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The Real Second-Hander

    A real, unmitigated second-handler is one of those quasi-mystical animals you come across in the jungle of social interaction - and it's a very unsettling thing to see.

    Most people abstain from thinking in "lumps" of knowledge. They haven't given much thought to a particular subject, and think its only natural to adopt the views of someone who seems to know what they're talking about. I've done that with Physics for a long time, and I probably still do it with a bunch of other things - identifying and getting rid of this habit is one of the many steps to growing as a person.

    A few people, however, take this to the extreme. They abstain from thinking, not about specific subjects, but about the fundamental aspects of their existence: what they like, how they think, what is right in front of them and, ultimately, who they are.

    By consistently adopting others as their standard, people gradually lose their own personality, developing into something that resembles a person, but not quite. They're still able to have a conversation, but conversations become an exchange of symbols that validate or threaten the self-image they've absorbed beforehand, not an exchange of ideas between two thinking individuals. They can still physically see you, but they're only really grasping a projection of themselves.

    These people betray their condition in very subtle ways. Their eyes feel empty, because they are not really focusing on you. The timing of their responses is off, because they aren't responding to your ideas, but to your reaction to their reaction to what you've just said. They'll get considerably angry and distraught if you make a decision in front of them, or if you call them out on a lie - that contradicts their whole view of people as beings who chose what lies they live by. If you identify their core contradictions, you can even get them to do this weird thing where they stop making grammatical sense, because erasing language is the mind's last resort for erasing meaning.

    A true second-handler is the closest thing we have to a zombie outside books or movies. A very, very unsettling thing to see.

  -  February 7th, 2020