Scott at erasing.org wonders: is it more egotistical to think that you’re the only one who thinks the way you do, or that everyone thinks the way you do? And, as much of what Scott writes tends to, it got me thinkin’.
Conversational fragment from dinner on Wednesday with my sister, after being served purple ice cream:
Me: Oh God, is this yam-flavoured?
Sister: I don’t know. It could be.
Me: I guess it yis what it yis.
As I said that, I knew it was something I’d probably have self-censored in other company. I do a lot of self-censorship, which is why in some company I can be very quiet. It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say – that’s never the case – it’s just that I doubt the ability of the people I’m with to “get it”.
There are two major types of thoughts that I tend to withhold from ordinary conversations. They get filed under:
(1) Things I’d Have Said If Everyone’s Brain Worked Like Mine and
(2) Things I’d Have Said If Everyone Knew What I Know.
What I mean by (1) is that the thought process taking place during the ice cream conversation was: yam –> I yam what I yam –> it yis what it yis. The thing is, I don’t even know where “I yam what I yam” came from. It lives somewhere in the vast disorganized phraseplains of my head, and it just popped up. I don’t think it’s a phrase that features in regular conversational parlance, and hence I’d assume that most people aren’t familiar with it.
(2) is about not wanting to say “Poh-tweet” in a conversation with someone who hasn’t read Slaughterhouse Five. Dealing with the resultant blank look requires either explanation, which just wrecks the flow of the conversation, or a “Never mind”, and I think both options have the result of making the other person feel a little dumb. And I don’t like doing that, unless they’re large inflatable assholes just asking for deflation.
Most of this is about thinking you’re the only one who thinks the way you do. I agree this can be egotistical, but argue that egotism here may still be well-meaning. I withhold category (1) thoughts because I think it’s presumptuous to suppose that the sequential workings of my mind are always self-evident. (2) all depends on who you’re talking to, ultimately. I talk to lots of people who don’t have my brainpower or knowledge. I don’t think saying this is egotistical. It’s a fact. What’s important is how you choose to conduct such conversations. I choose to scale down and censor, because I don’t like making other people feel stupid, and I’d rather have a conversation everyone can manage.
What I do react badly to is when people seem to be wrapped up in a smug little aura of Oh I’m So Quirkyness. They refer frequently to the strange way their minds work, usually a self-deprecatory remark which isn’t made with self-deprecating intent. They enjoy describing themselves as “wacky”, “insane”, and other similar adjectives. My honest (and admittedly, somewhat cruel) reaction is “Oh, come off it, you’re not that special. Get over yourself.”
Does everyone hate me yet?
And then there’s thinking everyone thinks the way you do. This isn’t much of an issue for me – I know this isn’t true, and damn, I hope it never is. Life would be unspeakably boring if it were.
So what’s my answer to Scott’s question? Thinking everyone thinks like you is, primarily, deluded. This delusion may derive from egotism, or just complete lack of self-awareness. Thinking you’re the only one who thinks like you do, on the other hand, seems far more likely to be egotistical, but sometimes this is well-founded, and sometimes it’s well-meaning.