Most of us like to think we have a pretty good idea how others behave. It's one of those basic adult skills, based on self-knowledge, our observation of others and the inherited wisdom of the ages.
Understanding human behaviour; how hard can it be?
Well according to this article I read, it's difficult and many of us go through life with deeply flawed notions of how people feel and behave. Statements/questions like:
"Do you believe most teenagers experience a period of turmoil"
"People use only 10 per cent of their brains"
"Criminal profiling works"
"Do you think individuals commonly repress the memories of traumatic events"
"Men and women communicate in completely different ways".
If we believe these things, we're wrong. But we are not alone!
There are various reasons why such myths become lodged in our minds but at the base of the problem is the simple fact we seem to need a set of such beliefs to function.
But what really caught my attention was the section about happiness and the myth that says happiness is mostly determined by our external circumstances. Meaning if we change those circumstances, we can make ourselves much happier.
According to the "experts" we are each born with a genetically determined "set point" of happiness, a baseline from which we bounce up and down in response to short-term events.
So it appears that most happy people are that way because they're born like that, which, of course, is terribly unfair - another reason many of us would rather believe happiness can be acquired through effort. The brutal conclusion was that "trying to be happier is like trying to be taller".
I do believe when I read one of the greatest of all myths is that the major determinant of happiness is material wealth. The research shows that above a modest level of wealth, money doesn't make much difference. Nor, by the way, do life events. Happy people tend not to experience more awards and promotions.
But it did say enjoying quality time with friends and loved ones, memorable trips with people we care deeply about and special nights out with romantic partners will contribute to our happiness.
Sadness is increasingly seen NOT as a normal part of life but as a weakness, something to be eradicated.
I agree we should embrace those dark parts of our life, they are natural and normal. When we embrace those darker sides of experience, those times when we're sad or sorrowful, we often learn things about ourselves that we would not learn had we simply remained content.
Many myths apparently stem from an overestimation of the role of early life experience and the notion that the first few years of life are somehow much more powerful than the later years.
Other myths stem from the myth of fragility, the idea that most of us are delicate creatures who easily crack in the face of trauma.
We don't hear/read about strength very often, certainly not in the media. There is no drama in buildings that stay up, trains that run on time and people who cope with pressure.
"We can keep from a child all knowledge of earlier myths, but we cannot take from him the need for mythology"
~~ Carl Gustav Jung
Dianne & I, Easter 2010. She is such an inspiration and believes she will beat the horrible cancer that is trying to destroy her body.