I was snuffling at my next session with my 200 dollar per hour headshrinker. He asked me why I was making the respiratory noises and I lied. I told him I had a cold, but I was really about to cry. He handed me a tissue (for which I wondered if there would be an extra charge) and I admitted to being in distress because of what he’d said about my not going to Tokyo in 2020 (ping pong and the Olympics). He then began to feature his empathy – completely phony – but I listened to his attempt at compassion anyhow. He said, “I’m sorry, really I’m sorry, but you can’t compete at that level. You’re a club player – that’s what you are. And you’re using an antiquated racket. And you’re old. I’m sorry, Lao Du, but you’re not going to the Olympics.” And then he must have remembered Dunning/Kruger, because his tone changed and he told me straight out that I was blissfully unaware of my own incompetence. (How’s that for building up my confidence!) He softened it by saying it wasn’t only me. “People are too dumb to know how dumb they are. You can have an Einsteinian IQ and still be a pudding head,” he said.
“You mean I can be smart and still play a dumb brand of ping pong?” I asked.
“Exactly,” he said. “I think you’re catching on. People lacking social, intellectual and other skills in daily living – including ping pong, as an example, Lao Du – inflate or exaggerate their competence in these skills. They are living in the Land of Illusions and Faulty Perceptions. They misinterpret what is objective reality. As far as the ping pong is concerned, most players falsely think they’re much better than they really are. There’s that narcissistic flavor with a dollop of arrogance blended in for that full measure of their real ping pong inadequacies. Are you following me?”
“Yeah, I guess so, I said. “But I still don’t see why I can’t beat that guy.”
“Well,” he said, “It’s not just your inability to self-examine. You see, it extends to your inability to evaluate the competence of your competitor. The majority engaged in playing ping pong don’t know what’s going on.”
Ahh! So, there it was, all laid out for me. Only my shrink and Marvin Gaye apparently know ‘what’s goin’ on.’ “Just about all of us play automatically – the same way each time – by rote,” my scholarly sage said. “We don’t observe, we’re not attentive, we’re not aware. Most of us are clueless, minds adrift. Ping pong players get angry and frustrated. They play dumb. Do they take note of their own and their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses? No, not too often,” he said.
My gosh! So what’s the answer to all of this, the bottom line. How does this information help us? I’ll tell ya, I’m not really sure (and I don’t see my psychiatrist for another 3 days). Look, I’m sorry, Bunkey, but I just don’t have all the answers for you yet, but I think I’m beginning to get the main idea from my psychiatrist, which is this: Incompetent people (i.e., those who disagree with me) think they’re right most of the time. And incompetent people – if they remain incompetent (and continue to disagree with me) – cannot fix their mistakes. Ignorance fosters more ignorance. (Confucious supposedly said: “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”)
After careful consideration, I came up with a few ideas, though. It may work for a few people out there. Suppose you just can’t win, and now you finally realize (thank you David Dunning and Justin Kruger) that your own incompetence has led to the faulty conclusion that you thought you were much better than you actually are, which has lead in turn to a state of uncertainty as to what to do about it. The way I see it, besides going to a shrink, there are two choices to curb your ping pong egotism (i.e., to get you to realize that you’re not as good as you think, and to finally understand that pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins): 1: Stop playing Ping Pong – your aggravation and mental distress will end, and you won’t have to spend any more money on equipment and club fees, OR, door number 2: For penance, examine your conscience and say two Our Father’s and three Hail Mary’s. If you’re not Catholic, try fessin’ up and get absolution from your local ping pong shaman. (I can get you hooked up for a very small fee.) Lao Du