Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Food for thought

Nothing hurts more than dismissiveness or disdain. I would much rather be actively hated than treated like a fool. Willam James understood this well.

“No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by all the members thereof. If no one turned around when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead,” and acted as if we were non-existent things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would before long well up in us, from which the cruelest bodily torture would be a relief.”
William James, The Principles of Psychology (1890)

“The attentions of others matter to us because we are afflicted by a congenital uncertainty as to our own value, as a result of which affliction we tend to allow others’ appraisal to play a determining role in how we see ourselves. Our sense of identity is held captive by the judgments of those we live among. If they are amused by our jokes, we grow confident in our power to amuse. If they praise us, we develop an impression of high merit. And if they avoid our gaze when we enter a room or look impatient after we have revealed our occupation, we may fall into feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness.”
Alain de Botton, Status Anxiety

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