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Understanding Yourself

December 4, 2007

Probing deeply into my own mind, I finally came to understand why I oftentimes try to be “too perfect”, seemed to oftentimes lack “common sense”, and lacked the ability to improvise.

Now when I say “too perfect”, I don’t mean that I’m “perfect” in any sense worthwhile.  It means moreso that I typically either do something near perfectly, or I am horrible at it.  There is typically no inbetween.

My friend Fraser recommended to me that I watch an anime series called Elemental Gelade (you can watch the videos on a website called veoh.com).  I’d never watched an anime before, so, curious as to what all an anime entails, I watched the series.  (Took a few hours to watch it all).

One of the characters name was Rowen.  I think that’s the spelling.  Most of the characters thought that Rowen was perfect, and then during one episode, we come to find out he has a weakness.  During his sword weapon training, he was put in a room where targets would rise from the floor.  He would always get a perfect score.  He would practice long and hard, and would pass each test with 100% accuracy.

Then the instructor told him, “You have but one weakness.”  The targets began to rise in a random pattern he hadn’t been trained in, and at certain points he had to decide which target to attack, as he couldn’t attack both at once.  In other words, a perfect score was not possible.  When these situations would arise, he would be indecisive, not knowing which to attack.  In other words, he followed the dictates of his training perfectly, but was unable to improvise in situations his training did not accomodate for.  Another way of saying this, he defaulted his decision making to a law given to him by his training, and never made decisions solely on his own judgement alone.  (It’s really a lack of self-confidence in your own ability to make a decision wisely, and default it instead to someone else, who you feel has better judgement than you do in a particular circumstance.)  In these tests, where a good combatant should get high 90s, he would get a score near 0.

I stated that example mainly because I self-identify with Rowen a lot.  We’re very similar.  Or at least, WERE very similar  🙂  I didn’t know exactly when it started, but there came a point in my life where I seemed to lose my ability to improvise.  I didn’t know where it went, as I used to have it when I was younger.  In fact, I was king of improvisation in my youth.  I thought…I’m getting my ability to improvise back.  Right here, right now.  What happened?  Where did it go?  It was time to psychoanalyze myself.  The lights went off, I laid in my bed, and it was time to start tracing thought associations and uproot some bitter experience causing me to be this way.

I concentrated upon the topic, “lack of improvisation”, and the first memories came up.  These were the less painful, but still frustrating memories linked to that topic.

I remembered I was playing an online video game, and a friend of mine (Emi) was walking me through a particular quest.  Now she was giving me directions from a guide she found online, and had herself done this quest prior to walking me through it.  We came to a few hurdles along the way, however.

At first, she kept telling me to use some item at the desk.  I kept saying, “I don’t see a desk.”  Then I kept looking around, and looking, and looking in this one room, where I’m supposed to use this item.  It turns out she was referring to a kind of table-desk in the room, but I thought of it simply as a table.  It would appear I seriously lack “common sense”.  Sometimes I can be a lot like a computer, and if I’m not told EXACTLY what to do, I sit back, indecisive.

I eventually looked around, and reflected for a bit, and finally decided to utilize the thing most closely resembling a desk, and it was the table.  In all honesty, there’s not a lot of difference between a desk, and a table.  In fact, after looking more closely, it was a table, being used as a desk. It’s pretty pathetic that I couldn’t just improvise in this simple situation.  I began to think, “Jason, you’re pathetic.”

Next, there had been an update in the game since Emi had done this quest, and the guide we were using online was now out of date.  Some of the items you had to use, and in what order, had changed.  I kept following her instructions, but things weren’t working.  Eventually, I just said I’d figure it out, and I worked at it a bit, and did the quest.  But I could tell I’d frustrated Emi. (who wouldn’t be, talking to an idiot who can’t even think?)

Saying I’m an idiot really wouldn’t describe the psychological factors going on here.  What it really is, is that I get scared of making the “wrong” decision sometimes.  There’s a little fog on the road and I pull over, and wait until the fog’s gone, and wait for a perfect sunny day, before driving.  It’s a fear of using up that quest item on the wrong thing, and not being able to complete the quest at all  (just as a fear of wrecking the car, and attempting to drive in less than ideal circumstances).  I thought, yeah, this is going to end, right here, right now.  Let’s keep going.

The next memory associations were similar in nature.  Basically me making a fool of myself, not doing what is obviously the decision to be made.  I remembered a basketball game, my sophmore year.  I pulled some fancy cross-overs on a player, and totally faked him out.  I drove in toward the basket, and was WIDE OPEN, nobody near me.  One of the defensive players yelled, “Shot!”, and blocked out.  EVERYBODY was expecting me to shoot.  What did I do?  I passed it to another guy under the basket, who shot and scored.  But his shot was harder than mine, and me passing the ball only made a turn-over more likely.  Why didn’t I just shoot?

I remembered times when I’d be subbed in, and would be so nervous.  It was like it was life and death, and the entire human race depended on what I did out there on that basketball court.  If I turned the ball over, or missed a shot that I shouldn’t have missed, my whole family would be lined up and shot in the head by a firing squad.  I thought, hmm.  I’m getting closer to the issue, but where is this “life and death” coming from.  This most certainly isn’t rooted in basketball, but whatever this is, it’s making me afraid of making a decision.  So I concentrated on this vague thought of “life and death”.

I thought for a second.  Hmm.  This is really a “passing of the torch” off to someone I feel more ready and worthy to accomplish the task at hand.  It’s not that I won’t carry the torch if I know I’m the most “ready” to carry it, but I always want another person to be carrying the torch if they’re the best person for the job.  Once again, I was finding a lack of self-confidence in these areas.  But, I knew there was more to this.  Obviously I could’ve easily made that shot under the basket.  There was no need to pass, as I was a GREAT shooter.  There was more to this.

The next memory-association, when concentrating on this idea, was a weird argument I had with a girl Li.  Li is Emi’s sister.  During this argument I ended up lashing out on her, calling her stupid, and making her feel really awful.  Here’s how it happened.  I was telling Li about some very mild frustrations I was having with Fraser.  I really wasn’t very mad about it however.  Next the conversation got directed toward the ethics of minor lies.  Lies about things that don’t really matter.  Once again, I can remember none of this really making me angry.  I advocated that lying was always bad, and always unethical, yet she didn’t think so in these minor areas.  Then I can remember her saying, “It’s common sense”, implying that seeing things from her angle was simple, and then I remembered, that’s what set me off.

I felt anxiety at the rememberance of “it’s common sense”, and I knew that this was the problem in question.  Here’s where the repressed bad experiences were located.  I furthur inquired my mind for more information.

I remember telling her something to the effect of, “You all are so stupid.”  I remember feeling this strong hatred boil up inside of me, saying, “I’m not stupid.  You guys are the ones who are stupid.”  Curious thing to think about – why did I say, “you all”?  Who else am I talking to?  I was only talking to one girl.  Who were the rest of, “You all”.  I knew that this must be what was bothering me, so I concentrated on this.

I soon found myself in my 7th grade history class.  The teacher, Mr. Williams, delivered a lesson, and had got off topic, talking about the national debt.  He said something about how the national debt would destroy us, and our country, and that we had to pay it off, or we would find ourselves in another depression.  I raised my hand and asked, “If debts and money are all fake, and if this fake money is nothing but numbers, why can’t we just scrap the debt, and forget about it?  Why would something fake destroy us?”  The teacher gave me a nasty look, raised his eyebrow, and said some condescending things to me, and then the entire class laughed.  I felt so bad.  It’s one of the few moments in my entire life that I wanted to cry, and there’s not many of those.  I thought, “Jason you’re so dumb.  Everyone else gets this stuff, but you’re stupid.  You’ll never get it.”

I got really mad thinking about it.  I thought, “Jason, you’re not dumb, and little Jason was never dumb either.  You never were dumb.  They’re all a bunch of morons.  That was a very intelligent question, showing you were quite precocious.  If that teacher was worth anything, he could have told you that nearly all of the government’s debt was to the wealthy bankers, mainly to finance wars.  The national debt is considered a debt for the entire nation of people, but it is owed to a very few select people, mostly bankers, and other financial institutions.  Most everyday people can’t even save, much less own T-bonds!”  I thought, “How DARE these idiots make you feel stupid!”  I wanted to scream.  I wanted to log onto the Federal Reserve page and start showing evidence that I wasn’t stupid, and show ownership percentages of treasury securities.  Then I thought, “Eck, this is nasty! This is freakin’ 7th grade, Jason.  This isn’t something to be mad about.  You, and your classmates are kids, only 12 years old!”  I’d opened the door to the wood furance and flames shot out in all directions.  I had to put this fire out.  This was some serious hatred, and unforgiveness.

When I lashed out at Li, I was really lashing out on this 7th grade classroom, and my own insecurities.  I sent her an email, kind of apologizing (shortly after the event), but at the same time, I wasn’t sure what I was mad about.  I was still trying to understand what happened. I awkwardly told her I wasn’t mad at her, but had no idea what I was mad about, nor could explain what happened.  There was no good reason to explain such anger.  She thought I hated her, and really looked down on her, and took serious offense at this.  In fact, she still won’t talk to me to this day.  Really, I wasn’t mad at her, even then, but she ended up feeling a few of these flames, by opening up the wood stove when saying, “It’s common sense.”

This situation reminds of a story from a Muskogee shaman:

“Jonas Bear once took me down to a pond and told me to look into it, asking, “What do you see?”

“I see my reflection.”
“Put this stick in the water and stir up your reflection.”
After I stirred it up, he asked, ” Now what do you see?”
“My face is all distorted.”
“Do you like what you see?”
“I know that it’s not supposed to look that way.”
“When you meet someone and you immediately dislike them, always remember you are seeing a reflection of yourself — there is something you don’t like about yourself that you’re not owning up to. When you see it in someone else, then you don’t like that person, but in reality you are being displeased with yourself. Always remember that.”

In my case, I “hated” Li, but I really hated myself, that I couldn’t measure up to the 7th grade classroom, when I was 12 years old.  This and one other situation, were the cause of all kinds of things (we’ll get to those shortly), which had become very bothersome in my adult life.  But before we get to that, let’s recall a few more memories, concentrating on, “stupid classmates.”

I can remember at some ceremony, my senior year, scholarships were being handed out.  I wasn’t a straight A student, and toward the last years of high school, I had begun not to care about grades, as I found all of what was being taught as useless.  (I still feel the same way today.  I wish I would have dropped out.  I encouraged my little brother to do so.)  I basically would go to class, and laugh at how dumb all the content was.  I quit doing homework.  Never studied, and instead, once school ended each day, would work on my own 3D graphics engine, and studying computer programming.  I used to ride the bus in the mornings, and would get to school maybe 15 minutes early?  I’d do what homework I could in the hallway, waiting for school to start.  That’s all I would do.  I figured that if school was already taking 8 hours of my day, they surely weren’t getting anymore of my time.  They were lucky to get that.

I still had good grades.  All previous years I had a 4.0.  Later years, something like a 3.X, not trying, not doing homework, literally not even turning in assignments at times.  I could’ve easily got a 4.0, and played their little game, but I got tired of running around like a rat, memorizing answers to worthless things I’d never use.

Anyways, at this ceremony, I still received some scholarships from UMR.  I remember going up front to receive them, and when I sat down, two of the guys sitting next to me said, “YOU got a scholarship?  *rolls eyes*  Must be easy to get one from there.”  I remember being so mad, then thinking, “You idiots aren’t worth it.  You just aren’t worth it.  I’m never coming back to this place.  I’m never going to be successful having people like you around, and wasting time in places like this.  I’m done with school.”  This was toward the last days of school.  I didn’t even attend my own graduation.  I even furthur reflected on these two guys, and remembered I had shared an English class with them.  I think during my senior year (maybe junior year), this class was in the mornings, and I’d sleep through the entire class.  This class was the most worthless class I’d ever studied.  I thought, “Yeah, go back to your English guys.  I’m sure you’ll make lots of money, and be sooo successful in life knowing that English.  Nominative, predicate, adverb clauses!  Woohoo!  Go you two!  You’re so awesome!”

Though I’m glad I disconnected myself from school and college, all this hatred inside me had to go.  I made an extreme effort to forgive all these people, and tried to truly forgive, not just mask it in a veil of hatred (“they’re not worthy of thinking about”), but actually love all these people, and forget all wrongs, like they never happened.  I let it all go, and it’s weird, but I felt a giant weight lift off of me.  It felt really good.  Jesus always said that if you follow his ways, his burden his light.  I thought, “Yes Jesus. Your teachings are very wise.  Forgive all men.  We have to, or we carry junk like this around, which only causes us problems, and makes life harder than it has to be.”  Forgiveness most certainly is a key to both mental, and physical health.

Before moving on to problems all these childhood and teen events had caused on my life, I wanted to concentrate and make sure I’d uprooted all “roots of bitterness” I had deep in me.  I thought about, “lack of common sense”, and “improvisation causing pain”, and another memory came up, from 6th grade (10, 11 years old).

During this school year, a student, T.J. Trueblood was moving off, and we had a going away party for him.  Each student was to stand up, and say something nice to him as he was going to be leaving us.

Now I was always the class clown in my early years.  I used to do stuff, just to see what would happen.  I was always very curious, and very observant.  I concocted this strange idea, “What if I said, ‘I hope you go to hell T.J.  I don’t care what happens to you.  I never liked you much.'”  I actually had no hatred for the guy, I just wanted to see what would happen.  My turn came to stand up, and I said, “I hope you go to hell T.J.  I don’t care what happens to you.”

The room fell silent.  The teacher got mad, and I was drinking a soda (it was a party).  She told me to throw away the soda, as I shouldn’t be drinking it, and sent me out in the hall.  I was always a good kid, and this was the first real time I’d ever been in trouble for anything.  I thought, “Way to go Jason.  You didn’t even really mean that.”  I wanted to go in an apologize, but I wasn’t allowed back in.  They wouldn’t have believed I was just doing that to be curious anyways.  My lifelong dream at the time was to join the army, and become a green beret.  I wanted to go back in so badly, and tell him, “I hope we meet up again someday.  Maybe we’ll meet up in the army?”  I remember sitting in the hallway, and there was another girl next to her classroom door – a troublemaker from another class.  I didn’t want to be like her.

Between this event, and the 7th grade history teacher event, my entire personality changed.  I went from brave and daring, always asking questions, always the star student, and class clown, to self-conscious, introverted, and rather dull in personality.

The lack of common sense I would sometimes exhibit was rooted in these events.  I was very very sorry both for asking that question, and looking stupid, and wasting the teacher’s time (I was always very loving, and very respectful to teachers – the hatred didn’t come until later, when I discovered I wasn’t dumb, and was quite correct in asking the question), and also, the event where I told the kid to go to hell (which I didn’t even mean).  I clammed up, wanting to make sure I didn’t do these awful things to anyone, anymore.  I tried to fly the straight road, and when I reflected on it, that mindset never really left me, up until just the other day.  I didn’t want to make any more mistakes, or hurt myself, or others any longer.

In 6th and 7th grade I was the star football player.  I did great.  Coach even would call me up, wanting me to play quarterback.  Later, I quit playing football, and started playing basketball, but never did very good.  Why?  I had this self-consciousness in me, always wanting to do everything perfect and just right.  Didn’t want to let anyone down, or screw things up.  I was scared to improvise, as if I did so, I might screw things up for everybody, again.

As I got older, this became a strong influence toward my drive to Christianity.  I had to become like Jesus, so I wouldn’t hurt anyone.  (These drives were unconscious).

I also felt a really strong appeal for the scientific, empirical mindset.  Why is this?  Why was my personality so dry, lifeless, and prosaic?  The frustrations of “sinning” became unbearable, and knowing the will of God, and what Jesus would do in the everyday life events going on in my life became near impossible to figure out.  It’s fear of making a mistake.  It’s fear of making your own decision, as you let science, and the evidence, make your decisions for you.

When I’d play video games, particularly RPGs, I’d always level my characters to insane levels before moving forward.  I’d waste tons of time, making sure I was strong enough to move forward, and made no mistakes.

I’d meet girls, and if I’d ever get the feeling they were testing me, and that I wasn’t perfect, I’d get very angry, and want nothing to do with them.  Why?  All this stuff we just talked about.

I got to thinking “why” I actually formed this defensive mindset, so early on, and realized it was due to my Christian upbringing.  I always would hear about how God is perfect, and God doesn’t sin, and we’re to be holy, and not sin either.  Even the slighest sin angers God, and you lose all contact with him.  You have to constantly repent.  I’d also hear that sin causes us pain and misery.

It doesn’t take much imagination to apply this same concept to the other events in life as well, not wanting to make a single mistake.  Over-valuing each decision, acting like it’s the end of the world, just as each sin means literal eternity in hell if unforgiven.  This is the reason why I choose this protective mindset, and is the root of the “life and death” fears I was having in petty decisions.  I was simply trying to be the best person I could be.

Originally if was self-consciousness about sin, imagining God was sitting over me, seeing me do every little wrong, and constantly reminding of all the pain I was bringing on everybody.  Unconsciously little T.J. Trueblood kept coming up in early stages of my mind, and was bringing all kinds of anxiety.

I wanted overwhelming evidence before making a decision, because I was worried (on an unconscious level) that the entire 7th grade classroom was sitting there, waiting for me to slip up, and do something stupid.  They’re all waiting, like a wild animal watching its prey – ready to make merry at my misfortunes.

I’m sure most all personality disorders, and weird quirks people have are all rooted in their childhood and early experiences.  Beliefs and mindsets formed during those early years, trying to cope with life at the time, and forming views with such a small amount of knowledge and experience to base them on.  Freud stressed this in all his books, and the more I study psychoanalysis, and analyze myself, the more he seems to be right on the money.

If you don’t know how to call up the memories, you’re basically stuck with weird quirks you don’t understand, as the memories you used to form these views, which are generating anxiety and other weird emotions, are all unconscious.  You just hear someone bring up a subject, and you get mad, or feel sad, etc., and don’t know why.

I’m very glad I studied Freud.  I have to read the rest of his books, and will probably read a lot more books on psychoanalysis and good psychology in the future.

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