Problematic Simplification

This past summer I went on a weekend retreat, and I remember my group leader asking me why/ how I was so happy all the time.  I was really taken aback by this simple question, as I was surprised that he noticed this side of my personality. I generally don’t notice the black and white of my personality as I am focused on the entirety of my emotions not just the positive or negative ones.  

In society, feeling rage, melancholy, frustration or other negative emotions are explicitly taboo to display without being judged as being weak or oversensitive.  Negative emotions are important to feel and are as much a part of living as being happy or content. Despite how unbearable they may be and especially despite how much you dislike them, the significance of the entire spectrum of emotion is not overtly realized in society: more emphasis is placed on the positive. Generally, aspects of my personality get overlooked due to social roles or  ignorance of my behavior.  The complexity of a human being, I feel, cannot be reduced to a simple aspect or trait.  Although I appreciate that others notice and share in my enthusiasm for life, other characteristics about myself are just as crucial to my personality as is my happiness.

Sure, we all do it.  We describe others as bubbly, mellow, charming, fun-loving, or a combination of phrases.  And this is fine.  These are adjectives that can accurately describe people.  Far too often though, these adjectives become the absolute definition of a person; to my group leader I was the happy soul. By not realizing the intricacies of each other’s personalities, strangers and even those closest to us can be belittled into the simplistic one sided view of what we want or expect from people.  This can ultimately result in others being surprised when one acts in a certain way, and misinterpretations to arise.  People are labeled as one or two personality traits simply because it makes others feel comfortable that they understand the entirety of a person.

Personally, I always enjoy knowing how others perceive me, as it is consistently unlike how I perceive myself, and in a way I think that this is important.

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