The Weakness of My Strengths

I was recently trying to list out traits that I identify with at my core. Here’s how I see myself:

An empath: In most interactions, I’m trying to put myself in the other person’s shoes. This usually translates into thinking about the other person’s motivations, goals, and insecurities, in nearly every interaction of mine. This is a cognitive exercise for me.

Adventurous spirit: I love to set out and explore. I like to meet new people. Uncomfortable situations don’t usually faze me. I like learning, and am happy to discover that what I thought I knew may not always be correct. The Black Swan does not shock me; it’s an exciting discovery!

Problem-solver: When something doesn’t fit my mental model of how things should work, I step back and wonder why it might be the way it is. How can things change or adapt? How can I be part of the solution? And some other times, do I care enough about this problem – is this a battle I want to choose and participate in?

Community-builder: Communities are hard to build. A community is not a cult, and is not a congregation of yes-men. However, the community must have certain ideas, values, and beliefs in common- there must be a culture to bind it together. After all, the strength of the wolf is in the pack, and the strength of the pack is in the wolf.

When I shared these ideas of myself with a mentor, he pointed out that I certainly score high on openness to experience in his view. However, there are of course, certain pitfalls of being so.

Here are some that stood out to me upon a little reflection:

  1. Sometimes, I display a trait that I would describe as a marriage between gullibility and a sense of entitlement. I find myself thinking that others will be as candid with me as I am with them, especially during periods of tension, I expect it; nay, demand it!
  2. I have certainly learned to be tactful the hard way. I am rather desperate to be myself with everyone I meet. I crave to be brutally authentic with everyone and in every situation. However, I have learnt to see the merit in reading a situation, and responding accordingly. Tact has not yet become my second nature, so my go-to response is to request time before I’m expected to respond.
  3. I identify with the wolf as my spirit animal. Any quote about the wolf and its ways gets me fascinated. Here’s another one: throw me to the wolves and I’ll come back leading the pack. This comes from an intense desire to not just survive, but thrive. But many a time, this comes off a serious sense of detachment – it might seem like I don’t care. Yes, I don’t care enough to dwell on certain things, but some others might connect with it deeply – and they perhaps see me as non-committed in some of those situations.

However, I see myself learning to use my strengths to balance the other out. At some point, I might have a strong sense of wanderlust that makes me want to take off. But, empathy will probably help me gauge if my actions might be coming at a time when someone needs my presence the most. Hard decisions might need to be taken, but I’ll save that for when I reach the bridge.

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Of skirmishes, battles, and wars.

I used to think that the tendency to accept a challenge as soon as it is thrown our way, is the ability to be brave in the face of a ‘fight-or-flight’ situation. People who avoided confrontations, I assumed, were weak in some way. They were unable to imagine a world where love could exist despite vocal spats and outright disagreement. I supposed that they were hiding the way the felt and were too afraid of voicing their opinions because they expected retaliation, severance of relationship, or a thwart. Or that they felt limited in their abilities so as to form coherent arguments.

It took me a while, but eventually I became conscious of this behavior and thought pattern that I had internalized. Every argument had to be countered, every challenge had to be taken up and the challenger was to be proven wrong, my way or the high way – that is an exhausting disposition to take on. I had invested my energies in a relationship with the entire world, so much so that I avoided intimate relationships altogether, fearing what it might be like to have a single person draw you out all the time, while knowing your darkest fears, deepest secrets, and the insecurities that made you frail.

What a worldview I held onto! And I never realized the reason for my exhaustion until someone pointed out to me that there was a reason why there were certain traditional institutions in society, such as the family; why there were layers to associating with friends- your confidantes, friends, acquaintances; why people had intimate relationships, guarded their privacy, and were apprehensive with trust. These were people’s boundaries; it is how they maintained their sanity, and remained functional in a heavily populated, complex world that is constantly changing at a pace like never before. All of us as reacting profusely to each other, creating circumstances that are spiraling out into incomprehensible chaos when absorbed solely as a big picture. Presented that way, it might seem like it was a big, bad world with people hating on each other, instead of them battling and projecting out their own inner demons, as shunning change and enforcing barriers, when they are simply clinging onto what remains of their sense of identity!

I finally understood what it meant to pick your own battles, and what requires one to buy peace under certain circumstances. A new world view that was not normative, but realistic- could it be that I was wrong thus far?

Goals for my 20s: Suaveness and Expertise.

Interpretation: The oversized teddy bear, symbolizes the psyche of a child, slowly approaching adolescence, which is marked by rebellion due to the sudden imposition of harsh, but distilled realities, with little understanding of the world, and therefore feeling radically misunderstood.

Reading opinionated commentary is my favourite past time. I couple it with an inner soliloquy that constantly challenges the assumptions made by the author. The latter has reared its head only of late- say over the past 2 years, when I realized and was told by a mentor that my worldview was not aligned with several precepts of reality. Not that I was not aware of it; I had been called eccentric, different, not-run-off-the-mill and several other adjectives, which did not quite help me understand why I stood apart, instead lending a shade of alienation to such remarks. If others were thinking that my being ‘distinguished’ from them in this seemingly-arcane manner was pleasing my ego, far from it. I was constantly racking my brains as to what made me different, so as to be able to take charge of this energy instead of letting it run amok in my subconscious and force others to project themselves onto my personality.

So lately, while I read sensationalized feminist opinions, such as 12yo Madison Kimrey’s scathing letter-cum-sermon to Phyllis Schlafly on feminism (whose ideology I’m simply going to assume to belong to the same school as Ann Coulter’s, because I have only so much time in the world) or an acquaintance opining about the dogma of patriarchal wedding tradition, I simply remind myself that these people are young, much like I am right now, and perhaps even like how I was before these two years during which I put every idea and notion under the radar of enquiry, and questioned every assumption based on which I conducted my life.

The youth’s voice draws its power in its ability to enchant. It reminds you of the thoughts and ideas that occurred to you when you were unbound by the very real limitations that run the world. Dogma, capital (or the lack thereof), favoritism, cliques, the triple threat of duty-responsibility-priority, etc seem like structures and systems that are waiting to be rebelled against, seeming, as they do, to be perpetuating slavery of some kind. However, much of dissent comes from limited understanding of the complexity of circumstances which gave birth to the system, and the variables that fed its tentacles leading to its monstrosity.Quite a bit like haters, don’t you think?

But, it is fairly evident in the world of debate and logic that when we try to counter dogma with dogma, we simply end up in a world held together by the reins of fear and shame. Lest you misinterpret, I am not writing in favour of being well-adjusted. I don’t care for being well-adjusted. I don’t care to fall in line just because I was told to do so. However, I have learnt (and hope to habituate) that if I were to ask a question, I had best phrase it without undermining another’s authority (else, it becomes rhetorical, and therefore narcissistic). This helped me put a stop to my self-sabotaging ways, a.k.a. rebelling without a cause. Instead, here’s a new way of expression that I propagate- that of hacking the system, which comes from expertise and suaveness, and I wonder if anybody would disagree with me when I say that there is all kinds of dearth of suave people.

Tricking myself into a God Complex

As we grow older, we seem to tend to confuse the different dimensions in which we experience life. We seem to assume that the more years we have seen, the more experience we have in dealing with people. We seem to forget that it only means that we have, perhaps, only been dealing with the same people over and over. We seem to forget that these people do not make the world. We seem to tend toward a narrow point of view.

We seem to consolidate our emotions and represent them collectively as our personality, believing that these are unchangeable. Believing our interpretations to be objective. Seemingly wallowing in a self-assumed God complex, but remaining in denial.

I am of the opinion that you only grow old, when you stop being curious. Several seem to share that view, and it is oft-repeated in self-help/growth books. I found myself wondering why, today. Perhaps, it is because we stop registering the world through our semantic memory system, which is arguably the only ‘objective’ view, and start interpreting the world through our ‘episodic memory system’, which views every moment as a collective experience, calling into the experiences of the past as well. For instance, as babies, we view the world through our semantic memory. The curtain blowing in the wind does not automatically mean a storm is coming. It does however, mean that the curtain moves out of its normal position and seems to flutter momentarily while being held in place by a rod at the top.

That’s when curiosity is aroused- the curiosity to ask, why does the curtain blow only sometimes, while remaining at rest, otherwise? That leaves us with several options. Perhaps, it is the wind? Perhaps, the curtain is designed to be that way? If so, what could be the purpose of such a design? Perhaps somebody is doing that on purpose to entertain the baby? Jumping to a conclusion is relying on past ‘experience’, and relating the occurrence to larger, probably physically inconceivable, whole. It is the proverbial leap that does not necessarily follow a ‘look’.

Similarly, why does a friend suddenly lose his temper with you? ‘It is because he hates you too’, screams the episodic memory, which has consolidated all your experiences with an abusive loved one during childhood into one marathon-like episode, and is now projecting a similar image onto every other person you meet, even outside of that environment during other times of your life. Perhaps, it is because your friend is having a bad day. Maybe, your friend has been trying to tell you something. Chances are that your friend trusts you most with his emotions and felt comfortable enough to vent.

Therefore, it is important to broaden your worldview. Talk to more people. Visit more places. Widen your perspective to accommodate the possibility that you could be wrong. Know that you are not omnipresent, and that you have only known the world from your point of view. A point of view that is constrained by space (length, breadth, and height) and time. The latter stored in the memory, which admittedly fades. The interpretation could have lent to a viewpoint, which could have formed at a point in time when poor judgment could have been exercised by yourself or the various parties involved in the ‘episode’, which cannot be viewed in isolation, because time moves in a linear motion. There aren’t isolated blocks of time periods. In fact, the present is, in effect, an effect of the past. However, the present does have the power to influence the future. The past cannot be changed, but the present can, perhaps, be lived more consciously and deliberately so as to avoid repeating the mistakes that have reaped the moment at hand.

While grasping the above, I realize that there perhaps IS an objective reality. An absolute truth. What that may be, is irrelevant for the moment, because to seek it, it is first important to seek in myself, the ability to respect and understand each and every other point of view which exists parallel to my own. These are the alternate universes. The worlds of as many as there are people around me. In that lies the realization that although reality itself may be objective, the ignorance of it does not invalidate the point of view of a person, who is seemingly, beyond his control, facing constraints that hinder his view of it. So, beginning to objectively view reality is acknowledging that there are several facets to the stories spun about it. Fairly simple, and taught to children, yet in time, we muddle it all up and give into the notion that maybe, just maybe, we might be all-knowing.

The World as a Mirror

I realize that the more I deal with people, the more I deal with myself. My person. The perfection and flaw that make me- the way I see myself and the way the world sees it. That even choosing to not deal with people, is a strategy to deal with them. That authenticity is not just in the way and to the depth at which I understand myself, but also in the way and probably, to the depth at which, the people external to my own person, understand me.

Your projection of yourself onto others comes to reflect your worldview, and that in turn tunnels into your childhood and various other aspects of the subconscious. The worldview is therefore a comprehensive insight into the individual’s soul itself. Seems to tend into a mirror-in-mirror sorta infinity.

Not about ‘Having it all’ at all

‘Having it all’- BS paraded around as hope.

The discussion about ‘having it all’ is downright disgusting at best. Especially when it is posed in the context of examining a woman’s life. Somehow, it is acceptable for a person, let alone a member of a particular sex, to be judged on parameters that are not necessarily in line with their own value system. It is an armchair diagnosis of a personality based on a stranger’s worldview, and to take it seriously has got to be the dirtiest joke in the history of polemy and tyrannical objectivism.

Accomplishments are as subjective as opinions. Let me sketch an example for a situation. I have never been a person who wanted to be socially successful. It is not that I lack the resources to cultivate the skills to be the perfect hostess or the so-called ‘life’ of a party, but it is merely that I do not value such an accomplishment in my life. Being wired the way I am, I find it spiritually dangerous, unnatural- as such behavior is not in line with my inherent nature, and emotionally draining. I have also learnt to appreciate the fact that acquiring this skillset may be important to other people, and to them, it might be an accomplishment in itself. Even though I do not necessarily think it is a worthwhile achievement, so to speak, had I found the need to thrust such a worldview upon them and be dogmatic enough to write about it in popular media so as to get readers to agree with me en masse, then I am being completely unreasonable; not to mention immature as well as intellectually stunted and violent.

Just my two cents.