Monday, March 15, 2010

Insight: Where Does It Come From?

The term "insightful" is defined, according to The Free Dictionary (2010), as having the ability to perceive or understand. A list of possible synonyms include perceptive, shrewd, discerning, understanding, wise, astute, and to rival Bill O'Reily, perspicacious. Insight, to me, works a little like empathy. Like empathy, you are not actually in the experience per se, but you have the ability to duplicate and know it as if you were.

I've been told I'm an "old soul," "thought-provoking,” “so experienced for being in-experienced," and yes, "insightful." I'm a little curious about it. How can someone who has no direct knowledge or experience with something know exactly what's going on beneath the surface? How can someone who is not someone else, understand their feelings, motivations and intricate delicacies.

Actors know the potential answers to these questions very well. There's character research, memory/emotion association, observation, interviewing those who have gone through a similar experience, the use of a little imagination, and the study of others in that same experience (whether vicariously or otherwise). Then again, one of my theatre profs, whom I remember fondly as a solid source of understanding, did say that performers are cast to play certain characters because their own personalities and essence are already half of that fictional being. They only really have to step up to create the second half of the illusion.

Those who have gone through any kind of major hardship or suffering in their lives know the answers to these questions as well. Anyone who has experienced poverty, abuse, abandonment, violence, extreme loss or extreme hardship seems to have a little more depth and perception than those who have not. One only has to watch a documentary film, such as Born into Brothels, to witness the incredible insight of those pre-pubescent children raised in India's red light district. You quickly realize that they have that insight as a result of the injustice, terror, and uncertainty that make up their lives.

Acquiring knowledge through reading, films, experiences, the traditional classroom or life's non-traditional lessons can, for some, result in gaining additional insight. Being born with the genetic traits of introversion, sensitivity or both, I suspect, means that you come into this world with the ability to either observe and interpret shrewdly or automatically feel and see other perspectives by transcending. Being in a minority or an oppressed demographic/psychographic category, whether by personality, sexual orientation, race, gender, disability, gender identity, religious/spiritual beliefs, or culture, also can lead to an ability to seek understanding of others. Ironically, I believe it is the injustice of being bullied and misunderstood, that you first begin to understand yourself and develop an unspoken code for coming to the aid of the underdog. That compassion spreads to being able to understand all of humanity, for we waste too much time noticing the visible differences that we ourselves have constructed that really only distract from the invisible commonalities that lie within all of us.

Insight. Where it truly comes from may be a mystery that never gets solved. I've dabbled in acting, I've experienced major trauma and suffering, lord knows I've read a lot of books, taken a lot of classes, seen a lot of films, met and talked to an eclectic mix of people, and was born with both introversion and high sensitivity. Still, anyone who has seen the picture taken of me shortly after my birth knows that the eyes of an "old soul" were already present on that very early Fall morning. Perhaps insight is another one of those innate talents, inherited from who we once were, so that who we are now can prepare others for who they will become.


  1. You're spot on with this post, darling. Happy I chanced upon your blog. Well said.

  2. Thank You for your encouraging words! Lovely "screenname" btw. I love the word "goddess."