Editorial 7
April 4,2011

On Confusion

There isn’t anything that most people are more afraid of in public than the appearance of confusion. If people think you look lost or confused, someone is sure to ask if something is troubling you, or if you’re in need of help. This happens very quickly, although your strongest desire at that moment may be just to be left alone.

People develop a wide variety of disguises to cover their confusion in situations in which they may appear to be vulnerable. One common strategy is to throw the attribution of confusion onto someone else: “Unlike that odd character standing over there, I’m not at all confused!” Exaggerated over-confidence, avoidance or withdrawal, treating people who behave in a confused way as if they are mad, these are some of the familiar ways of covering one’s own confusion.

Yet in truth, not only is it normal, not abnormal, to be confused, but almost everyone is horribly confused almost all the time!

Together with loneliness, economic interests and fear, this permanent state of confusion is one of the things that most strongly unites the human race. As a way of gaining insight into those around me, both friends and strangers, I ask myself the question when looking at someone: “In what way is that person confused?” Insights open up of themselves.This must be done sympathetically, not with hostility. Everyone wants to be the center of attention, but no-one wants to be stared at. (Well: some people take it as a form of flattery, at least while on stage. )

It’s a profitable way of passing the time when waiting in line, or waiting for a bus, or when one is bored at a lecture, or strolling through the park. It is not without its dangers: some of the people you regard in this way may decide that they really want to come over and talk to you!

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