I recently happened upon an interesting piece by Dr. Charles T. Tart over at the University of California. The article discusses the fear of ESP, but— ESP aside— contains remarkable insight into human nature.
In it, he discusses an interesting psychological theory called “social masking”. He explains it like this:
Briefly, the social masking theory recognizes the fact that our implicit social contract often calls for not really understanding other people.
It is as if we had contracted,
“I’ll support your illusions if you’ll support mine.”
By “illusions” I mean the incorrect perception of our true motivations and feelings because we attend to a more acceptable fantasy in order to avoid seeing unacceptable aspects of our true self.
Persons might consciously believe, for example, that they are sympathetic listeners, when they are actually driven by an unconscious, unacceptable fear of feeling inferior and being rejected: Thus identifying with the myth or illusion of being a sympathetic listener simultaneously avoids the unpleasant feelings of fear of rejection and subtly obligates others to accept the person because he or she acts like a sympathetic listener.