In discussion with Dr E, he once asked me what did I believe myself to be. I said nothing. I have learned that it is a sensible step to remain quiet when Dr E first poses a question. He has a tendency to ask rather open questions which might be interpreted in a number of ways. If I immediately answer one way, he will then suggest that there might be an alternative viewpoint or way of considering what he has asked and he advances that different proposition. I know why he is doing this. He is trying to show that he is cleverer than me by coming up with something different to that which I declare. He wants me to assert my position first which will then enable him to try and unpick what I have said and thus infer that his comments are superior to mine. I know your game Dr E.
In order to counter this I say nothing. Dr E eventually has to (like most people) fill the silence. You know that I have no problem with maintaining silence for days, maybe even weeks. On this occasion he then followed up with,
“If I could elaborate, do you believe you have your own separate existence or that you are a product of how others perceive you?”
Good. Now I knew which of the two arguments he believed were pertinent to the discussion. He had shown his hand. All I needed to do was select the better answer and my superiority would remain intact.
“We are all products of how others perceive us,” I answered.
“Why do you say that?”
The floor was mine.
“Whatever you may convince yourself that you are, you are actually defined by what everyone else considers you to be. This is because we must interact with others and how they regard you and thus behave towards you, makes you what you are. For instance, I can see that you are listening and paying attention to me. That demonstrates that you regard what I am saying as interesting and worth listening to. This in turn means that I am an interesting person and I have something of consequence to tell you. “
“I see. What if I said that I am only listening to you because I have been paid to do so and it is not because I find you interesting,” answered Dr E.
“The fact you have been paid merely puts us in the same room together. You are listening to me, therefore I am of interest to you.”
“Okay. What if I now got up and left the room so that I was no longer listening to you. Would that not suggest that I do not find you interesting?”
“No,” I replied, “that would signify that the conversation is at an end.”
“Very well. What if I got up part way through something you were saying and exited the room?”
“Then I would consider you as ill-mannered and thus my perception of you will define what you are,” I returned.
“But what about you? How does my behaviour in leaving whilst you were talking define you?” pressed Dr E.
“It would demonstrate that what I am saying is such that you no longer feel able to disagree with me and I have won the argument or discussion.”
“I see. What if we were not arguing?”
“I said arguing or discussing something, not just arguing.”
“Very well. What if I we were discussing something neutral, such as the weather?” pressed Dr E.
“There is no such thing as a neutral discussion. There will always be my view and your view.”
“What about if we agree?”
“Then you have agreed with me and accepted the force of what I am saying as correct and thus this reinforces my cleverness and superiority.”
“How about if you agree with me?” suggested Dr E. I laughed.
“I think you will find that you will agree with me.”
“And if I don’t?” he asked.
“Then you are being awkward and unhelpful but ultimately reinforcing that I am correct and thus I am accurate, precise and knowledgeable.”
Dr E paused and began writing something in his notebook. I waited for him to complete his note taking.
“So, you are the product of what everyone thinks of you?”
“Yes, see, I knew you would agree with me,” I smiled.
There was the slightest flash of irritation from Dr E but he cast it aside swiftly.
“I was summarising your position, not agreeing,” he said.
“If you say so,” I smiled again, “the fact is we are the product of what everyone else thinks of us. I am always admired, loved and respected by those that I meet and involve in my life. They admire my success, they acknowledge and respect my achievements, they marvel at my intellect and cherish the attention that I bestow on them. All of that makes me who I am because I must interact with all of these people. How they regard me defines me.”
“What about those that regard you in far less complimentary terms, those that refer to your abusive treatment of them. I have seen what some of them regard you as.”
“All of them are liars and lies do not define what we are,” I snapped.
“I see. What if they told you that all the admiration and love that they give you or gave you was false?” suggested Dr E.
“Now you are telling lies Dr E, none of that is false.”
“Okay, how about if the admiration and respect from those people was genuine, but based on a misconception about you?”
I have to give Dr E his due, he likes to pursue a point.
“Then they will forever cherish the misconceptions they have about me.”
Dr E paused. He made a note and then spoke.
“You believe that statement?”
“It is a universal truth.”
Dr E said nothing else after this but sat writing for some time until the session’s scheduled time had elapsed. I left his room feeling buoyant and charged.