One of the Worst Ways People Still Deceive Themselves

chicagotj.org people deceive themselves


One of my all-time favorite movies is Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind. In this movie, Russell Crowe plays brilliant but mentally-ill scientist John Nash, who suffers from intense hallucinations. These hallucinations manifest as different individuals that only Crowe’s character can see and speak to, such as a college classmate, the classmate’s adolescent niece, and a covert U.S. agent. Subtle foreshadowing is presented through movie indicating that these individuals are not real, and to me the most poignant of these clues is a scene where the niece is running through a field of pigeons.

I commute daily to downtown Chicago, where there are quite possibly hundreds of pigeons living among the buildings, train stations and stores. These pigeons are easily agitated, even though they are accustomed to the noise of a bustling metropolitan area. Observe a group of seagulls at a beach or a flock of geese at a park. The results are always the same: introduce disruption and the birds will take notice and take flight.

The pigeons in this scene of the movie remain where they are standing, not even attempting to move out of the little girl’s path. The pigeons didn’t react to the girls’ presence because the girl wasn’t really there. 

If they care, they will show it. If we mean something to another person, they will show it.

When interesting things happen in your life, or you share something significant about yourself, anyone who is interested or cares will display that care or interest in some manner. If you are truly running through a field of pigeons, they will notice and they will react. That reaction could be:

Critical: Really? That’s not so great. 

Delayed: I’m sorry, I’m a bit busy at the moment, but I’d love to talk about this when I have more time.

Amazement: Oh wow! That’s fantastic! 

Inquisitive: Fascinating! I’d love to hear more about this. 

Either way, there should be some sort of reaction. If there is no reaction, (good, bad or ugly), it may indicate that they are not interested in knowing you or interacting with you in a socially-meaningful way. These people are pigeons in your sphere of influence, and they regard you as a non-existent person. Run all you want, they won’t take flight or even flap a single wing of interest in your life.

To them, the things that matter to you don’t exist as interesting or meaningful things. I recall telling two “friends” about my plans to attend Law School. Law school is a big deal in most regards, and to people who are interested in knowing and interacting with us in a meaningful way, the news of Law School ought to at least invoke some questions, or eager high-fiving. Both of these individuals continued right on talking about something else, as if I hadn’t said a single word.

Let that sink in.

You may say, “Well, please try and understand…that person was really busy, and I shouldn’t expect that person to stop and listen”. I’m not saying that everyone should stop what they are doing and listen intently to everything you have to say, when you happen to say it. No one is obligated to care, or take interest in anything that has to do with anybody else. I am saying that anyone who is genuinely interested in you and desires to interact with you in a meaningful way, will stop and listen eventually. 

Inhale a few particles of pepper and then try your hardest to not to sneeze. Go on…I’ll wait. Losing that battle, are we? You can delay it, but eventually you will expel those particles (eww…get a tissue, will you?). Those particles had a presence that you were compelled to acknowledge, and so it is with those who care about us and take interest in us.

When a person presents aloofness towards something significant about you, it may indicate that the person does not regard you as someone important or meaningful. If they care, they will show it. If we mean something to another person, they will show it. Stop making excuses for the disinterest of others.

So what can you do about people like this in your life?

1.Be honest and as objective as possible with yourself, about the situation and about this person. Take some time to consider all the facts regarding their behavior, and yours. Do you make it difficult somehow for people to show interest in you? The fault may lie with them or with you (or both). Either way, take the time if needed, and snap out of your fog.

  1. Be direct and honest with this person. Explain what you have observed regarding their behavior, and respectfully present your resolution not to accept this behavior, if they wish to be a member of your circle.  Also, be fair with this person. Weigh all their actions and words. People show interest in different ways.

Has the person-in-question been showing interest in your life, but perhaps you failed to notice, because that interest wasn’t shown in the way that you wanted it to be shown?

  1. If they listen, reflect, and apologize, accept it at face value. Resist the temptation to hold anger or grudges. However people treat us, it is exactly how we have taught them to treat us. If you find that you were misreading them, be bold and apologize yourself. Explain the thought process and the things you’ve been learning from this book. Be transparent and be ready to both receive and ask for forgiveness.

How about you? Any experiences with people like this? Talk about it in the comments.