Should We Be Normalized or Maximized?

1385 Relax and Succeed - Ratehr than normalize them

In response to my previous post I wanted to clarify some of the references I made about my childhood accident, and how the pattern-recognition quality that emerged from it impacts how I listen to people during a session.

While it started in very elementary terms and extremely consciously, the patterns I now largely subconscious perceive –particularly in human speech and behaviour– are not unlike the way everyone learns to talk.

With both word-meanings and grammar, it is by seeing patterns repeated that we form useful conclusions and we learn to communicate. Children in some places can learn several languages simultaneously. I just do that same thing but I do it hyper consciously, so it’s like I’m an amped-up version of any normal person, noticing many more elements.

By a very young age this lead me to notice that both through body language and word choice –and things like when they chose to speak versus when they opted to stay quiet– individuals started clearly falling into broad ‘types’ that I later learned others had loosely defined using systems like, for example, the Enneagram.

No one knows the real origin of the Enneagram, and there is no standard form. Each author who writes about it is free to alter it to suit their needs, but that need not be an issue.

Ultimately, I find it is rarely helpful to use predetermined boxes to define an individual, which is why I carefully listen to each person as a unique case, using my unique method. That said, we all know that there are some key personality types, so basic, broad definitions are also not entirely without value.

In practice, it has proven very helpful that I found these ‘types’ on my own, the way I did, without learning them from external sources. Rather than learning them like a person might in university, I don’t listen to classify people or their actions into groups, which in turn I would connect with associated responses.

People who learn these types the other way can’t help that, it’s an innocent form of Confirmation Bias. It’s like the difference between some kid who has spent his life on the ocean and knows how to sail. Someone else can learn about sailing in school and then get on a boat after university, but they will always have this word-based layer between them and what the childhood sailor knows as essential self-knowledge.

Because I was starting from five years old, I had no predetermined categories or opinions, so instead I began by gaining an appreciation for how each person had equally been formed by their own experiences and even their genetics.

As an example, we’re not only formed by having a demanding parent, but how that parent came to be that way is also at play. Also, being tall is also a perspective that presents unique qualities that are distinct from being shorter. Etc. etc.

I’ve been doing this for 50 years now. This means that I have an awareness of tens or hundreds of thousands of influences in real time, which often leads me to ask completely different questions than others will. I am very grateful for what this accident provided me.

While medical and psychological systems understandably need conformity between peers –and I agree this has value– I often see cases where presumed definitions of people fail to fully capture the individual I am working with. Rather than overlapping definitions, they are often more a bit of this and a bit of that with some extra thrown in.

There are currently about eight billion people in the world, and each is in many groups, but they are also all unique to themselves. Yet, many of the people I see feel that they have been mis-categorized by psychology, and yet once that definition is on their file they can have difficulty getting anyone to see them otherwise.

1385 Relax and Succeed - What really matters is

What really matters is does a person know how to successfully be whoever they currently are? Can they learn to see reality in a way where they won’t need me? Many people may choose to continue seeing me because they enjoy the process of going deeper in a philosophical sense, but if they need me for years to feel basically healthy, then I’m not really helping them be self-sustaining.

In the end, everyone has their own unique individual sense of their self.  And because they will change with each new experience and thought, over time, any definitions that would be applied would also need constant updating anyway. Those facts make the need for any firm definition somewhat dubious.

To use an example from the previous post, I’ve always taken great pleasure in working with non-neuro-typical people, including those with tendencies toward the Autism or Asperger’s spectrum.

In my experience, if we were to put people on a spectrum of 1-10, where overly open, emotional and intellectually insecure people were a ‘2,’ and logically-minded, precise, but quick-to-anger Aspergery people were a ‘9,’ that would make the centre of the bell curve known as ‘normal’ into a ‘5,’

The world –and psychology in general– has, with the best of intentions, spent most of its history invested its energy in trying to push everyone toward being a ‘5.’ In other words, it sought to help people be ‘normal.’ Yet Einstein, Beyoncé, Mozart, Maryam Mirzakhani, and most brilliant male or female scientists would not be seen as ‘normal.’

This push towards ‘normalism’ is not something that makes sense to me at all. Many truly great caregivers or artists could be closer to 2’s or 3’s, whereas bolder, more confident, and calculating scientists or business-people can be 7’s or 8’s.

This all being the case, people should not assume sessions with me are about them becoming more normalized. To the contrary, I focus more on helping people find effective ways to be the way they already are. These can translate to changes in their language or approach to life, and it can also translate to changes in how they structure their lives or relationships.

If you want to change to become more like other people, then you may fare better with a university-trained therapist of some kind. But if you would like to find ways to feel good about who you already are, and how to make that possibly ‘weird’ person more effective, then you may find that working with me may better suit your needs.

In the end I trust you. The people who find it productive to work with me can often figure that out quite quickly when we talk, and it’s not surprising that many have tried many other forms of therapy before coming to me to increase their awareness. Whoever is best for you, you are the best source of feedback on whether or not you are getting healthier. Trust yourself.

In closing, here’s a link to a BBC piece on Autism that also suggests that, rather than trying to normalize everyone, the world would often be better to simply maximize some people as they are.

peace. s

Logical to a Fault – Why You’re Struggling to Connect

1384 Relax and Succeed - Increased understanding is what exposes

One commonly and unfairly judged group are those who have personalities tilting toward the Autism or Asperger spectrum, while still being far short of the criteria for any medical diagnoses. My own appreciation for this group emerged thanks to an accident that provided me with an understanding of various patterns in human behaviour, when it rightfully should have left me dead.

Since there is no ‘cure’ for either state (and many people like this don’t want one either), what people really need are new and helpful ways to see themselves and their lives. Fortunately, increased understanding is often what exposes people’s unique routes to personal success and healthy relationships, despite whatever definitions or judgments the outside world may try to apply.

The people I see will often have trouble with co-workers, dating, marriage, and friends –all because they share a set of qualities. Yet many of life’s most successful and popular people are successful precisely because of those same qualities. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs exhibited these traits but, as the attached video hyperlinks demonstrate, one learned to cope with these traits while the other did not.

The simple fact is, male or female, if someone employs the right tools and learns how to communicate in effective ways, an Asperger-like personality need not hold them back from success in either life or love.

Yes, people of this personality type can be quicker to anger, but they are also much better at forgiveness. They are often bold and assertive about their views, but they can also change those views quite easily given good reason, (whereas most people will struggle to do so because their beliefs are too closely tied to their sense of identity).

Those shifts in position can happen because they are generally better than average at logic, and they’ll trust their results over their beliefs. (They also often love puzzles and strategy games.) Despite the advantages, these same qualities can lead them to struggle with making emotional accommodations for others that they themselves do not need.

There is no perfect way to be in life; every personality carries benefits and deficits for ourselves and for others. But no group is more commonly maligned, misunderstood, or told to be different than those who approach life with this Asperger-like mindset. If the world recognized personality-ism the same way we have with racism and sexism, this would be one of the most harshly judged groups.

Thanks to my near-death experience, I proudly count myself as one of them because, despite others’ judgments, these personalities have a great deal to offer. Yet none of us will ever be allowed to make those contributions if we cannot first teach others how to understand or deal with our behaviour.

1384 Relax and Succeed - There is no perfect way to be in life

Nobel Prize-winner, Richard Feynman demonstrated a personality of this type. He was both passionately admired and despised. He was known to be dismissive and brusque to a logically weak idea, be it in his professional or his personal life. Yet his correspondence with others –which forms the content of a book ‘about’ him– clearly demonstrates a man who loved openly and who cared about others a great deal.

There is also a radio interview which features a scientist and researcher named James Fallon, whose own research shockingly exposed that he was technically a ‘psychopath.’ Despite that definition fitting, he was a good husband and father and his research was all about helping others. Greater self-knowledge did improve his life and relationships but, even before that, he was not who people imagine when they hear the definitions ‘psychopath’ or ‘sociopath.’

Many engineers, lawyers, professors, scientists, accountants and programmers can be exasperating to their spouses without ever intending to be. Great artists are well-known for not caring what others think. They do what they do precisely they trust what they know and feel.

It’s important to note that the very qualities that lead to the interpersonal challenges are often the very same ones that make these people uniquely excellent at their jobs. Those same qualities also give them unusual courage when dealing with issues around ethics and character. These are not defects. This is a way of being.

These are rarely people who need ‘treatment’ for a condition or illness. They benefit from training on how to be themselves in effective ways that allow their relationships to be as good as they can be, whether at work or at home. I know this because I have helped a lot of people to find that balance, and to develop the interpersonal tools they needed to negotiate the individual intricacies of their lives.

Don’t beat yourself up over being alone. Don’t torture yourself by trying to reconcile the sincerity of your work with others’ distaste for your style. You don’t need to change, you need to learn how to shift your awareness to expose the new approaches that will smooth your relations and improve your life. I meet too many people who think they are failures at dating when in reality they are just part of this group.

If any of the above feels familiar to you, please contact me. One of my greatest pleasures is freeing people from the tyranny of others’ perceptions so that they can maximize who and how they are. Improving your life is not as hard as it seems when you’re working with someone who has studied these personalities in the unique and empathetic ways I have.

You can free yourself to live a better way. Don’t live inside some culturally-imposed prison of personality. Not when I can show you the way out.

peace. s

The Friday Dose #32

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Enjoy.

467 Relax and Succeed - You say I dream too big

Today’s Friday Dose is a fascinating mixed bag. Some of you may recall that in the past I wrote about an autistic kid who kept breaking into the NYC subway because he loved the trains so much. He was considered a nuisance until a smart young psychologist suggested giving him a job. He knew every train station and every time by heart. Now he answers the phone when you’re looking for subway directions and he doesn’t need a computer to help you. And now, because he’s an employee, he can ride the trains all he wants. Win-win. Well here’s a story on a new employment agency for people with Aspergers and Autism. We have not yet begun to access all the capabilities that humans bring to life:

An Employment Agency For Autistics

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Second we have an absolutely fascinating radio podcast documentary about identity. Imagine waking up as a middle aged adult with the mind of your 15-year-old self! What would the bright-eyed, optimistic, unfettered version of you think of your life today? Because of how the brain is wired, what happened to these people is entirely sensible. But it’s still amazing. And it still lead them to big conclusions and big changes in their lives. Give it a listen. And when you’re done, think back to really meditate on what you thought about yourself back then. And ask yourself if you’re selling yourself short with your defeated thoughts about a life that is still filled with glorious opportunity:

The Story of a Real-Life Time Traveller

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Commencements speeches are generally thought to be for graduating students. But we would all do well to remember that our life is a constant state of commencement. With every single choice, with every single decision we create our lives. So it’s worth it to occasionally stop to re-think our own identity and what kind of limitations we have placed upon ourselves. What kinds of thoughts don’t we think belong to us? What do we believe about ourselves that prevents us from realizing the greatest aspects of our existence? And what might awaken within you if you actually take some real time in your life to slow down and to listen to someone whose only goal is to help you to realize how incredible you truly are. Enjoy. (And, if you’re in a really big hurry, you can always skip to about ten minutes in.)

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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V80-gPkpH6M]

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The rest of your life starts today. What are you going to choose to do with it?

peace. s