You are on page 1of 1

Levels of 'understanding' - or "do you REALLY understand"?

More and more often, i have found myself struggling with the semantics of "under
standing" and "overstanding".
Ever wonder why police, government officials, banking and mercantile agent to na
me a few always ask we "understand"?
People see understanding as synonymous with comprehension or awareness. As im su
re many of you know, but if one looks at how the word is formed, it can be demon
strated that "understand" can be broken down into the elements of "under" and "s
tand". Interestingly enough if we play with the syntax of these binary words, we
arrive at "stand-under", which has connotations of hierarchy. By Spelling (cast
ing a spell using written language) "understanding" this way it can be seen that
"understanding" could legitimately be interpreted as being synonymous with "sub
mission" as opposed to "awareness" or "comprehension".
Now lets examine where our "understanding" of the world comes from. ones world v
iew rises primarily from ones personal life experience and secondarily from the
experience of others. Observation shows that there are events, ideologies and me
mes that have not been in the scope of ones personal experience, yet are still i
n the scope of ones awareness however anecdotes of others experience. We may no
t agree with these things, but as we humans have the gift of empathy (to varying
dgrees) we can therefore have at least some idea of the others experience. This
is what colloquially we call "understanding" but really it is more a case of aw
areness of the others experience via empathy (which is far less convenient to us
Now lets look at the concept of "overstanding". Many people interpret "overstand
ing" as total awareness with respect of a particular subject. If we deconstruct
"overstanding" in a similar way to "understanding" we arrive at "stand-over" whi
ch has entirely different connotations. When one is "overstanding" of something
they have implicit "understanding" and seek to transfer this "understanding" ont
o someone else, thus gaining dominion over the other.
Now these concepts of awareness are problematic, as they are trapped within hier
archal power discourse. This can be reconciled by the idea of "innerstanding" wh
ich can be seen as "standing-(with)in". This comes from the idea of inner knowin
g, by basing ones understanding and awareness from insights of their own experie
nce and anecdotes of others experience that resonate from within. By the avoidan
ce of descending into the discourse of understanding and overstanding we maintai
n not only our integrity but also our sovereingity, as in this situation we unde
rstand nothing but what comes from within.