We humans are a funny lot, to say the least. We know so much in so many areas of life that it is unnecessary to mention the high points. Yet, for all our spectacular accomplishments, our basic human nature, which is at the core of our existence and source of our experience in this world, seems to remain a mystery for most of us.
Unraveling some of human nature’s secrets would seem to be a priority for us to explore, wouldn’t you agree? Doesn’t it make sense to try and learn more about ourselves? Plato thought so when he said in Phaedrus: ‘I must first know myself, as the Delphian inscription says; to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still ignorant of my own self would be ridiculous.’ I have to believe that we are all somewhat guilty of this.
As a collective whole, we are so knowledgeable of our pop culture, celebrities and sports. This makes for nice casual conversation but does little to improve the true quality of our lives. The foundations of our self-image and our self-esteem are not strengthened by superficial, trivial pursuits.
Knowing yourself can surely help with some of the confusion and conflict in life. If we can understand how we react to life with our instinctual strengths and our weaknesses, we can gain more control over our actions and make better choices.
Why do we do the things we do and why do others do what they do? These are questions each of us have asked ourselves at one time or another. By not understanding our human nature, we are stuck in the mire of our instinctual reactions which ultimately leads to our problems based on our conflicting points of view. There is no choice for us when we allow ourselves to be controlled by them. Very simply, the main obstacle for beginning the journey of self-discovery is that our ego proclaims us to be the centre of the universe. It tells us that we are the centre of everything and are above scrutiny. When the ego is in charge it will tell us that we do not need any help nor do we need to change as we are perfect as we are.
The ego’s way is the right way and everyone else’s way is wrong. Knowing how the ego works and that most people in this world are run by their egos is extremely enlightening. One of the most important question one can ask themselves is if they are being too egotistical.
This ego mentality has to be overcome in order to better understand human nature. We cannot begin the process without stepping out from under the ego’s total control. Once the concept of being controlled by the ego is recognised, then everything in the world begins to have a different interpretation, including our assessment of others.
Self-observation brings man to the realisation of the necessity of self-change. And in observing himself a man notices that self-observation itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening.
– George Gurdjieff
Paradoxically, self-observation also means being true to your inner values that help to make you the unique individual you are. You were put here on earth for a reason. So is everyone else. Just because you are who you are doesn’t mean that other people have to be like you or see the world the same way you do. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It takes all kinds of people to make the world complete and we all are just a small piece of that whole.
With knowledge of yourself, maybe then you can begin to understand others and why they do what they do. Maybe you can then see that we all own just a small piece of the overall big picture as does everyone else. Human nature might not be so mysterious after all.
Scott Trettenero’s recent book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves, others and how the world works because of our differences. Scott has maintained a solo dental practice in Southwest Florida since 1981. His research on quality service in dentistry and his interest in human temperaments formed the basis for his first book, Unlocking the T-Code. He is married and has two children. You can follow him on Twitter @