“I think it was when I ran into Kerouac and Burroughs – when I was 17 – that I realized I was talking through an empty skull… I wasn’t thinking my own thoughts or saying my own thoughts.”
– Allen Ginsberg
“I can’t get it through your thick skull,” a character on a TV show says. What does it mean? Being a writer, I often listen for sayings and I wonder where they came from.
Have you ever talked with someone and you shared with her as clearly as you can, and when she responded, what she said had nothing to do with what you said?
Communication can be difficult when your head is full of your own thoughts. You are stuck in your own perspective and you can’t seem to find room for how anyone else sees the world.
What happens for all of us is we tend to defend ourselves by taking a stand on something. We see it our way, and close down our minds to other possibilities. In part, this can be a survival tool; to not become so sensitive to all that is happening around, and to just focus on our task. In relationship though, this can be frustrating and derisive. Have you ever heard two people sharing with each other and you could see both sides, but they could not see the others point at all?
I remember an old 1970’s TV episode of All in the Family, with Archie and Edith Bunker. In this episode, they were discussing politics. Archie was irate when he found out Edith had voted for the opposing candidate from Archie’s. All he could see was his vote didn’t count. She had cancelled it out. They went round and round and he could not understand her vote had nothing to do with his. He would never understand this of course.
We all have this tendency to “have a thick skull” at times. Being a reader, I love seeing the world from other people’s perspective, especially other cultures. How I am in close relationship, well, that may be a different story.
The goal of course is to try to see situations from the other person’s perspective. This can be done in the privacy of your own mind. You don’t have to give up your position. Once you do practice seeing the other point of view though, it becomes easier. You don’t have to agree with the opposing view, but being open to hearing it and understanding why one would see it that way helps strengthen relationship.
Since I mentioned liking to read books that take on a different perspective, I’ll share three of my favorites. Enjoy!
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese