Adrift

It’s a cliche, but, nonetheless, it’s my reality. The ocean metaphor works universally well in any case. I am adrift. At sea. Clinging to a buoy that does not move away, watching ships passing by without getting on board any, because I have no faith that I will reach a destination once I do; that I’ll just end up back in the ocean again.

On a wholly different level, I’m also living in something close to a vampire metaphor. (I mean, the sheer amount I’m listening to The Cure and hide away in the dark right now should be pretty illustrative of this fact).

My existence is, more or less, parasitical. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve realized how much my independence has lived off my dependence on others in almost every aspect of life. Sure, I have an original mind – even an ‘original’ personality – but I’ve mostly fed off the experiences, feelings and stories of others – whether those people have been real-life or fictional.

I’ve always been better at using someone else’s theories than coming up with my own to make a point. Even I do not want to stand by my own theories; I am reluctant to publish them even though there is potential in them. Still, I scoff at the idea of making a career out of it; becoming a professor, journalist, writer, etc., despite having a secret wish of making it work. And that’s the crux of the matter on a very general level: I have got the potential, just not succeeded unraveling that potential and made the finishing line. Personally, academically, professionally. I mean, there has been snippets here and there, but oh so brief.

I am a consumer in every sense of the word; I jump from one thing to another when I’ve ‘sucked’ everything I can from said thing; a constant immersion in fictional narratives, pictures, film and music – to substitute something I lack in my own life and ward off responsibilities in real-life.

It’s my sustenance in life; I’m a junkie in that sense. It scares me when I can’t find a ‘fix’ to get through the day (which just scares me even more; this realization). It’s a sad existence, really (well, being a junkie, in any sense, is). When my loneliness and dark thoughts crowd in on me, and I’ve been deprived of social stimulation long enough to feel a physical hole in my body, the realization becomes stark, because I know when I suddenly get this ‘fix’ – sometimes merely interacting, talking and laughing around good people – I get a rush, a social ‘high’, and I know how brief it will be; that once those people disappear again and go back to their lives, I will sink back into the shadows. And I have only my guilt and shame, feeling I have no right to claim any more of their time and attention, only grateful for the small amounts I can grasp now and then. I can’t even confess this to my closest ones, though I fear they’ve partly discovered it by now or will eventually.

This ‘vampiric’ existence feels – much like its literary origin – to have come out of nowhere, and yet I can’t figure out whether it has been my existence always, my fate, an unfortunate coincidence, or, in some parts, my choice. I don’t want to be a victim of circumstance, especially not since I still have a choice to not ‘suck’ (pun intended). …Don’t I?

*sigh* I’m really a pathetic ‘vampire’.

I have no real solution to this (which is another problem of mine). How do you cure a soul who is always feeling adrift? Not restless; adrift. Especially if feeling adrift is a basic condition of having a soul that is also always searching; searching for something and nothing in particular?

Huh. This whole ‘soul talk’ sort of undercuts the whole ‘vampire’ metaphor, doesn’t it? Oh, well.

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The intriguing algorithm of the human being

The human mind is fascinating. And, in extension, so is the human body and how it all connects in an intricate system that has certain recognizable patterns.

Each human consists of such an interesting ‘algorithm’ that constitutes who they are. Not just their DNA, but how they choose to live, how they think, what they value in life and whom they love. The roots spread into a complex network of branches from the trunk and the crown of the tree. What’s not to find fascinating?

Especially in the case of gender and sexuality and how they come to be a part of our identity and what makes people tick. Nowadays, we have so many new and combined terms to cover almost the entire spectrum of what it means to be a human being in this regard; we’re constantly learning new things, and, like a scientist, I jump at the chance to discover more from an objective as well as subjective point of view (using myself as case subject as always).

As such, the ‘algorithm’ I’m constructing works within the various regions of MBTI, personality type and alignment, gender identity, sexual orientation, romantic orientation, relationship orientation and structure.

And in the case of myself? Well, I’ve collected some of the significant parts of my very own ‘algorithm’ throughout the last couple of years; one self-discovery at the time, and discovered that I can identify with the following things (though the results may vary):

  • A full-fledged INTP.
  • Born female, but my gender is androgyne.
  • Enneagram Type + instinctual variant is a 5w4 social variant.
  • Alignment: Neutral Good.
  • For many years caught in the heteronormative/essentialist spectrum and simply categorized myself as a heterosexual, but now that I’ve become more educated in this field, I would say I am more of a demisexual gray-asexual.
    • Note: I have pondered whether my MBTI could have something to do with that, because, on the face of it, it just seems soooo INTP – to shy away from defining labels – to choose or identify with the part of the spectrum that appears most ‘in doubt’ and uneasy to settle on any defining label, so to speak. (I know, I know; by principle, there aren’t any labels in life, but this is simply according to the presently formed categories out there). For one, I find it so very INTP to want to dissect and understand the concept of attraction on various analytical levels, such as an sexual, sensual and aesthetic attraction.
  • In terms of romantic orientation, from the viewpoint of a gray-asexual, I’m still on the path of discovery – both in theory and in real-life. So far, and in true INTP style, I’m researching the different terms; what each specifically covers and excludes, and what exactly fits me, such as sapioromantic, polyromantic and panromantic. The idea of a polyamorous relationship (structured as a triad) is not averse to me either, but, by now, that’s seems like such a far-off dream that it is hardly realistic, especially for a gray-asexual (I have absolutely nothing to compare it to. Such relationships are never portrayed as anything but highly sexual, so sorry if my hopes are so low).
    • Note: I have no personal experience in real-life to base this upon, but in truth how can you be sure of any label you put upon yourself. Your life is far from over and you haven’t yet met all the persons in your life. Call me open-minded as hell, and maybe it’s just my INTP shining through, but how am I to know which kind of person I’m attracted to (or would consider doing anything with) if I haven’t met them yet? It doesn’t really matter then who they are, I guess. I take it step by step. I think there’s a reason I always screech to halt and become tongue-tied when somebody has asked me the question ‘what’s your type?’. I’ve never been really sure. Sure, I’ve always had an inclination towards the male form (according to my distant fangirl crushes on celebrities), but whether that ‘male form’ (excuse the somewhat crude wording) is transgender, androgyne, bisexual, identifies as something-something else… I’ve never really considered or, frankly, given a damn. I’m simply a curious individual who just hopes for an open-minded companion who isn’t afraid of its (whatever)sexuality, is acknowledging of a more fluid gender spectrum and ready to talk all night about obscure subjects until we fall asleep. The ideal match would likely be an intelligent, open-minded individual with a male physique who identifies as androgyne (ugh, that sounds so scientific and clinical…like the male version of myself..) within the compatible MBTI personalities (though I suspect they are few and far between).

 

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Introvert on a social high… Huh?

Just as much as I can get ‘high’ from intense thinking all by myself, I can find myself at the receiving end of a ‘social high’, so to speak, from time to time. In good (and often limited) company, that is. Bad company never does anyone any favors.

I’ve come to realize social exchange doesn’t necessarily have to include the same level of abstract thinking or the sharing of complex ideas (which both stimulates and relaxes us) as my INTP mind expects. My brain instinctively tries to set a standard because that’s the only way it knows how, arrogantly and naively so. But sometimes being with like-minded fellows is enough. That includes same values, opinions and yes, sentiments. Trust me, if you find yourself in such a situation, you’ll be surprised by how well in tune you can find yourself with sometimes complete strangers or old acquaintances and their friends, even friends of their friends.

Of course, and with the rush of ‘the high’, I cannot free myself of the flood of insecurities before and after (hence this post). Beforehand, you wonder if you should cancel altogether, avoiding making a fool of yourself and unconsciously unburden whatever you internally battle with regarding socialization. Afterwards, you wonder if they actually felt more irritated than entertained by your snippets of eccentricity, your little tics or odd quips here and there which are so general for the INTP, and if they’ll ever invite you back or call upon you again. That you can be so much in your own head that the moment of good intention is not enough to make up for all the signs you missed until you finally decided to show up. For all the social niceties you should have paid attention to and paid your respects to.

In the moment itself, you couldn’t be more in your element (that is, if you feel comfortable in the company you keep). The presence of good company itself is more precious than anything, I think you’ll agree with me if you’ve come across it (and I hope you have). Even knowing that there’s a fallacy of mental exhaustion from socializing threatening to barge in (as it is with every introvert), it is counterbalanced by the reward of intellectual, stimulating, easy-going banter which is priceless. Sure, I’d sometimes wager diving into a stimulating subject on paper comes close or even rivals such a sensation. (Laughing to myself as I think what most people probably have in mind when they think of ‘a stimulating sensation’. Something quite different, I reckon).

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INTP Soft Spot #1

Having one’s values and beliefs questioned and/or challenged.

Richard Ayoade4I’m not sure how many people actually like this (perhaps mostly NTs?). Then again, some might argue there’s a fine line between ‘being questioned’ and ‘feeling attacked’; that it’s all a matter of interpretation.

However, in my eyes, there’s a significant difference, rhetorically.

This is perhaps all the more prevalent in an age where ‘safe spaces’ are being heavily discussed, particularly among my own generation, but this tendency also points to several other factors of modern (western) society; a surge of identity politics being one of them.

And, there’s a world of difference between having one’s beliefs questioned and not being believed (or appear convincing).

But, personally, I persist that the point of learning must be to be challenged. Expand your horizon. In the end, there’s only a shell of stimuli in having your own opinions reflected and confirmed with no new information gained.

Learning is sort of a dialectic process, almost phenomenological. Not just by observing the world around you, but also by interacting with other people and challenging them in return, hopefully producing something constructive, if not for the parties involved then for the potential listeners or on-lookers. Sometimes, you simply agree on disagreeing which can be surprisingly rewarding in itself.

It may sound all very rationalized and distanced but I believe only so can we regard the subject clear-eyed. Like the basic principle of free speech, to quote Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Intolerance is a hard nut to crack, though, and it can feel like running one’s head against a brick wall. Some people are hard-set on being rigid in their convictions, and it’s a brave but also slightly naive or romantic notion that one can somehow sway the bigoted to the better. (I include myself in this syndrom).

But different opinions do not equal stigmatization or oppression. Opposition is good. Difference is good. And exactly what a democracy or a healthy society need to stay healthy. It’s what makes a society diverse.

Though I partly understand where my university peers who demand safe spaces and/or trigger warnings are coming from, I am sometimes in awe that they can proclaim greater tolerance for different opinions by stopping or censoring every opinion that does not suit their own. It is counterproductive – even hypocritical – to safeguard minority groups (especially on their behalf) for their difference by practically coddling each other into the belief that they don’t need to listen to anybody else’s opinions while their own stay safe.

By principle, no opinion should be spared of being challenged on, ideally, a rational, constructive and dialectical level.

The world is constantly changing and values are being questioned – in the good way as well. But how can you regard any opinion or idea, even refute it for its foolishness that it may be, if they are all censored or ignored, because you have closed yourself off in a little bubble with cotton in your ears?*

I don’t presume to preach or have the answer to what the ideal world should be or look like, but the important factor is to keep questioning ourselves and never stop.

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The child I once was

There must be a reason why I have come to think more and more of the child I once was, as of late.

It’s a regressive tendency. Or more nostalgic? After all, nostalgia is denial of a painful present, it is said.

It’s interesting how that child, back then, didn’t understand why genders were put in boxes and separate categories, however, at the same time, perfectly understood why such things as fantasy and reality needed to be distinguished and not confused for practical reasons. Yet, she chose to forego the latter, while living under the suppressing shadow of the former, trying to adapt.

Now, that child has grown up and come to understand she need not limit her gender to only two separate categories, but learned to live with what she is, yet has fused more and more of her reality into one of fantasy. Or let fantasy become her reality. “I could live almost completely in imagination,” like the poet Louise Glück once said.

Like many, she was always a lonely child. She did not know where the road she was taking was leading. She knew she only wanted to go ahead and take in everything with a childlike wonder.

The lesson that child took from everything she learned was that people, that interpersonal relationships gave meaning to life. That what she perhaps most hungered to understand was the human soul, human thinking, human interaction, human patterns, human inventions. To observe and to understand. And, at some point, also take part in it, not just stay an outside observer.

But somehow it wasn’t in her immediate nature to nurture the garden which she found so precious and which she realized she couldn’t live without. She was a lonely introvert; she both spurned and longed for company.

What instances with those persons in her life could be named unforgivable? Heart-rendering?

What about her own ineptitude to remember to water the flowers in the garden? Was she even showing herself in those relationships for them to become fully realized?

She wasn’t so sure anymore. Only that they mattered. That the people who would come and go in her life mattered more than anything, but that they couldn’t be obtained by anything you were taught. You had to carry it out for yourself and it was tougher, more unpredictable than anything.

She came to learn that people and relationships were the only unpredictable thing in life able to break the routines; that otherwise settled outlook of a lived life, but she knew that marriage and children were not what she was looking for. Never had. It was fine if other people sought it out. She could understand. But it wasn’t for her.

Most of all, she found she lacked courage and conviction in her loneliness, but oddly enough refused to let herself be depending on other people’s support. In her naivety and arrogance (between which there is a fine line), she took the people in her life for granted. She had love and knowledge to give, but her mind strayed, unable to settle on its own until she might stumble across whatever she was looking for.

With no ambition in life, she came to learn art, music, writing, philosophy and love were what gave life meaning in its essence. Purpose. If she had any ambition, it was that. Perhaps she had an artist’s soul because she couldn’t see herself living any other path in life. She admired those who dared stray off the main road and live the life they wanted, when so much was made up of and dictated by money and norms and expectations. How did one find purpose and meaning in a world like that? How did one give and live without the constant interference of money? All she saw was how money and capitalism and greed ruined every good thing in life, and yet she knew money was what gave her her creature comforts in life.

She was blessed. Privileged. And yet she wasn’t happy. No matter where she looked no conventional path in life gave her a sense of purpose or happiness. She wanted to contribute but every path seemed to lead to money; an endless circle, she kept questioning. Why?

So, yes only art, music, writing, philosophy and love and everything in-between seemed to be more free than anything else. They too could be twisted and exploited, everything can, but at least there was more lasting positive effects from the workings of these elements of life. And if not love, what then?

She had been more cynical once, still was to some extent, but always a romantic at heart. She couldn’t help herself, but it was paradoxical: The more she learned of the world the more cynical she became, and simultaneously, she became more of a romantic. As if the two sides lived side-by-side, constantly trying to outplay each other. Romanticism acted as a way to deal with the cynicism of the world and its reality; its harsh day of light. She believed and had hope that as long as we had and could produce art, music, books, philosophy and love, we could be good. Despite the ever-growing, prevailing hopelessness of everything else.

That child moved within a forest of paths and wilderness, curious and afraid, but always going forward.

And now? What now? Is she really at such a loss without guidelines that she cannot find her way out or around of the forest; that same child? Can she even make her own path, or has she always been helped; guided along a yellow brick road?

Alice in Wonderland3

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When the tear ducts suddenly erupt

The stereotypical assumption of the INTP may be that of a person who would constantly say ‘Let’s try and be rational’ to any emotional reaction.

That is both true and false.

A response like that is, more or less, our inner, instinctive reaction; our heads trying to wrap itself around what’s happening and analyzing it to come up with a solution how to appropriately respond to something that is not our immediate field of expertise… since we don’t understand emotions that well. To speak plainly.

However, I, too, personally find it irritating when someone says ‘Let’s try and be rational’, because, unless it’s a situation of total panic, it can come across as arrogant – as if bypassing the legitimate emotions and subsequent thoughts of those around them, though that may not be intentional.

Just like shushing a crying person – no matter how benevolent intended or kindly done – is basically a slap in the face to the one crying, because crying is, in fact, a healthy, cathartic outlet for an abundance of emotion/pain.

It’s as if shushing is not letting the crying person feel – which the person obviously needs – and especially when the person is an adult I believe. Instead shushing centers around what the comforting person is feeling; often discomfort and awkwardness in properly responding to the crying person, and the action becomes almost two-fold; as if calming oneself down instead of the person crying.

Why not just say ‘Let it out. I am here for you’ instead?

Crying is still an unspoken taboo among adults, because we are taught and expected to have mastered such emotional outbursts and channel them appropriately, like talking, analyzing or rationalizing these feelings instead. And too often we just feel ashamed or uncomfortable dealing with them at all and stomp them deep within ourselves, in the end bottling them up into an entirely too unhealthy pattern of emotional management. Honestly, sometimes we should just be allowed to… feel. There’s a reason crying is the instinctual physical response to a difficult emotional situation, no matter your age. Frankly, I’m vary and concerned of adults who do not (or claim to never) cry. Surely, to quote Charlotte Brontë, “crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive.” I’m not saying adults should allow themselves to openly wail in the middle of the streets or in any given situation. Just allow yourself to feel once in a while, not stomping it down with some rational excuse each time (just as much an advice to myself).

I guess, I also feel this on a personal level, the more I’ve learned about my INTP personality as well. Knowing how little we express emotions on a conventional level, though are not less emotional on the inside, I feel we are more than legitimized when we actually do express them. Especially when we feel the need to cry (because, be honest, we only ever cry rarely and alone, don’t we?). For once, don’t tell or expect us to rationalize or channel this expression in any other way. Don’t talk the feelings down, whatever they are. Just let us let it out and feel whatever we need to feel for a moment and be there for us. Am I right? Well, not just INTPs; everyone, really.

But, if you have some insight in INTPs’ track record in this matter, you know the INTP is particularly notorious regarding sudden outbursts of emotions at rare and odd times. We may need some friendly reassurance afterwards; sympathy instead of pity, and, perhaps, someone who isn’t afraid of sticking around (though I wouldn’t blame anyone from wanting to run away) and deal with such an emotional outburst from an (INTP) friend. Nobody wants someone who is just half-listening or pretending to care.

Not that I am any good at handling such things myself when others react this way (have I already mentioned that?), and I use way too many awkward platitudes or whatever I can come up with to make the person feel better without having any clue if it works. I’m no good with the physical stuff and I’m generally such a blatant INTP I avoid the act of comforting like the plague, even though I hate to see people in pain and want to do something to help. Never confuse an INTP’s awkward response to an emotional situation with a lack of emotion, sympathy or empathy. My heart goes out to people in pain; I simply cannot always express it or help in an appropriate way. In fact, sometimes I feel like I feel too much. That I cannot contain it nor express it.

So, I understand perfectly well the need to have a good cry and not be shushed.

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Loyal to a fault but no real faith

I may have belief in my convictions but not in myself. My insecurity won’t allow my faith in myself to establish. It wavers and it changes; from crumbling shyness to conceited stoicism.

It’s weird to have this constant spark of hope warring with a true lack of consistency in belief. Especially voicing that belief in myself. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m worth; I know that intrinsically; I always have, but somehow having to constantly prove, verbalize and even document it to others through outward display and activities remains an exhausting, demanding task. And it’s an internal ‘war’ that I don’t feel like complaining about because I know it’s both immature and futile. An inevitable human condition.

It’s something I feel only I can deal with, on my own, since it’s all within.

But, as previous posts have revealed, I also know I cannot go through life never asking for help or support in this particular area.

I don’t want this warring insecurity to turn bitter and (self-)destructive; influencing or even hampering all other (future/possible) aspects of my life.

I don’t want to become like my introvert parents but in so many ways, I’m already becoming them. I know; now it sounds like I’m projecting but I know my parents rather well, having, after all, been their closest observant for more than 20 years. Sometimes, I think I know the patterns in their behavior and interaction better than themselves from my outside perspective.

But I hate it. I hate it because I never wanted this and because I know that I can still change my life and prevent it but don’t seem to make an effort to really change it. And on some deep level, I think I might even silently blame and resent them for it, even though I am more than aware that I am responsible for my own life. Simultaneously, I stubbornly persist it must be my own battle, almost clinging to it, perversely so. Because… what else have I got?

Can you decide on becoming confident or is it pretense if so; merely masking how insecure you are within? Or aren’t confidence and insecurity two sides of the same coin, depending in what context and how you show it?

Forgive my rambling.

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