Is Understanding Possible?

As individuals, we all want other people to understand us. We want our co-workers to understand us, we want our friends to understand us, and we want our life partner to understand us. Understanding is important.

And yet, to some extent that’s not even possible. Fundamentally, we are each different beings, with our own thought processes that govern what we say and do.

Even people who know each other extremely well don’t know everything about each other. They still have the capacity to surprise each other with something they say or do. Ultimately, that makes sense, because no person has the same experiences, the same background, and the same genetics as you do.

But it goes even further than that. Really, you can’t even understand yourself. We might be too obsessed with our failures, and not enough with our successes. We don’t accurately see ourselves and our place in the world — we’re too close. It’s often easier to see someone else’s problems than it is to see our own.

On the other hand, some people do manage to accurately evaluate their own lives. Some couples are in relationships where they seem to finish each others’ sentences. There are some savvy business people who seem to know what their customers want before the customers themselves do. Siblings, particularly twins, who grow up together have a bond that they don’t share with anyone else.

But even in those cases, they are ultimately alone. We are born alone, and we die alone. Insight into someone else is not the same thing as true understanding.

Or is it? Is understanding possible?

Related questions: How important is intuition? Why do we care what strangers think of us? How does creative expression help us to know ourselves better? Who is the most important person in your life?