Living the Examined Life

Well, yes. Of course there can be disadvantages to living the examined life. Sometimes it seems easier to be unaware of the layers of possible meanings underlying our thoughts and emotions. Understanding can become complex. And we are never absolutely sure of which interpretation is accurate. Or even if there is one accurate interpretation. It can become tedious at times. As Annie Savoy says in the movie Bull Durham, “The world is made for people who are not cursed with self-awareness.”

Mostly, though, it’s difficult to avoid the significance of our desires and preferences. Understanding ourselves, and the people around us, is a human science, and a human motivation. That is why it feels important and that is why it lends itself to interpretation and argument. Because we are talking about humans. And because everything has meaning to us and because we make choices and take action based on the meanings we attribute to what we experience.

In the same way that we develop music appreciation and art appreciation, we can develop meaning appreciation. Of course it is developed over time. And we learn to understand other people and ourselves in the contexts of our relationships. We need to ask the other person what something means to him or her because we cannot know unless we are told. And we need to give reflections to the people around us about how their behavior impacts us and what it means to us. And in this stepwise manner, we develop our understanding and we contribute to the development of other people’s understandings.

This meaning making process is innate, and it is continuously progressing. To the extent that we can be reflective about the process itself, as well as what we are learning, our experience of our lives becomes richer, deeper, and more satisfying. It is also true that our lives take directions they would not have taken otherwise. Our choices are informed by more complex understandings, and ultimately we gain the profound wisdom that comes with effort combined with awareness.

About norasblog

I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Chicago.
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