On being a good person

Exams are over! Phew! Woooouw, that was quite an experience. This time, I really thought I didn’t go as insane in the brain as I usually do, but then my body backstabbed my brain and totally gave it away by just acting as if I was a crack junkie going through withdrawal. I spent most of the nights before the exams like this:


My body does this to me at various occasions: before exams, when a boy has been mean to me, when I have a look at my bank account, when I feel like somebody is angry at me, when I randomly get afraid that somebody might die on me… you get the idea. However, no matter how many times nausea and back pain coincide with unfortunate events in my life – in the moment, I  a l w a y s  refuse to believe that physical pain of that amount can be purely due to anxiety or stress. I can only be convinced of the psychological reason for my suffering when that reason goes away- together with all the pain.

I have a degree in psychology! It should be a total given that I believe in the power of the subconscious!

But nooo, I, too, like most other people, am inclined to hold on to the illusion that the words that form my thoughts are all there is to me, and that my insight into myself is complete. PAH!

Wake me at 4 in the morning and ask me for an example of how humans are often driven by their subconscious, and I’ll  give you a HUNDRED studies in the order of the quality of their internal, external or construct validity, depending on what you fancy.[1]

If I’ve learnt anything in my undergrad then it’s that most of the time, we have no clue why we do the things we do when we do them. Sometimes, we can’t even figure it out in hindsight. We are clueless about ourselves. You, me, and the rest of the world.

(I personally find a bit of comfort in that it’s everybody, even the most cleverestest of us all).

Do I live according to that lesson learned? Nope. In theory it’s all quite clear to me. In real life however, I’m like “Subconscious-shmubmoncious”. I can not believe that I, Sarah, Ich, Moi, am partly SUB conscious, NOT conscious, unconscious of myself. There’s this powerful, confident voice in my head that’s like: “WTF? No way, sorry, dude, but don’t tell me I don’t know what you’re about! Look, I’m going through all the drawers of your brain right now. Here’s a childhood memory. Here’s your favourite painting. Here’s your last dream. I have every thought you ever had somewhere recorded and saved! I know you, dude, and I know that you’re not stressed about those exams. You probably got a bug or suddenly turned gluten intolerant.”

And then exams are over and I’m fine and turn to confront that voice, and she just looks down in embarrassment and mumbles: “Well, there’s just so many of those drawers…”

I guess I always liked to see myself as too cool for school. At the same time, I derive pretty much ALL of my self-esteem from seeming like a smart cookie. Being too cool to study while still considering bad grades a reason to look for a strong piece of rope don’t go well together during exam time. Actually, those two attitudes form a pretty toxic mixture in the pit of your stomach. Hence the nausea.

Anyways, I don’t want to bore you too much with my never ending Journey of Meeting Sarah Hahn. But I do want to get across two things. Just trust me on those, please, they’re pretty much all I’m sure of when it comes to “human nature” (to be honest: not so sure if that human nature thing even exists… #ohnoshedidnt):

1.)  No matter how convinced we are of it – we rarely know why we think, feel and act the way we do.

2.)  We need time passing on and other peoples’ perspective to get a chance at catching the tiniest glimpse of insight into our true reasons.

You’re probably totally thinking: “D’uh! If it’s that complicated, why even make the effort?! Why not live day-to-day in the comfortable conviction that I’m the master of my fate?”

Let me reply with another piece of wisdom from my book of wisdomry[2]:

3.)  The only way of not becoming a complete a-hole in our terribly complex world is to be as self-reflective as f*** while talking and listening to as many and as diverse people as possible. Seeing your world through the eyes of as many people as possible might – still just might! – give you an idea of what the hell is going on and what should we do.

(Am I competing with Confucius or what?!)

Only Kant had enough brains and time to figure out morals on his own. And even he was a bit of a Kant towards animals, as far as I’ve heard. So, for the average person, there are no shortcuts to being a good person. Don’t think you can rely on some kind of manmade, faulty rulebook like The Bible, The Bro Code or Science Magazine to make things easier. I think I don’t have to explain, why.

You might object that self-reflection is something psychology students do when they get bored after they’ve written all their exams and are sitting with a cup of tea in a comfortable chair, waiting for the doctor couple to come home, whose children they’re babysitting (in case you didn’t get that: that’s me right now). It might not be something you do when you have a crying baby on one arm, a nagging boss on the phone and your teenage daughter’s puffy red-eyed face in front of you, who has been teased at school for her cheap shoes again.

Good point. I was only waiting for an opportunity to join the small group of bloggers that explicitly admit to the fact that they’re writing from and about the privileged position of somebody who finds the time to run a blog. Here it is! I’ve said it! And while we’re already here: realizing what privilege blindness is, makes a very good example for how self-reflection can make you less of an a-hole.

So, only to those of you who have everything one needs and more: Be self-reflective and let others judge you from time to time. It’s the least you can do to get things righter in the future. And how could I end this incredibly patronizing post more cohesively than by giving you a virtual clap on the bottom and saying: Chop chop!

[1] No jokes, psychologists do fancy different kinds of validities and which can turn into a mild form of an intellectual crush: „Oooh, you field experiment, you’re so damn externally valid, I want to take you tot he laboratory and test you all over again!“ Love makes people blind.

[2] I’m keeping book of all the things I’ve felt absolutely sure of at a certain moment in my life. Not kidding. I’ve started it when I was twelve. My first entry was “14 January 2002: Roads that go through forest are a human-made wound in the face of nature.” I’ve become a bit less dramatic since then. Also, so far I’ve barely filled a page. Which is kind of the point of this whole post…

2 thoughts on “On being a good person

  1. Of course I sincerely disagree. I know EXACTLY why I laughed my head off again – it’s the fourth figure, the one to the right. How can you draw yourself so well at this angle? You have never seen yourself in such a position – and it is umistakably you. Look at it! That left leg gets me!
    The rest of course is wisdom (ed. SH, 2013. book 7)

    • Well it’s actually quite simple: just keep the bum-to-back ratio stable and don’t overdo the angles of the extremities and voilà: you can put that Sarah in any pretzel position you want. 🙂 You will read all about my technique in the preface of the 8th volume of the book of wisdomry.

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