Humankind is an irrational, contradictory and endlessly inconsistent species.
Because of the complexity and unpredictability of our minds and the fact that most of our behavior is ruled by our subconscious depths, we act in very bizarre ways that often contradict what we feel deep down.
As something of a sociologist (of my own making), I have always been intrigued by not only the absurd behavior of others, but the paradoxical behavior that I also show that extends beyond the barriers of logic.
Perhaps one of the greatest realizations we can have in life is that everything is not as it seems on the surface, particularly people. So to be able to clearly see and appreciate the ambiguity and contradictory nature of everything around us gives us a much deeper understanding and appreciation of others.
Here are 5 interesting examples of paradox I’ve picked up on in human behavior. Remember that not all examples of paradox here are always true, only sometimes.
1. Aggressive self-confidence is a reflection of inner feelings of weakness and inferiority.
To overcompensate for feelings of powerlessness, people (often men) replace this with self-enforced self-confidence, aggression and dominating displays of behavior. Ironically, this often fools the person into believing (at least consciously) that they are an “alpha” male or female, despite their paradoxical unconscious fear of being a “weakling” or “small.” So when you meet a person who is constantly trying to “one-up” you, this is almost always a reflection of a deeper inferiority complex.
2. Sexual promiscuity is a reflection of inner feelings of ugliness and worthlessness.
Particularly in women, sleeping around or being “easy” is often portrayed as something befitting femme fatales, nymphomaniacs and “sluts.” However beyond that often lies feelings of immense insecurity, particularly in regards to body-image and self-esteem. Paradoxically, the more a person sleeps around the more desirable and therefore worthy (and simultaneously unworthy) they feel, escaping and at the same time returning back to those feelings of worthlessness.
3. The sweeter a person is, the more savage they are.
Although this is not always the case, the nicer a person is, the more shadow elements they are often repressing. Unless you are enlightened, it is often not the case that agreeable, easy-to-live-with people are complete saints. In fact, people-pleasers are often the angriest, depressed and anxious people around because they repress their less socially appealing elements into the shadow, and therefore become more internally savage and neurotic.
4. The quieter a person is, the louder they are.
The polarized personality temperaments of introversion and extroversion provide fascinating examples of paradox in human behavior. While extroverts are very vocal and socially gregarious, by themselves they are quiet, despondent and restless. Because their outer worlds are so flamboyant and busy, their inner worlds are often empty and “quiet.” Similarly, while introverts are very socially reserved and silent, internally their worlds are filled with vibrant thought, imagination and liveliness.
5. The funniest people are often the saddest people.
We think of funny people, particularly social clowns and professional comedians, as being innately happy and good-humored people. But strangely enough the funniest people are often the saddest people because humor is often used as a defense mechanism against darker emotions. Just look at Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Spike Milligan, Stephen Fry, Bill Hicks, Peter Sellers and many other comedians who have either killed themselves, suffered from depression, or other major mental illnesses. Aside from humor being used to mask deeper issues, comedians are usually immensely intelligent people who can easily see through the lies and illusions of society, using incisive wit to captivate their audiences revealing the nature of humanity’s true insanity.
These are only 5 examples of paradox that can be seen in mankind, but there are many others out there that I haven’t included in this article. It is humbling to realize that you can’t really take anything or anyone at face-value because often there are many deeper forces at work.
What examples of paradox in human behavior have you observed?
It’s always interesting to watch people and observe behaviours. Sometimes it can be surprising what you can discover just by being a quiet witness in different situations and not becoming too involved, as it can help in becoming familiar with different types of people.
Going back to the examples I really identify with #3 and #4.
I like the way youve listed these paradoxes! People don’t normally think about the deeper contradiction to the surface. I dont agree with the title though that ‘humans are the most illogical species on earth’, humans are considered unique in their capacity for logic, I can see the word ‘complex’ fitting more!
Another example of the comedian you’ve described is Jim Carey :)
Thanks for the post!
Easy going ness FOR laziness
Loudness FOR righteousness
Quietness FOR intelligence
Extrinsic love FOR intrinsic shortcomings
Good heartedness FOR conflict avoidance
Snottiness FOR shyness
And the list goes on
Great examples of paradoxical behaviour!
Very perceptive article. I agree with these assertions as I either experience them first hand or have observed them in people close to me. Thank you.
In the world I work in (Substance Abuse) the paradox is “you have to quit to win “
Thanks you for this well integrated peice — your first sentence sums up the human situation very well
no 5.reminds me of an extremely funny radio man who just sat quietly in the corner at a family party
I can tell you, by personal experience that you are spot on with #1 and #2. I am very introverted and love to be alone, so I can relate to that also. I can’t even imagine being extroverted and have to rely on other people for my happiness and feelings of worthiness. BTW, thank you for such interesting articles, I really enjoy your site.