a little east of reality

Monday, June 20, 2005

the iceberg principle in people

Today I accidentally happened upon a story someone wrote. It was in a notebook amongst much more mundane and unrelated facts. It took me a moment to realise what I was reading, but then it really captured my interest. I wanted to ask them about it, but I wasn't sure the person had intended for anyone else to read it. They may not have even realised they'd left the page in there.

What caught my attention was not the writing. In truth that wasn't perfect. But the ideas stood out from that. It was a story about someone trying to be true to themselves. It was also a story about love and how hard it can be to open ourselves up and take the risk of loving another person. The two things were combined as they described that point we sometimes reach where we know we like someone and we want them to like us in return. Just at the point where we most want to be truly ourselves, and be loved for that, is the same time we find ourselves changing to become what (we think) they want, hoping that somehow we'll be seen by them, impress them enough for them to want us. Even when we're with someone, it is sometimes easier to keep an emotional distance, or even to pull away and end it, rather than letting them really know us and take the risk of being rejected by them.

This brought to mind that part of Max Ehrmann's Desiderata where it says:
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story.
...not because this story was either dull or ignorant, but because it made me realise that all of us have a story - not just the poets, the authors, the songwriters, but all of us - have things we think and feel even when we find it difficult to express them.

What we see of an iceberg is only the 10% that sits above the surface. I think this principle works with people, too, either because people choose to keep themselves mostly submerged, or because we fail to recognise other people's depths. Probably it's a combination of the two. I know it was just a story, but I felt like I'd gained an insight into this person's mind, into some part of the 90% they keep below the surface, hidden out of sight.