Monday, January 22, 2007

A "Why" Person

All my life, I've been a person who wants to know "why" things are the case. This is particularly so when it comes to human behavior and probably is part of what lead me to study psychology in university.

In my young adult days, this level of curiosity allowed me to be a relatively good social animal. People in their 20's are more than happy to mull over the details of their lives and allow you to explore their background and the motives of everyone around them.

In my first job after college (at a halfway house for mentally ill people), one of my coworkers once said that I was remarkably curious. I'm not sure if this was a polite way of saying I was too damn nosy or if this was an observation he made because I wanted to understand the dynamic behind the way people interacted and the ways in which their characters developed.

This particular coworker was the first person to recognize that all my curiosity lead to uncommon (and sometimes uncanny) insight into people's lives. I've been able to tell when coworkers were lying about college degrees and if friends grew up with alcoholic parents when they didn't say a word about either of these situations. I can read the past through attitudes and actions rather quickly (generally in the first meeting) though I rarely actually say what I think to people because it would be rude or too personal.

The funny thing is that this former coworker was the only person to ever overestimate how I "knew things" about people in what appeared to be an act of semi-clairvoyance (no, I don't believe it was clairvoyance...I believe it's the equivalent of figuring out the picture of a puzzle from seeing just a few pieces). This was the result of a very unlikely secret that my coworker had in common with a former classmate of mine from university. When I told my coworker that my former classmate had a secret son with an older woman he'd slept with once when he was quite young, he believed I'd related that story as an oblique way of letting him know I'd worked out his secret (which was the same one). Of course, this was back in the days when such things were kept a secret because they carried an element of shame. I can read a lot about people but I didn't work that out.

As I've gotten older though, and the people close to me have reached their 40's, I've found that my tendency to want to explore and theorize why things are happening has begun to be a source of frustration to those around me. When my husband is sick, I ponder the roots of his illness aloud and he doesn't want to hear it because it's of no help to him in getting well (and he feels it may hinder him because it makes him dwell on it more). When my sister tells me about my parents' increasingly regressive behavior, she doesn't want to discuss why they are doing what they do because it doesn't help her cope with how hard it is to live with them.

I've been trying to curb this tendency but I note to myself with irony that I wonder why people some aren't as curious about these things as I am. I guess I have some ways to go.


YETTE said...


I think you are an astute person and I see nothing wrong with that. =D some people may not appreciate that but well, we can't please everybody, right? so maybe you could find someone willing to listen to all your observations without question or judgment. =D

take care!

Shari said...

Thanks for your kind and supportive words, Yette. It's very appreciated.

I think that I have to be careful about not "burdening" people who are struggling to cope in their own ways with issues by subjecting them to my musings. It's something that I've had to struggle with a lot of my life.

Early on in my work as a counselor, I thought that the best way to "help" clients was to force them to face blunt "truth" about their situation. I think this came across as bullying them into trying to make the decisions I felt was best rather than helping them do what they were capable of doing.

Since then, I've attempted to be more sensitive to the wishes of those around me when it comes to any sort of revelation or observation. For some people, opening their mouth is hard. For me, keeping it shut tends to be much harder.