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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The lament of the inhibited man

It's become clearer than ever that the gap between the way I'd like to be -- in order to enjoy life to its fullest -- and the way I am is just impossibly large.

I'd like to be a Jersey Shore type who can take steroids, look in the mirror admiringly, and strut around unself-consciously while telling people he's never juiced.

But all I do is sit my skinny body behind a computer and write resentfully about people like that.

I'd like to be the kind of guy who can get excited by a really cool car.

But I was taught as a youngster that that is superficial, so I can only look at a cool car longingly while repressing my inner hot-rodder.

I'd like to be -- or at least, to have been -- a guy whose biggest concern in life was getting laid, as frequently and with as many women as possible.

Somehow, I ended up as a jaded nerd. (It's unclear how I became jaded.)

I want to be a guy who doesn't think twice about anything, and always lives in the moment.

Instead I've spent a life wracked by indecision, paralyzed by potential consequences.

I want to be cool without even thinking about it.

What I do is ponder what "cool" really means, without in any way embodying it.

I'd like to be able to buy a lap dance, and when the stripper tells me I'm cute, believe her.

I don't even believe it when my mother tells me I was a cute baby.

I want to be a guy who, when insulted, is not reluctant to throw a punch.

What I do instead is stew about it for hours.

I want to be the type who just spends his money, and enjoys the spending, without worry.

I can't even enjoy a bottle of wine because I can't stop calculating how much each glass costs.

I want to be the type who cares more about clothes than about politics.

Well, I sorta am that.

I want to be the type who talks about himself too much and doesn't give a shit if others are bored.

What I do is talk about myself too much but then feel bad that I did so.

Sorta like I do right now after making you read this post. 


Remnant said...

Are you familiar with the theory of personality described under the rubric of the enneagram? It was originaly developed by G.I. Gurdjieff and has in recent years been further refined by Don Riso and Ross Hudson. While there are a number of personality paradigms and tests that have elements of descriptive truth, the enneagram concept has been the most instructive, thought-provoking and eye-opening I have seen. I will caveat that by noting that all such concepts and theories still leave us "looking through a glass darkly" and I hesitate to grant any kind of absolute explanatory power to any given theory, but the enneagram idea is compelling, and I would not be surprised to see genetic science bear out some of the concepts and divisions it describes.

With that said, it was my reading in the book Personality Types (which is based on the enneagram concept) that put to rest many of my own "laments" about the way I am. It provided many an "aha!" moment of realizing "of course I'm not that way: I'm personality type [X], and [X] people don't do that / aren't interested in that / etc." Again, I do not give it absolute explanatory power, but it is so accurate and compelling that it is worth considering. It may give you a different perspective on your own so-called limitations or shortcomings.

Also of note is that the enneagram concept is not simply descriptive ("you are [X]") but also dynamic ("if [X] people are regressing, they will exhibit traits A, B and C, and if they are progressing, they will exhibit traits D, E and F."). So it contains a very compelling dynamic paradigm and roadmap for self-knowledge and self-improvement.

It also contains a concept of different levels for each personality type: so, say the inhibited man (to use your term) when he is not really fulfilling his promise, the "normally" functioning inhibited man, and the inhibited man fulfilling his potential. Again, once you have identified your "type", you are able to see in essence how well you are functioning for your type.

Although there is a fair amount of information about this online, I highly recommend reading the book Personality Types because Riso and Hudson fill things out with much more detail and examples.

(A final thing I would note is that I am not at all a "new age" kind of person, hooked on all kinds of hokie spiritual nonesense. I'm actually a skeptic of most of that, but I nonetheless have found the enneagranm concept of personality as described in the book very enlightening and thought-provoking.)

John Craig said...

Remnant --
Just took a look, thank you. No promises, but maybe I'll take a look at some point. It does look interesting.

To tell the truth, at this point, even though some of the things in the post are true (some are exaggerations) I'm not really lamenting my own personality. The post was intended to be more humorous than anything else. I wrote a whole series of posts ("Confessions of a beta male") earlier in this blog along the same lines. They were written partly to be humorous and partly to reassure the vast majority of guys that they are not alone in this reactions and behaviors. By the time I finished that series (I think there were something like 15 posts in all) I had come to the realization that most of what is considered alpha behavior is really just narcissistic personalities expressing themselves.

By the way, you really got me to thinking about L. Ron Hubbard. I read more after I responded to your last comment and he was unquestionably a sociopath. I debated whether to do a blogpost on him, have so far demurred. Those Scientology types are incredibly vindictive and if they got wind of it I'd probably be exposing myself to a torrent of abuse from them, given what jealous guardians they are of his "legend."

The really interesting thing about that whole phenomenon is how Scientology itself is reflective of the mind of a sociopath. All the talking about how we (Scientologists) can be anything we want to be, all the disdaining of conventional psychology, how we are the few who should be running things, and the dishonesty inherent in the claim that homosexuality can be "cured," are obviously reflective of the way a sociopath's mind works.

Anonymous said...

For years I've thought that L. Ron Hubbard is a sociopath. You just confirmed my suspicions about this guy (that my instincts about him are on-target). Too bad his followers can't recognize the truth about the man. Over the years, I've read different things about him and he seemed like a mentally unstable person. You're right not to do a post about L. Ron Hubbard (a wise move on your end) - his followers would persecute you. Protect yourself. Scientology in my opinion, is a cult.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
Thank you. Yes, Scientology is unquestionably a cult. Just listen to what former (escaped) members have to say about it.

Anonymous said...

"You're right not to do a post about L. Ron Hubbard (a wise move on your end) - his followers would persecute you."
I'm not advocating that you write about them (you probably have no dog in the hunt), but what allows them to persist and succeed is that everyone backs down to their harassment (though more people have stood up to them in recent years). Scientology is also outlawed in Germany, FWIW.

John Craig said...

Anon --
You are right about that. And no, I have no personal vested interest, but I do like to expose sociopaths (not that being written about on an obscure little blog like this one constitutes "exposure").

Anonymous said...

You crack me up! LOL

John Craig said...

Anon --
Then the post served its purpose, thank you.