Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Trouble with Humans: Some Thoughts on Liking and Being Liked

I was thinking, and thinking can only lead to trouble as far as I'm concerned...:

The thing about humans is that we need to be liked. We crave attention and --typically-- all we want is positive attention. And what is wrong with wanting people to like you? It's a part of the natural selection of our species, and the pain of social rejection triggers the same regions in our brain as the areas triggered when we experience physical pain. Being disliked and excluded hurts; literally.

Yet at the same time, despite the fact that we need to be liked, we are so quick to dislike others around us. Have you ever found yourself just looking for a reason (any reason!) to hate someone? I have. And I think that's a part of being human too: we fight for resources like any other animal (albeit, slightly different ones), and as far as we are concerned, those not in our circles or who we consider "fit" enough (in a Darwinian sense) are our competition. But that seems like such a base idea regarding the human condition. Are we truly just like animals? Then again, are we really that different? Maybe Douglas Adams was right when he said that mice and dolphins are smarter than humans, and we just don't know it. We think we are the highest of mortal beings on this earth because of our minds and emotions, but haven't animals been able to show emotions and communication-- and even language, in some cases-- as well? Maybe our brains are wrongfully wired to believe in an intense superiority that isn't really there; who is anyone to say?

And getting back to what started all of this, I have one more thing to say about the need to be liked: 
As a human, I understand what it feels like to be disliked. I need to be liked, just as anyone else does. I also understand the need to dislike, and am quick to dislike those who do not fit what I (personally) would consider to be a "good" person. But I myself don't even fit this description, and so I often don't like myself. And I even find myself needing to be liked by those people who I myself dislike, because I feel it is better if they like me and I don't like them, rather than the other way around. Because that hurts too. It hurts like hell to like someone who won't like you back, and I'm not even talking in a strictly romantic sense, but in general. 

And once you experience a feeling of social alienation, or have the seed of doubt planted into your brain as to how anyone feels about you, it becomes a self-conscious gnat, constantly tearing away at you. How can you deal with that? How can we, as humans, think ourselves to be the be-all and end-all of intelligent minds when we let our brains become the ones to hurt themselves?

We are the most basic of animals, but also one of the greatest mysteries of the world. Sometimes I really want to know and understand, but I know that I just don't, and it's unclear if anyone ever will...
Like what we see to be the definition of a palace, our mind becomes a distorted labyrinth of everything we've ever known and ever will know.
The pieces can be put together into one picture, but it is never fully complete or clear.
(Photo of Sanssouci in Potsdam, Germany: taken and edited by me.)
(I think I used the word "like" about 500 times too-many in this post.)

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