Viewing Myself from a Distance

David Brooks on how we can best understand ourselves:

"We shouldn’t see ourselves as archaeologists, minutely studying each feeling and trying to dig deep into the unconscious. We should see ourselves as literary critics, putting each incident in the perspective of a longer life story…

Think of one of those Chuck Close self-portraits. The face takes up the entire image. You can see every pore. Some people try to introspect like that. But others see themselves in broader landscapes, in the context of longer narratives about forgiveness, or redemption or setback and ascent.”

Brooks argues that true, empathetic introspection requires distance. I think his distance theory is as true in self-analysis as it is in relationships. The ingredients of bitterness and anxiety (length between text messages, for example) seem to dissipate against the broader narrative when we let them. 

Yet, Brooks fails to mention the extent to which this sort of stepping back is often outside one’s own power to just make it happen. He writes that those who examine themselves too closely can sometimes ”end up making themselves more depressed.” We need to be aware that this sort of self-destructive depression, brought again to the forefront of our consciousness by Robin Williams’ suicide, takes more than just a desire to change. We often need a lot of help in order to see ourselves.

-Callie F. and Tim