions with any enthusiasm. I know I'm not nearly at that level of understanding, but is trying to get there something I want to do? Would total understanding lead to a complete lack of novelty and ultimately nihilism?
    Last edited by Kunstvolles Schwein; 12-08-2015 at 09:11 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Spartan26's Avatar
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    Self awareness can be a couple of things. Understanding how people perceive you, being aware of oneself, as it were. Simon Cowell during the run on American Idol. He knew he was the reasonable villain. He knew when to shut up. He knew what his value was to the show. He knew what his words of praise meant. He knew when to walk away.

    Self awareness can also be as described in a Clint Eastwood movie, "A man's gotta know his limitations." There are times to push yourself, times to judge your performance, learn to understand where your "sweet spot" is. While growth generally requires moving out of your comfort zone, it's not a bad idea to figure out who you are and what are your natural characteristics. Learn to specialize in being you.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Lurker View Post
    If you can use this self-awareness, it's useful; however, if you're stuck in rumination and paralyzed, not so much.

    That's the predictable answer. Here's another situation -- self-awareness is a stumbling block if it leads to vague half-realized notions that haunt you. You can't entirely grasp them, because you don't possess the faculties (being human, whatever). But...you know they exist, just out of your reach. Tantalizing yet frustrating.
    Yes this is true. Awareness of your flaws and limitations while lacking the ability to change them can definitely lead to feelings of impotence and frustration.

    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan26 View Post
    I wish I had greater self awareness when I was younger for many reasons. Relationships, springs to mind. Career-wise it's so vital. I'd get bits and pieces of people telling me what they thought I was like when they first met me vs getting to know me and the answers were all over the charts, angry, conceited, shy, extroverted, don't like people, artistic, humorless, serious, goal oriented, I don't know how they came up with stuff. Some things weren't necessarily wrong but I don't know how they'd pick certain things up. What I didn't realize was that I had some input or control in determining how people saw me. Nothing's worse than trying to be something you're not but if I wanted people to see me as say my three strongest traits, I could have had more of a hand in that. I don't think I liked limiting myself and perhaps still don't but I am a bit more focused and am willing to help guide people's perception now. I just wish i had done/know this 15 yrs ago.

    But, never to late!
    I can really relate to this. So many people assumed I didn't like them, or just generally misinterpreted me from first impressions. It's something I've worked on as well but it takes so much effort and is quickly exhausting that I still can't always bring myself to act in ways they will interpret correctly. Eye contact, body language, feigning interest and enthusiasm in small talk and asking questions to which I already know the answer - it all becomes easier with practice, but it's so draining that I don't practice nearly as much as I should.

    Quote Originally Posted by jigglypuff View Post
    usually i see it as a good thing. at least it bothers me when i come across a friend/acquaintance after years of being away from them & they're still repeating some fatalistic narrative about themself & their life, as if no time has passed and they haven't done any living or growing. that reminds me of this. self-awareness is recognizing little habits and things that aren't helping anyone. the sucky thing is that it doesn't automatically come with the strength/courage/other means required to change things.

    i don't see myself as the most self-aware person cuz i actively resist my own mind sometimes, but i'm playing with the idea that it's better to live this way, sort of like it frees you from you. cuz my mind isn't always my friend.
    Yes lack of self awareness certainly causes problems, and I find it hard to interact with people that obviously delude themselves into whatever belief accounts for their problems in the most comforting way. Even if you try to draw their attention to a different perspective there are strong psychological incentives and defense mechanisms in place so they usually just ignore/discount/forget whatever you say that causes dissonance.

    But maybe it's in their best interests to keep believing whatever helps them value themselves? A delusion is only bad when you bump into reality and negative consequences ensue.

    Truth, knowledge and not being a fool/deluded aren't universally good/valued. I think perhaps a value's value (metavalue?) lies in how often it can be achieved/acquired, and how well it interacts with your other values and their acquisition. So truth is usually good because it allows control of circumstances (if accompanied with power) to get other things you value and avoid things you don't, but it can also have a negative effect on other values. But sometimes a simplification of the truth or a conveniently corresponding misunderstanding can make reality easier to manage, rather than being bogged down with unnecessary detail (for their purposes). There are limits to our capabilities and the right delusions might help us to optimise them.


    Quote Originally Posted by Spartan26 View Post
    Self awareness can be a couple of things. Understanding how people perceive you, being aware of oneself, as it were. Simon Cowell during the run on American Idol. He knew he was the reasonable villain. He knew when to shut up. He knew what his value was to the show. He knew what his words of praise meant. He knew when to walk away.

    Self awareness can also be as described in a Clint Eastwood movie, "A man's gotta know his limitations." There are times to push yourself, times to judge your performance, learn to understand where your "sweet spot" is. While growth generally requires moving out of your comfort zone, it's not a bad idea to figure out who you are and what are your natural characteristics. Learn to specialize in being you.
    All true as well. I've recently started to see comfort as a shackle that I should start to value less, it so easily leads to stagnation and ennui.

  8. #8
    Dr.Awkward Robcore's Avatar
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    I think self-awareness is great...and meta self-awareness, and meta-meta-self awareness, lol.

    Seriously though, I think the self-awareness journey eventually culminates in a sort of existential inquiry where we ask "what am I?"...eg. what is it that has these motivations and intentions and ideas, etc.?

    The sages and mystics who sought to tackle this question seemed to arrive at rather exquisite states...
    ...the origin of emotional sickness lay in people’s belief that they were their personalities...
    "The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong." ~Carl Jung

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Robcore View Post
    I think self-awareness is great...and meta self-awareness, and meta-meta-self awareness, lol.

    Seriously though, I think the self-awareness journey eventually culminates in a sort of existential inquiry where we ask "what am I?"...eg. what is it that has these motivations and intentions and ideas, etc.?

    The sages and mystics who sought to tackle this question seemed to arrive at rather exquisite states...
    I think I'd define the self as a mental abstraction that simplifies all the various impulses, reflexes, memories, thought processes that are performed by the many discrete parts of the brain and body into a singular entity. The 'traits' and 'characteristics' of that entity are themselves either relative descriptions of physical attributes or abstract generalisations of recurring common elements of remembered behaviour used as predictions about future behaviour as well as assumptions of intent and capabilities.

    Since most if not all of the various organs, impulses, reflexes, memories, perceptions, and thought processes that comprise a human are in a state of constant change over time, a narrative is constructed that weaves together all the fragmentary memories of experience into a continuous and cohesive whole, filling in the gaps with what seems likely, reasonable or flattering.

  10. #10
    Dr.Awkward Robcore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kunstvolles Schwein View Post
    I think I'd define the self as a mental abstraction that simplifies all the various impulses, reflexes, memories, thought processes that are performed by the many discrete parts of the brain and body into a singular entity. The 'traits' and 'characteristics' of that entity are themselves either relative descriptions of physical attributes or abstract generalisations of recurring common elements of remembered behaviour used as predictions about future behaviour as well as assumptions of intent and capabilities.
    Yet if one became quadriplegic or if they experienced a severe brain injury, the 'self' remains well intact, I think.
    Also, a newly born child has a self, though their capacity for mental abstraction is surely different than that of an adult...so the mental abstraction, while surely subjective in some ways, must also have a large social component?

    Since most if not all of the various organs, impulses, reflexes, memories, perceptions, and thought processes that comprise a human are in a state of constant change over time, a narrative is constructed that weaves together all the fragmentary memories of experience into a continuous and cohesive whole, filling in the gaps with what seems likely, reasonable or flattering.
    As far as I can tell, the sages and mystics that tackled the 'what am I?' question all sought to release identification with any narrative, though I concede that such an effort could be interpreted as a further part of their narrative. In any case, I think it is pretty freeing to become non-attached to one's own narrative.
    ...the origin of emotional sickness lay in people’s belief that they were their personalities...
    "The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong." ~Carl Jung

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