With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
I am in the fortunate position of having a job, a place to live and a woman who loves me so this frees me to ponder on how to enhance and grow my self. My self and the role of being selfish.
Recently married, I am learning more about the balance to strike between being individual and being cooperative. Having been alone in my mind and world for so long I have daily discoveries on how deep my selfish self goes.
My selfish self likes to control things. Most things in my life. Not really conducive to cooperation but more for white-knuckle anxiety as in mundane cooperative activities such as listening to music or cleaning.
White-knuckle anxiety is not hyperbole, there are still times when my wife is washing or drying dishes and I stand by, fist clenching to keep from saying something the knuckles turn white. Something like, “That plate’s not clean. You just rushed over it and without running my hand over it I can still see small crusty food bumps.”
It wouldn’t be a helpful statement. As a social worker I am trained to give helpful statements and when there is no personal connection to the helpee I am adept at doing so. With my wife things are handled more delicately.
I am still getting to know her. And I want to get to know her. Listening to her and talking with her are great ways to do so. After a few episodes of really, ridiculous reasons for being anxious or upset, I am so very lucky to be able to talk to her and be completely honest.
She has lived on her own for longer than me thus having greater leeway when it comes to her selfish self. Yet another thing I have no right or authority to step in and try to control.
As I tell my patients, we only have control over OUR actions and everyone else’s actions are unknown and out of our control. In some ways this should be reassuring, that we only have ourselves and our behavior to monitor but for some reason I still struggle in interactions with my wife.
There are times, many times in fact, she shares her day with me and it often includes a problem. I hear the problem, see the problem in my mind and then logically find a solution to the problem. It seems so easy. If she were to do this, then no more problem and she can get on with her day.
My wife does not see it that way. Most of the times my role is merely to listen and not act, unless a reassuring embrace or kiss seems right, which it often is. But that doesn’t seem like enough to me. I could do more. You see, I found the solution to your problem, isn’t that great?
No. Apparently, it is not great, for I am overreaching in my role as cooperative member in her life. She handles her problems thank you very much and you have the benefit of hearing about her day. Which sometimes is okay and sometimes is not. Especially if the problem I see so clearly remains a problem after several days or weeks. There is a perfectly good solution not being used.
This is just one aspect of living cooperatively. And coming to terms with my selfish self.