Balancing Optimism and Criticism
This episode reflections on the contemporary fear of honest self reflection, and its impact of public, social life.
Frank Kaufmann: Good morning. I'm doing a piece today on my Public Self it departs from my traditional manner of podcasts because usually I am working off of a text, or, or a speech or commentary from friends and teachers, but this time I want to just examine a set of issues in their own right, straight out of my own personal inspiration. What I want to look at is the dilemma or the paradox or the challenge we face in trying to chart the way best to be in the world vis a vis my own view of myself, and also how I am presenting myself to others. Most especially, not so much to try to manipulate or manage their impression of me. But what best I can give publicly, what best I can offer to the people with whom I encounter these two things are very closely related, my feelings about myself and my capacity to be a source of encouragement, inspiration, positive direction, helpful words, thoughts, advice and sentiments. They're very closely related. Now, much of what is traditionally put forward in terms of how we are encouraged to view ourselves, our designs and regimens that start with the assumption that negative views about ourselves, are debilitating and detrimental, meant to be overcome. We should never have those.
Strangely I differ from that perspective. I believe that negative views about myself that I myself hold about myself, are actually highly constructive. I think that probably, I've been able to correct, reform, build, strengthen and expand myself more on the basis of those things, in which I feel that I have shortcomings or things I need to overcome. More than, for those areas where I feel comfortable with my level of attainment, achievement, my discipline when I'm feeling good about myself. I don't know if that is really the basis or impulse or energy out of which my improvements arise and I'm not talking only about just self correction. I'm also talking about going from good to better, from better to better than that, to continue to rise, to continue to expand, to get smarter deeper better, kinder, more loving, more wealthy and so on. I personally think that it's luckily, that it's negative views about myself negative assessments about myself feelings of insufficiency feelings of frustrations. So, this impulse in this kind of cycle of psychology. Psychology dominated mentality that dominates our contemporary world, is basically, you should always feel good about yourself, you should always feel positive about yourself. If you have any kind of self doubts or, you know, people say don't beat yourself up, I agree with that don't beat yourself up. But this industry of making go away. Every bit of self doubt self incrimination self critique, I don't know how good that is making everybody. Honestly speaking, I have to say. But on the other hand, one really does want to shed unnecessary weight on unnecessary albatrosses, the weight hanging around our neck that keeps us stooped over that keeps us, lack of confidence that when we go. We'll start a project full of self doubt, Yes, for sure, this, this kind of negativity is detrimental and debilitating. So it's, to me it's a delicate balance, and where and how do we pick that energy, or that emphasis or that foundational feeling, how do we identify what has the greatest amount of integrity. Personally, I really don't want to be around people that are positive all the time and cheerful all the time and optimistic all the time. I really do not, It, it tends to disturb me, it strikes me as artificial and strikes me as out of touch. I would rather be with someone who over time. I come to feel is accurate. Yeah, that's what I prefer. I prefer someone who is accurate all the time, rather than positive all the time. So when things are going very well. I want to be around a person who's able to identify that to spot the beauty of that to expand it to define it to create songs and poetry and unfold that in ways that and angles and dimensions that I never dreamt of. I have a general feeling well, this is great, I'd love to be around. The poet and the writer and the speaker and the friend and the lover who shows me the 1000s of ways it is great, that's creative, that's accurate. And it's creative, but also if things are going badly if things, in fact are not good. Again, I'd rather be around, not the one who says look on the bright side or it's not that bad, or I'd rather be around the one who's accurate, who can describe things. Well, clearly, accurately, and do the same poetry. Because I think knowing clearly when things are problematic, that's what is going to get you out of it. If it's just a fog if it's just a mess of, especially if it's denied or what's the word Yeah, in being in denial, things, things are in a mess and you're saying, and you're calling them good, because you've read some posts or attended some seminar, which is against negative self feelings. I don't want to feel great about myself when I'm a wreck, or when I'm a drag or a bastard or lying or cheating or thieving or stealing or disingenuous or dishonest, claiming to know more than I do, or claiming to be more than I am, I don't want to feel good about myself, pretending I have capacities that I don't have. I would rather be accurate in the matter. And so, this to me is, it's a very fine line, because, basically, one of the things about this critique of self doubt or self critique self criticism. One of the things about that is that if I myself well we ourselves are drowning in this over judgmentalism of my own self. This comes out in my interpersonal relations, when I speak to others. I lacked the capacity to provide for them, encouragement, gratitude, praise when praise is too. I lack the capacity for that, because I don't have that energy going on inside of myself. So, yes, I want to be accurate, I want to be critical where critical is due, but I don't want to be incapable of being a person who is supportive helpful, encouraging for others, giving them more power to get out of difficult situations, or to expand and grow the positive their capacities, I wouldn't care if I wouldn't care if I'm talking to Steph Curry. I wish that what I would tell them would make them a better free throw shooter. Even though he bothers me. I'm sorry what fame did to him, but he was a good ballplayer, maybe still is I don't know but, but that's just an example, or I would rather you know I would rather I just don't have the examples I would rather have something I say make Mark Knopfler better guitarist, so I'm not talking about just being encouraging of people feel alienated or oppressed or down or doubting or some kind of struggle or or poor or down and out. Yeah, positive words just improve people's situations, but improving people’s situations is not merely the work of finding people who are woeful and down and struggling and victims of this are victims of that improving such people, situations are improved are improving them getting better, getting more. I'd rather you know tell Bill Gates, as a result of something I said if he gets richer if that's what he's up to. I can't quite tell what all these mega tech people are doing other than getting richer, I suppose, there may be some faint trace of belief that they're trying to make the world a better place. Surely their products are helpful but anyway, it's not their fault that they're zillionaires, they came up with something they made something good originally. Okay, that's a separate matter.
So this issue of how to be true and accurate, and still not only to myself about myself, but especially in public, because that's, that's where the record of my giving is manifest is in public. So what I, what I want to discuss in this podcast, or maybe you know maybe I'm just gonna stop there by delineating and advocating that accuracy and integrity are a finer, more courageous more constructive design for life, for self examination, and for public behavior, then the tendency of contemporary psychology, psychiatry and pop psychology. That is always trying to make us feel good about ourselves. I call it bollocks, I think, I don't think it's helpful, quite honestly, and I think a lot of the troubles we have in society, is this outsized and almost grotesque fear of having a fleeting moment in which I say Frank, you know, what the hell was that, what kind of behavior was that, and you keep doing this again and again, for what for why? Fix that. That's, that is not, that is not a burden that is not debilitating, that's inside of me. So I'm going to stop there because I want to keep it at a, at a relatively brief degree of commentary, and I had a very major set of designs on the foundations by which positive expression, and my optimism is based, and my critical and demanding side, that recognizes shortfall. When I see it when I am it and when I see it. And so how do we navigate this important balance. This is what I take up in the next podcast on this very same subject. Thanks a lot for listening. Look forward to be with you again soon.