On the (mis)attribution of idiosyncracies

People seem really eager to dismiss my idiosyncratic behaviors- specifically, those that differ drastically from their own behaviors- as merely symptoms or “excuses” for underlying neuroses and character defects.

Many of these encounters are disguised as general concern and a desire to understand, so they are difficult to point out on a one-on-one basis. The ones that are brazenly obvious, the not-so-disguised, cause me to look back and see the parallels to other, more insidious (and often not conscious) misguided misattributions.

It might come from a need to categorize (well, dichotomize) behaviors as either good or bad, normal or abnormal, active or reactive. It might come from the inability to see any hint of an existence outside the norm (their own) as anything other than wrong in some way- even if the behavior itself isn’t “wrong”, it’s the deviation from socialization that’s seen as “wrong”, and so the underlying cause must be “wrong”. It might be the inability to understand complexities within people other than oneself, particularly if those complexities challenge one’s idea of the finiteness of complexity.

It might actually come from the desire to understand, and when faced with not being able to understand, one negates as a way to maintain sanity and self-concept. (My personal favorite: “Everyone else I know who does this…” as though similar[ly-appearing] behaviors necessarily stem from similar sources.)

Whatever the reason, it’s really fucking getting on my nerves. Just stop it, all right? It’s perfectly natural to have such thoughts, but if you’re willing to validate them to yourself when forming your concept of me, at least have the decency to express humility and encourage dialogue by using “I” statements, rather than just telling me about myself as though you had some sort of authority. I’ll try to watch myself, too. Social psychology-for-laypeople is all well and good, but if you don’t have any concept of the fundamental attribution error, then it might behoove you to acknowledge and embrace your ignorance.


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