By Thomas G. Plummer

BYU TODAY September 1989


“S.I. Hayakawa describes symptoms of the Ophelia Syndrome in his essay, “What Does It Mean to Be Creative?”:

Most people don’t know the answer to the question, “How are you? How do you feel?” The reason why they don’t know is that they are so busy feeling what they are supposed feel, thinking what they are supposed to think, that they never get down to examining their own deepest feelings. “How did you like the play?” “0h, it was a fine play. It was well reviewed in The New Yorker.” With authority figures like drama critics and book reviewers and teachers and professors telling us what to think and how to feel, many of us are busy playing roles, fulfilling other people’s expectations. As Republicans, we think what other Republicans think. As Catholics, we think what other Catholics think. And so on. Not many of us ask ourselves, “How do I feel? What do I think?” – and wait for an answer. (S.I. Hayakawa, “What Does It Mean to Be Creative?,” Through the Communication Barrier. ed. Arthur Chandler [New York: Harper & Row, 1979], 104-105)

Charles Schulz characterized the Ophelia Syndrome more succinctly in this “Peanuts” cartoon: (Charlie Brown’s little sister says: “We’ve been reading poems in school, but I never understand any of them.. How am I supposed to know which poems to like?” Charlie Brown answers: “Somebody tells you.”)

Psychologist Carl Jung describes this dependence on others for one’s thoughts in the context of his discussion of “individuation.” Individuation is the process of learning to differentiate oneself from others. It is a psychological “growing up.” It means to discover those aspects of the self that distinguish one person from another. Failure to achieve individuation leaves people dependent on other, stronger personalities for their identity. They fail to understand their uniqueness. (Carl G. Jung, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious [New York: Pantheon Books, 1959])

I have a friend who is fond of saying, “If we both think the same way, one of us is unnecessary…”

For the entire article, go here:


Posted on June 13, 2009, in Technology. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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