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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 04-Sep-09


Friday 04-September-09

The British Eccentric

Whilst eccentricity is common in many forms around the world, many people think about the British when the word is mentioned. But what is the British Eccentric? First, it is about being British. To be British (more specifically, English), is not to have been conquered for 1000 years. It also is about having beaten up other European countries for centuries and amassing a global empire not seen before or since.

With this cultural background, the British-Eccentric is quietly and supremely confident. They have nothing to prove and nothing they want to gain. They do not seek the desperate approval of others, who they know (and have proven in countless battles) are inferior. Importantly, to be a British eccentric is not to look down on others. The Britishness is so ingrained they do not consciously think about superiority in either direction. This leads them not to need others? approval and not to mind about their disapproval, so opening the gates to individual expression.

The British Eccentric is a self-contained unit, bolstered by history and happy to explore and express their inner selves, which they find fascinating and, often, amusing. Their inner child is not quashed but partakes merrily in the fun. Where they do interact with others, the reactions of people to their eccentricity is both a subject of fascination and a mark of the person: those who accept them are in turn accepted. Those who reject the eccentric are quietly ignored.

Many eccentrics live relatively 'normal' lives and can pass themselves off without notice when they so choose. They also tend to have interesting hobbies -- often several of them, which they pursue with a passion. When I tell people how much I read and write, many are surprised, though I consider the whole thing very enjoyable. When I dress slightly differently, like wearing a tweed cap in London or a zoot suit in Skipton, I find the whole psychology of how people see and interact with me as quite fascinating. I also find myself quite curious. Whilst I have a normal job and normal friends, I have never sought to be at the centre of groups, preferring instead the independence afforded by existing more at the periphery. One of the benefits is that it allows me to be more creative, a subject I have written quite a lot about.

A useful benefit about being slightly eccentric when changing minds is that people aren't quite sure about you, so they loosen the rules for you, allowing you greater social leeway. It also means they will pay more attention to you because they are not quite sure what you might do next. Too eccentric, of course, and they will fight or flight, so it needs to be a careful game. I do not seek to scare people -- all I want is for them to listen and think and, if they want, think a bit differently about things.

Of course there are degrees of eccentricity and some live further out on the fringes. Which is just fine, because they are likely happier than most of us and generally do no harm to others. The aristocracy is known for its eccentrics, some of whom are described here. Being rich can help in that it allows one to indulge in obsessions and often forbids direct criticism or getting locked up. Those who are not so fortunate are sometimes called weird, a term that means 'not like me and as good as me'. But if they can withstand such labelling, they too can be happy in their individuality.

See more about eccentrics here. It's the site of the London Eccentrics Club, of which, perhaps unsurprisingly, I happen to be a member.

Your comments

Very interesting- hopefully people don t go out of their way, just to be eccentric, when they are in the club.

-- Michael

Dave replies:
There are many reasons for eccentricity and some people do exaggerate themselves some when they are in the club. But you know it doesn't really matter as a core part of the club is to accept people as they are. In an atmosphere of gentle acceptance, everyone eventually relaxes and you get to meet the inner person, which is often most refreshing for all.

Jane tells you Sarah is eccentric. You know nothing about Sarah, you only know what Jane thinks of Sarah. I think to see anyone as eccentric is only a mark of social conditioning at work, an inter quest to find out who I am in relation to others. A comparison aimed to establish myself as 'OK' or 'not OK'. Being open to not knowing who is 'normal' or 'not normal', including yourself, makes the world a really beautiful place and life a real adventure. But then again, I have been told I am eccentric, so what the hell would i know... or care! :0) Great Site!

-- Pema

Dave replies:
You're right, Pema. Calling people 'eccentric' does not make them so. It is but a device to say 'I am not like you'. And because I have to feel good about myself, you must therefore be inferior to me. What many miss is that eccentrics don't care. They have conquered the desire that rules the lives of most other people: the desire to be admired by others.


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