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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Self-Aware and Self-Conscious

There are many pairs of words that ostensibly mean the same thing, with only subtle distinctions of connotation and emphasis. A friend of mine pointed out one such pair yesterday: compliant and complicit. If we comply with a law that we know to be wrong, does that not make us complicit? If we work with enemy does that not make us collaborators?

Another such pair of words is self-aware and self-conscious. The one is seen as a big cognitive achievement, and the other as a psychological problem. Knowing about yourself as apart from others is good. Thinking about yourself and how you look to others, rather than being in the moment, can be a problem. But how can you be self-conscious unless you are self-aware? And if you are self-aware, how do you avoid being self-conscious?.

Bow getting ready to display at the mowers

Bow is definitely self-aware. This makes him self-conscious sometimes. Yesterday, the mowers came to finish the job they had started the day before. They had gotten rained out in the middle of mowing. Bow was anxious to go outside to display at them. But at the same time, he seemed to be  very concerned that I watch him, looking over his shoulder to make sure.

Bow looking back at me to make sure I am watching
I had gone back inside, when Bow summoned with the sound he makes when he wants to come back in, but he did not want to come in. Instead he began his display again, at the mowers, but could not help but stop in the middle to look back at me to see if I was filming.

"Yes, I am filming you," I told him. And he turned back to continue his display, but a lot of the oomph  had gone out of it! If you are too self-conscious then sometimes things that just come naturally don't come out as they should. It's like a sneeze interrupted.

This is a problem that flowers don't seem to have. They just go about the business of blooming regardless of who is looking on.

Because they are not self-aware, the flowers cannot possibly be self-conscious.

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