The puzzle of being

Image via pinterest

“I can usually work people out,” he mused. “What their underlying motives and reasons are, what is really behind how they are. Can’t do it with myself though. Doesn’t matter how much I look… I never know if I am operating from a need to do, or to justify, or to hide something from myself…” He continued exploring the various permutations of reasoning and instinct that lie behind all our choices and actions. I had to agree, it is far easier to feel we can get to the bottom of someone else’s behaviour than it is to be certain of the reasons behind our own.

We had been talking about the nature of reality to begin with; how we each create our own vision of the world and its denizens which, once fixed, is almost impossible to change. As far as people are concerned, we make judgements or assessments of their character that are true for us, even if they are actually wildly inaccurate. Once we have made up our minds about someone it is rare that we change them very much.

It is easy to say we should not judge… and it is true. We cannot really judge others, especially for their decisions because we never know all the circumstances. It is hard to condemn a particular choice if you don’t know what their options were in the first place. But we judge regardless, and we dress it up in other terms … and it is part of the path to understanding.

But why, he wondered, was it so much easier to understand the minds of others than to really understand ourselves? Two things came up. Firstly, of course, we seldom understand more than a fragment of another person. Unless we know them very, very well, we form our opinions and base our understanding only on the facet of personality which that person shows to us. Our understanding may be true… or completely erroneous… for as the old saying goes, ‘we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.’ However accurate our perception it is rarely more than fragmentary. We are not understanding a whole being, just the face that is turned towards us; the part of a person that impinges on our lives.

The second thought came directly from that one; the idea of a jigsaw puzzle. A child’s puzzle will have perhaps twelve pieces… very easy to piece them together to get the picture, even without reference to a guiding image. We are unlikely to get it wrong when working with so few pieces. Which equates nicely to how we form our understanding of others when we know only a fraction of all there is to know of them.

Tip a five thousand piece puzzle on the floor and it is a lot harder to work out where to begin, let alone to get the full picture to emerge… and if the picture that lies hidden consists largely of nice blue sky, then the task becomes even more onerous. We, of course, have all the pieces of ourselves to work with. Every scrap of memory, every thought and emotion, every interaction… and half of them probably look the same at first glance, as our lives are so full of habit and repetition. Add to that idea the realisation that there are many parts of ourselves we do not wish to see and it is as if we are trying to solve half the puzzle blindfolded.

When you look at it like that, it makes you realise what a monumental undertaking it is to accept the instruction that was carved above the portals of the temples of old…”Know Thyself.”

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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24 Responses to The puzzle of being

  1. I’m that guy in the picture. One big, unsolvable puzzle, and I’m highly suspicious of people who are more or less obsessed with “solving” me. It’s like the thing with the lizard. You don’t see it as much as you see a dog or a cat or a bird, so, when you see it, out of the corner of your eye suddenly coming towards you, you freak out. That’s what mystery people are, I guess. Lizards.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sue Vincent says:

      I’m more likely to grab a camera if I see a lizard 🙂
      I don’t really think anyone else can completely solve our puzzles until and unless we have solved them ourselves. And I’m not entirely sure we can do that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The puzzle of being – The Militant Negro™

  3. ‘we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.’
    How very true Sue. I love jigsaw puzzles and the satisfaction of putting in that final piece. But with a person, the picture is nearly always changing as attitudes and interpretations change. I guess we’re all one piece short of the whole, it’s what makes us human.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. jenanita01 says:

    Not sure we can ever really know ourselves, probably because we are constantly changing, upgrading…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. paulandruss says:

    Know thyself… must be the wisest words in the world Sue and one of the most difficult instructions to apply

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tric says:

    What a fabulous thought provoking post and how very true. I’m not sure yet how many pieces make up the me others see, but I don’t think I’ll ever know or complete the puzzle.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey, Frank, you’re NOT the guy in Sue’s Post! I’m the GUY! 🙂
    I agree with ‘pensitivity’ and ‘trie’. Good post, Sue. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Every time I think I’ve got it, it changes. It’s not just hard to know yourself. It’s also hard to pin yourself down so you CAN figure it out. We are creatures in perpetual motion.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. If we knew ourselves perfectly, we could probably make all right choices, which could be dull.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jennie says:

    The simplicity of understanding, coupled with the complexity of understanding raises as many questions as answers. Wonderful post, Sue!


  11. know thyself, very true. a very well written piece and a pleasure to read. ♥️


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