Know thyself? Not so fast

Several months ago I wrote about the imperative of giving up your expertise on you. While there are certain things you know pretty well about yourself, there’s a not-so-modest basket of things where you are in, perhaps, the worst position to see what’s really going on. It’s one of the things I love about group therapy–being successful in it means letting go of the need to be the final authority on Who You Are.

If you’re a regular reader, you know my feelings on most psychological research (I’m not such a fan). But this article and podcast from Scientific American caught my eye. For example, “A 2010 study found that friends are significantly more accurate in judging traits like intelligence, talkativeness and creativity.” It turns out an awful lot of research suggests you should be more interested in what others have to say as part of the process of understanding who you are.

That other people have a much better perspective on key elements of who we are is one of those facts that, once pointed out, seems obvious. And yet we hold on to our authority as the expert on us. Ironically, we tend to do this most fervently in those moments–a crisis, in the wake of trauma–when we could most benefit from the insights of others.

The guy in the picture, by the way, is Socrates, who believed, of course, that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I would agree, but I think that life-examining process needs to be an awful lot more social than he suggests.

Which gets me wondering: How might Plato’s famous dialogues (in which Socrates, his teacher, is the featured character) have looked recast as group therapy? Definitely another blog post…