One of my earliest writing habits, and more consistent ones, has been writing eulogies. As a person given to reflecting (though usually after the fact), it is natural to reflect on something after it is done, to ponder on what went right, what went wrong, and what lessons can be learned. If there are patterns that continually reappear, it is worthwhile to examine those patterns as well to see if the root causes of those patterns can be discerned and if something can (or should) be done about them. I try not to obsess about mistakes and be overly self-critical, though these are natural tendencies, but rather I seek to focus on the overal picture of a situation and seek to put myself in the position of others and see how my own native personality (which has always been fairly set and which is not going to change) interacts with others in a given situation and what causes things to go well or go poorly.
It is hard for me to see myself as others see me in both good and bad ways. Developing a balanced perspective is a difficult matter, especially when seeing ourselves is in play, given that it is difficult to put our self-knowledge and our tendencies for self-deception in their proper place. Though I deeply care about people, my actions toward them are generally motivated internally and not for some kind of ulterior motive. That is to say, I am friendly with people because of my own nature, not out of any particular plans or ambitions. If my thinking is often directed to the long-term (a fact which others must remember), I am generally not the sort of person who plays short-term tactical games, but rather someone who takes advantage of such tactical opportunities as I recognize to pursue long-term goals and plans.
It is odd, considering the extent to which my own life has been shaped by intense fears (as well as longings), that I should be someone who should find others equally fearful of me. As many times as it happens, it never fails to come as somewhat of a shock that people should be afraid of me, or that they had any reason to be afraid, but being someone who knows fear rather intimately, I suppose it is not entirely unnatural that given my particular personality and inclinations that occasionally in personal interaction that others should be frightened based on their own experiences as well. Perhaps if I can become more skilled at managing the fear of others, not only recognizing it but being able to respond intelligently to it, I may better manage my own. Or perhaps better managing my own will help me to not only empathize better with others, but to respond in ways that help rather than exacerbate the situation (as my native tendency is to seek resolution through a conflict rather than away from it). Or perhaps gradual and incremental improvements in one will help the other in a sort of virtuous cycle.
One thing that is glaringly clear to me as I examine interpersonal difficulties is the extreme importance of open communication to me. While I am sensitive enough to others to recognize when something is wrong, and generous-hearted to openly admit when others have valid concerns, diplomatic intelligence is not a notable or natural skill I possess. Successful communication for me requires a great deal of openness because I feel the need to express clearly and openly what I am dealing with, and because I need people to be open and honest with me. While I enjoy playful hints, when it comes to serious matters (and I tend to take a lot of things seriously) I like to know what I am dealing with. I tend to seek workarounds for some of my own personal struggles through the acquisition of knowledge, which allows for more accurate behavior in the absence or weakness of the normal fences that most people have around their conduct and conversation. As with any sort of workaround, there are strengths and weaknesses, including the fact that I admit freely that I place a fair amount of demands on other people that some people may not be willing or able to meet.
As is often the case, I look at my life as a part of larger cultural and societal patterns as well. As much as we might like to segment or compartmentalize our lives, we are strongly influenced by our own personal and family history as well as our larger societal and cultural context. This is not to say that we are determined by outside influences, merely that they form the environment in which we make decisions and deal with the repercussions. Those repercussions, in turn, will shape our future responses and our own internal evaluations of ourselves, others, and our environment. Rather than seeing nature and nurture as always distinct, we need to examine the complicated interaction between the two to better understand the complications of ourselves and our situations. We are all creatures of habit–we all have patterns of behavior, some of them wonderful and productive, and some of them harmful and even self-destructive. At times we must all wrestle with these matters, whether we seek to understand others and view them more kindly and sympathetically or whether we wish to understand ourselves better and work accordingly.