If you find yourself reading the other person’s mind. As in, thinking “I love American” means “white America” realize you’re not psychic. Those thoughts in your head? they’re yours. Examine why you want to believe this, and what purpose it’s serving FOR YOU. Because your mind is the only one you can read.
Sarah A. Hoyt
August 7, 2019
But Then That Must Mean
[H/T to Harvey.
You may think this is just some abstract or exaggerated “thing”. No. It is not. This strongly resonated with me because of personal experiences with people like this.
I have a true story to illustrate. There are many similar true stories but this is the one I tell most frequently:
Several years ago I received a phone call which went like this:
Caller: Can you pick up Sister 1 at the airport?
[Because of the circumstances it was conceivable it could be any one of five different airports. I needed to know a critical piece of information before answering.]
Joe: Which airport?
Caller: I think she is coming in this afternoon.
Joe: Which airport?
Caller: She usually flies on Delta.
[Yay! This actually eliminates one of the airports! Only three more to go. We are making progress.]
Joe: Which airport?
Caller: Can you bring her to the motel we are staying at?
Joe: Which airport?
Caller: She has done a lot of things for you, can’t you do this for her?
[I’m getting frustrated. I would be glad to do this if I can physically make it happen. I just need to determine some critical pieces of information. I almost yelled at my caller.]
Joe: Which airport?!!!
Caller to Sister 2 as she is terminating the call: We should find someone else to pick up Sister 1 because Joe can’t do it.
I’m now infuriated. Not only they wouldn’t answer my question, they are now telling Sister 2 I refused to help them out. I called back, eventually got the information, and agreed to pick up Sister 1 at a local airport.
I met Sister 1 at baggage claim. Wondering if I should get a cart for her bags I asked, “How many bags do you have?”
Sister 2: They’re green.
How does this relate to mind reading? It is because in further talks it came out my words were interpreted as meaning something completely different from what I said. In some cases when this would happen I would ask them to repeat my question back to me. They were completely unable to do it. I could repeat the question and even coach the words out of them, one by one, and five seconds later they would be unable to repeat a simple question such as the one above. Their brains were wired in some weird way that plain and simple words mapped into some completely different concept, perhaps completely unrelated to the speaker’s words and/or actions and the original words would be completely lost.
The original words could even be written down and they would be mapped into something different. In once written case I had them read the words out loud to me. They were able to do so. I asked, “How did you get from those words to your interpretation?” They agreed they were wrong. I hadn’t said what they thought I had said. They looked away from the words and, literally, in less than five seconds they were back to insisting their original interpretation was correct. We repeated the reading of the words and them agreeing I was correct. Again, within a few seconds, they reverted to their original, incorrect, interpretation. I gave up in extreme frustration after about three tries.
It turns out that the entire family did this. They would literally believe they knew you meant something completely different from what you said, no matter how many times and how many ways you said what you really meant. They would insist they “knew” what you really meant. They also believed I was the borderline crazy person because I didn’t know what they really meant when they presented me with highly ambiguous information. In their minds, I was somehow handicapped.
I grew to avoid participating in their family conversations because it was so bizarre. I made it a game to just listen and attempt to disambiguate the meanings of what they said. It was extremely challenging. When confronted with an ambiguity I would form one or more branches of the conversation in my mind and wait for more information to come in. As the additional information came in I could determine which one of the branches was the correct one. Or, at least, trim a branch or two off if it had many branches. And, of course, the branches grew branches. Usually some new bit of data would come in and “Poof!” all the extraneous branches would fall away and I would be caught up on the conversation again.
Keep in mind I doing this for each of two, three, or even four people when sometimes no two of them were on the same branch. It was tough work, but at least my brain was getting practice with logic puzzles. Most of the time the parties to the conversation were essentially in synch with each other. But perhaps a quarter of the time they would actually diverge and never resynchronize on their own. One of them could be talking about their dog making a mess on the kitchen floor and another other believed they were talking about a husband instead of a dog (true story). For a while I thought it was funny and didn’t bother to correct the mistakes. It just didn’t matter that much and I would get in a little bit of trouble for being so nitpicky about details. So, why bother?
Sometimes a day or so later I would hear a mention of the previous conversation with a serious misunderstanding and consequences of what was said. I would inform them that they misunderstood what the other person said. I would explain that I too momentarily went down that same branch but then realized that wasn’t what they really meant. Frequently, I wouldn’t be believed. They KNEW what the other person meant. If the truth was important I insisted they call and verify their understanding of the original conversation. I was always right and the person who “KNEW” couldn’t really understand how I really knew.
Once, in extreme frustration at being repeatedly misunderstood on an important point I demanded and received an answer which explained this bizarre behavior. After being told they KNEW what I really meant despite my repeated attempts to explain I meant something completely different from what they clearly believed I asked one of them, “How do you determine truth from falsity?” The answer was like a stoichiometric mixture of oxygen and gasoline vaper onto a lite match, “It depends on how I feel.”
I blew up. How is it even possible to have a conversation with someone like this? We live in almost completely disjoint realities.
It gets worse.
One time there were three of them talking and I was doing my usual branching and pruning when a new bit of information came in that caused all the branches to disappear in great ball of fire in my head. No one else seemed to notice. I had to interrupt.
“Wait, wait, wait! I don’t understand. A little bit ago you said, ‘[data point A]’. Just now you said, ‘[data point B]’. Both can’t be true and nothing you have been saying makes sense.”
The answer was, “Oh Joe, it doesn’t matter. We are just talking.”
I went slack jawed and the other two family members laughed. They then all continued as if nothing of significance had occurred.
In the span of a minute or less the same person said two things which were completely and totally, contradictory. Not only did they brush it off as irrelevant, they and other parties to the conversation thought it was obvious that I was just being silly for trying to make sense of it. I slunk off into a corner and took a nap. There was nothing further of value to be gained from listening to these people make sounds at each other.
Years later, reading about personality disorders, I discovered that it is characteristic of certain disorders for people to believe they can read other people’s minds.
They might not explicitly say it because they know it will not be well received. They may not believe they can determine the explicit thoughts. But they will “know” the gist of what the other person thinks regardless of what the other person says and does. They can create an entire, frequently conspiratory, narrative which “explains” the contradictory evidence such that what they “know” to be true is not shown to be false. Paranoid people are perhaps the best known example although they are far from the only ones.
This is also particularly easy to see with many of the present day claims of racism. A statement with no mention of race will be claimed as clear and convincing evidence of racism. The political left will go absolutely bonkers about the white supremist, etc. when there is no evidence to support these claims. And, frequently, there is contradictory evidence. These people have mental problems and should be treated as such.
I think a good case can be made that, as many others have said in one way or another, “Liberalism is a mental disorder.”—Joe]