Loving Understanding, by Roberto Assagioli
Yet we must not be too severe with those who do not understand; we have to learn to understand them too. A thorough comprehension of another human being is far from easy; in fact it is often most difficult. Each individual is a complicated mixture of innumerable and diverse elements, coming from very different sources, existing at different levels, and which act and react on each other so as to constitute a new and unique combination. Moreover, not all the constituents of the individuals we try to understand, are visible, on the surface, so to speak; most of them are hidden deep down in unconscious levels, and we can only infer their existence from indirect or occasional manifestations. This is not all; such a combination is not static; all the time hew elements enter into it, while others fall off and others, still, change through their own organic process of development and transmutation, so that the being we try mentally to grasp changes, Proteus-like, under our astonished gaze.
Let us realize too that, apart from those special conditions, each person generally appears in the ordinary circumstances of life at his or her worst. It is the human to human personality which is obvious and outstanding, and not the inner man who is struggling to control it, or even may allow it to have its way in the small matters of daily routine. With the majority it is only in rare and special moments of stress, need, danger, or of aspirations and service that the inner being comes to the surface and temporarily manifests itself.
What we have been saying regarding others, is to a great extent true also in regard to ourselves. There is just as much necessity for a deep understanding which is no less difficult. If, in our own case, we have more elements and factors at our disposal, we are still more apt to judge in a partial and biased way. Generally, while we are inclined to judge unfavorably or harshly our fellow-men, we tend to be too indulgent with ourselves and to justify very ingeniously our own shortcomings and pet weaknesses. There is, however, a minority which errs in the opposite direction, being tormented by a sense of inferiority and self-depreciation which is too harsh and self-condemnatory. Others, still, spasmodically oscillate between these two extremes.