Im the most angry when I feel like I’m being misunderstood. I get livid and agitated when I find that what I’m thinking is not being reproduced accurately in the listener’s mind. I pride myself on articulation so when the I cant get someone to understand, I feel defeated and how. I get worked up that I’m at an impasse with someone not because they disagree with me but they are just not getting me.
The way I’ve come to look at this is, given the same input information I, a person draws conclusion C through a master mind function F.
If we were to plot F in a multi dimensional space, it would be a point, that is continually changing. Each person has a unique point F following a unique trajectory. The properties of F are what we call path functions i.e, the properties of F depend on what trajectory was taken to get to F.
Naturally, this means F1(I) != F2(I)
Most differences in humans and the consequences of those differences can be modelled like this. While a butcher, who is comfortable slaughtering an animal would feel nothing of blood and meat and stench, a white-collar worker might faint at the sight of their own blood.
More subtly, I having being raised by parents who grew up to account for reciprocity in relationships, can take the unanswered phone call as a sign of haughty dismissal from the “supposed” close friend. While my friend raised by an inviting and generous mother would just think their friend was busy.
To the exact same events happening in the world, folks would derive contradictory conclusions. They’d go so far as to pass moral judgements on the other’s “choice” to hold the contrary opinion. Where as the contradiction is an inevitability of who they are. Most judgements are not mathematical theorems that can be proven in steps but are a result of a highly emotional analytical pipeline.
This matters more today because the delivery of an individual’s free speech is given Social Media booster shot. Zoom out and you can see a representative image emerge. That of a chaotically filled landscape, of people with wildly different functions F. It doesn’t help that the wonder and rage that outliers inspire in us are fuel to the algorithmic beast, that feeds on our extreme emotions. After a few iterations of this spiral, an outlier for an outlier makes the whole world numb.
The good(or bad) thing about this function F is that it evolves, based on previous C’s and I’s. The unfortunate thing is that when information flows according to an algorithm(or any maliciously introduced wind of bias), F’s start to cluster.
Without media of influence to facilitate feedback loops of ideas and consequences to run through people’s minds, it wouldn’t be possible for there to be such stark divergence between groups like the left or right. Extreme Tribalism, emerges at scale, powered by technology.
In the end we have clusters of F , so far apart in the landscape, that their conclusions are so divergent given the same I, that they appear morally repugnant to each other. What could have had been a mere divergence in axioms, becomes a judgement on individual morality.
If your F is far enough from mine, it is nearly impossible for us to agree. If our Fs differ in one dimension, we may just not see eye to eye in that regard.
And that’s why I feel angry and aggravated. Because, my brain refuses to acknowledge in its emotional intelligence that this is impossible. When faced with such a situation in real life, I have no control over feeling that all that’s missing is the intent in another person. I feel they don’t care, they are not applying themselves, they’re too selfish to try. But the truth is, how I feel exactly, is, simply, fundamentally, unknowable to another person.
It is important for me on a personal level to learn how to deal with this situation because it seems to keep emerging. And because the victim of my own brain, is me! I can only imagine if we were able to accept, in its truest form, that others are simply wired to view things in a way we can’t imagine, and that we can never theorise even, we would be capable of huge amount more of empathy, and peace.
To that end, I love the word “misunderstood”. When I say that I’m misunderstood, as opposed to say “you don’t understand me”, I’m doing us both a favour. I use passive voice and remove the burden of agency from you. And I become kinder to myself by not blaming myself for falling short in communicating. The phrase inherently forgives both parties that were engaged in a pursuit who’s hardness informs most profound of human experience. Loneliness after all arises owing to the grand barrier that exists between each of us, through which we pierce threads of connection via language, dance, play and touch. For that reason, I intend to learn, to accept being misunderstood, and reject pessimism, but rather celebrate, that being misunderstood is the exception, and not the norm, in my life.
Originally published at http://blog.abhirathb.com on February 26, 2022.