The Dialogue of Differences

An osteopath and a psychoanalyst met in a bar. They shook hands, punched each other in the nose, and rushed out of the bar, swearing and spitting blood, never to see each other again. Afterward, the osteopath needed psychotherapy to deal with the episode, and the psychoanalyst went to see a chiropractor because his neck got out of whack during the fight.

Via The Daily Mail.

Via The Daily Mail.

Well, it probably didn’t happen exactly like that. Maybe they had a few drinks before the punch-out. It’s also possible that after the fight the psychoanalyst went to an osteopath rather than a chiropractor.

But that’s immaterial. The main thing is that people are very, very different one from the other. Different perspectives on life, different theories as to how things work, different priorities. Sometimes the differences mean war, sometimes fruitful dialogue. The one thing that never changes is the fact that people are different.

For the caricatural osteopath of our imagination, your health problems and your blockages in life come from your having fallen awkwardly on your ass when you were twelve years old. The coccyx, the third cervical vertebra, the mandible, the patella—you know. For the psychoanalyst, it’s perfectly obvious that, between your toilet training and your Oedipus Complex, you need seventeen years of psychoanalysis four times a week, cash only, and don’t you dare cancel an appointment, you sonofabitch. I’ll charge you double.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

We all have our priorities and perspectives. It’s like having an operating system for the brain, body, heart, and soul. Windows is different from Mac, and Windows 7 Starter Edition is different from Windows 10. Not only are psychoanalysis and osteopathy wildly divergent in theory and practice; no two psychoanalysts are exactly alike. In fact, two psychoanalysts met in a bar . . . and even before shaking hands, they already started killing each other. They couldn’t agree on the definition of “ego.”

It’s only logical, because one of the psychoanalysts was the Virgo son of a former spy from East Germany, and the other was the Sagittarius daughter of a one-legged tango-dancing dandy from Tennessee. There’s no way they could think alike.

Our operating systems are a mixture of intellectual and emotional bits, some conscious, some unconscious, some wholly individual to us, and some typical of our families or communities. Operating systems tend to be messy and incoherent. And they’re a mystery—to ourselves, and to the people who meet us.

I think it’s useful (1) to grasp that you have an operating system, (2) to grasp that you’re not totally aware of your own operating system, (3) to grasp that other people’s operating systems are different from yours, and (4) to grasp that you can’t make any assumptions about how other people think and feel. I mean, can you really put yourself in the shoes of a half-Serbian, half-Chinese Scorpio maverick psychoanalyst who fell awkwardly on his ass when he was twelve years old?

Lay ass-umptions aside, clear your mind and heart, and try to find out, little by little and by whatever creative means at your disposal, how the guy functions. Talk to him. Meet him in a bar. Google “half-Serbian half-Chinese” and see what comes up. War or dialogue? It’s your call. 

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