|Ethics and Morality |
The Good Person
One of the key issues of human existence is the discrepancy between evaluating others and evaluating oneself. Humans evaluate and compete with each other in a continuous negotiation that involves strategy, criticism, conflict, and overt battles. The brain systems that evaluate others are not used in self-evaluation.
Humans tune into other humans and copy desirable statements and behaviors. The term “appropriate” suggests that language and behavior can be matched to suit the needs and standards of a specific group. Skillful humans learn to be appropriate in different social settings. Humans self regulate in social settings by observing others and adjusting their own behavior to be more congruent with the behavior of others. A constructive response to rejection is to change appearance with more care in grooming and costume selection; to learn behaviors and stories that are more acceptable to the group.
Since most humans cannot observe themselves in action, they cannot evaluate their own appearance, facial expression and behavior. It is easy to argue that humans, like other primates, are mostly interactive creatures, pre-occupied with what others are doing. Humans have little or no native cognitive ability for self-evaluation and limited ability for self-regulation. The result is constant negation and conflict among humans who judge the others harshly and have little or no insight into the effect of their own behavior on others. In the simplest analysis, humans tend to judge others with more skill, more detail and more critically than they judge themselves.
Each human peers out from a central illusion of a perfect self that must survive at all costs. This feature of the human mind is “innate narcissism” and is neither optional nor negotiable. The admission of error is difficult for most humans. The basis of this reluctance is practical; humans who make errors are criticized aggressively and may be demoted or dismissed from the group. The denial of errors is an innate defensive reflex. Denial of errors also manifests a real and important inability to accurately evaluate oneself.
A social group provides external regulation in the form of values, beliefs, approval, disapproval, criticism, and by insisting on standards of conduct. Self-evaluation largely consists of monitoring the effects of your own actions on others. Some humans are socially gifted and spontaneously adjust their behavior to receive desirable responses from others. Females tend to be more socially aware and skillful than males. Some humans are socially disabled and do not adjust their behavior even when they are repeatedly censured and punished.
The potential ability to self-evaluate with any accuracy and skill must be learned and practiced in a sustained and intelligent manner. There are terms that refer to narcissism such as “self esteem” or “self-image.” The proud person manifests narcissism in a more or less acceptable manner. The arrogant person is aggressively narcissistic. The empathic person recognizes the narcissism in others. The selfish person fails to recognize the narcissism in others. The shy person hides his or her narcissism. The idea of “low self-esteem” is flawed since it assumes that narcissism is optional and some people lack this feature, but this is rare.
Humans who fail to achieve the approval of the local group feel sad or angry, often both. Their narcissism is intact and their distress arises from the inability or reluctance of the local group to acknowledge their wonderful characteristics. The rejected ones will complain and may appear to value themselves less, but their distress emerges from a deep and narcissistic conviction that they should receive better treatment from the group. Humans who are rejected repeatedly develop aversions to hostile individuals or groups and places where rejection occurs. Their withdrawal and aversive behavior is often described as “low self-esteem.” There are many strategies available to achieve more approval, ranging from supplication, to self-improvement, to destructive aggression. If the group rejection is sustained, the oppressed member becomes “depressed” and expresses self-doubt; his or her withdrawal maintains the social peace. If, on the other hand, the oppressed member becomes angry, he or she will leave the group, seek allies and may return, seeking revenge, sometimes after many years.