The Ophelia Syndrome

“I have a friend who is fond of saying, “If we both think the same way, one of us in unnecessary.”

I really like this quote; however, I have the opposite problem if either. I always tend to position myself opposite of others, refusing to accept what they say simply because I didn’t think of it myself. I am too narrow minded. On the one hand I don’t necessarily suffer from the Ophelia syndrome but I have trouble allowing myself to consider other perspectives which can be equally inhibiting.

Sometimes, sheer practicality or necessity require us to take the short cut to knowledge. It’s nice when you can afford to invest in a truly open minded, investigative approach to learning, but sometimes you simply need to know things so you can move on to more important things. Sometimes, you aren’t going to get to a usable answer without trusting some other authority.

That said, I find it refreshing to ask other’s their opinion without them immediately going on the defense because they assume I’m attacking their position, only inquiring so as to plan my attack. I also hate when people who agree with you dominate a conversation pointing out things that you may even agree with but without allowing for consideration of other perspectives. As far as they are concerned, they are right and it is heretical to discuss anything else. Even if you disagree with a perspective, exploring that perspective can only inform your own perspective.

I crave conversations that are open minded without defensive assertions or attacks on other mindedness, but I find myself perpetually timid about engaging in conversation with people for fear that they will either attack my position or go on all out defense to shore up theirs. Both parties have to be open minded for a productive conversation to ensue, not just me.

~ by Abraham on 23 February 2011.

One Response to “The Ophelia Syndrome”

  1. You make a lot of good points here. I feel the same way when it comes to discussions with other people. In America, at least, I think people are usually offended when you disagree with them, no matter how polite or respectful you try to be. Even if you agree with them 99%, they’ll find the 1% that you disagree with them, and blow it out of proportion. I used to think it was only debate team kids who did this (I had a lot of friends in high school who were on the debate team, and they used every opportunity to lord their rhetorical “skills” over anyone who dared cross their path). However, I’ve come to learn that most people will either back down, change their opinion to appease you, or prepare for an all-out war if you disagree with them. A few weeks ago I tried to start a fun conversation with my roommates about how the human mind gathers knowledge, and introduce different perspectives that I had recently learned about which were a bit controversial. Instead of having an intense, intelligent discussion, it ended-up being a three vs. one battle in which my roommates became very emotional and upset. Sometimes it seemed that we’re so intent on pleasing others and jumping through hoops, that we are too afraid to have real conversations.

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