DISCOVERING MYSELF: Lacking Life Strategies

At age 79 I appear to be discovering myself, or a possibly new aspect of how I behave and experience. In this essay I am specific on details of the dynamics of my family – what may be embarrassing for them. Since I believe in full transparency, I will post. It is your choice to read. I am not embarrassed to reveal details about my own dysfunctions.

It was triggered by Eloise telling me that step-daughter Stephanie believes I hate her because I have never asked her to go to dinner with me, or to go to a movie, or to ask her to go camping.  This is true, although I have suggested a number of times that she and I go camping from the car.  Last year she insisted that I go on a canoe trip down the Colorado river with her and her boys.  She refused to believe I was not in condition for such a trip.

Thinking on this omission on my part I realized that I never initiate asking anyone (other than Eloise) to go to movies or dinner with me. Even when I lived alone I went to movies and ate out alone – reading.  It never occurred to me to ask anyone. I am a follower for outings. For years I wait for Dan to call or email suggesting we get together for an evening.

I then realized that I never thought about being a parent. Eloise said I never should have been a parent. Maybe not. But I just assumed the role without giving thought to it.  I had read much about raising children but never thought to apply it – as a parent. If a situation brought to mind something I knew then I applied it. I did have views for Steph’s education. I just didn’t have a strategy for being a parent – to develop a strategy never occurred to me.  It may have been different had I been the father of a new born baby. In the same way I never thought about a career – I just went to college and took a sequence of jobs that became available.

EXAMPLES: After finishing my work for my PhD at Yale I was at a loss in finding work. And since I was soon getting married I realized I needed an income. The Arctic Institute of North America had paid me since 1960 when I decided to go the the Antarctic. In 1963 it was too late in the fall to seek employment in higher education – and I guess I just waited until I finished one task before I decided to do another. I later heard that a new PhD involved their faculty adviser for seeking a position. I went to an employment agency in NYC and got a job teaching in Tuckahoe High School.  Their physics teacher had suddenly resigned to go on the road as pianist for Hildigaard(?), who was coming out of retirement.  I just settled into the job, but was disturbed when my committee at Yale was embarrassed because Sir Charles Wright (an external reviewer of my thesis, who I had recommended) had rejected my thesis as insufficient to be a PhD thesis.  I cut my teaching down to only one course (the physics course) and spent most of my time in the Columbia University library expanding on my thesis.  By this time I had married Cynthia and we were living in Dobbs Ferry while she worked a computer analyst for IBM.

I floundered trying to find the next job.  I remember interviewing for jobs I wasn’t qualified for.  I must have sent my resume to the University of Minnesota, where it caught the attention of  a physics prof who was also working for MINNEMAST. I was invited to join MINNEMAST and secondarily teach physics. So Cynthia and I moved to Minneapolis. Before leaving I had submitted my expanded thesis to Yale. But, I had to fly back East for my new oral exam. That is another story.

The upshot is that I never planned my life. As a futurist I never applied futures thinking to my own life. I have no personal life strategy. It is only recently that I have begun to wonder why. I can’t remember, ever, in my life where I had to chose between two equal options.  No, there was one occasion and it caused a psychosomatic heart attack.

  •     In a Greenwich Village Chinese restaurant with Cyndy I felt my arm going numb and was feeling faint. I began to take of my wrist watch. The next aware moment I was in an ambulance and my first thought was “I’ve had a heart attack, I don’t have to make a decision”.  WOW!  It might have been helped by Chinese Restaurant Syndrome from MSG.
  •     I was caught between two options. 1) continue working on my PhD, which had become frustrating, or 2) work full time with the peace movement. Whether to marry Cyndy was also on my mind: to marry or not to marry.
  •     Nothing was wrong with my heart.

I once claimed that my mind moved like Brownian Motion, seeming random movement from thought to thought to thought. Each connected as I navigated through the web of my mind.  I even discussed this with my Intro Psy students at PCC describing the form of my “lectures”.  They actually learned to follow me.  I am now realizing that my behavior has been like that much of the time. I get into a rut and stay there until something kicks me out, into another rut.  I was fortunate to have many opportunities that resulted in the emergence of “nuet” and my unique views of reality.

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I need to return to how Steph was hurt by my not thinking about asking her out – father and daughter outings. Actually, I remember writing, a long time ago, about an insight that family members should “date” each other.  I conceptualized on the need, but it seemed not to influence my behavior.

I believe that this “naive” behavior (a term I have long applied to myself) is the result of my lack of mental imagery and my being conatively dysfunctional.  I never image others, and I never think about others spontaneously – it takes a perception or another thought association to remind me of others – but I still don’t image them. Also, I have no concrete remembrances of times spent with others. In my mind it appears I am alone.

  •     I often worried when I would go for weeks not thinking about my parents or brothers. And I won’t think about Eloise or Stephanie or anyone else unless triggered to do so.
  •     Recently I have experienced three deaths.  Bernie, Lester (our house guest) and Rusty (our 13 year old Golden Retriever).  I don’t grieve because I can’t experience them with my sensory imagination – as I have no sensory imagination.  I no longer think something is wrong with me in that I can’t grieve.  Yet, if I look deeply at a picture of Lester or Rusty I will experience emotions, even cry.  Lester left a voice message on my cell which I didn’t hear until after he died. He was calling for help from his bed. He was very thirsty and couldn’t get out of bed.  When we returned to the house I found Lester hanging onto the bed to keep from falling on the floor. He said he had been that way for hours. Two days later he died.  Hearing his call for help on my cell phone really shocked me – and it would often come up when I checked for messages. It takes actual stimulation for me to recall my past – and then I can never re-experience in mental imagery any moment of my past.  Fortunately, I can’t re-experience how Lester looked as we helped him back into his bed. Yet, I do often “remember” the incident and that it disturbed me emotionally. Yet, when thinking conceptually about that event, even now when writing about it, I don’t experience feelings or emotions. How and what I do “remember” is another story.

 Others have told me many times how attentive and considerate I am to their needs.  This is when I am in their actual presence, and I am perceiving them with my senses.  I see needs and do little things for them.

  •     I am over sensitive today of the deep needs of this “family”.  The pain and anger towards me in Eloise, Stephanie, and Tommy bombard my senses.  Yet, there is nothing I can do to help them – except keep out of their way.  To passively submit to their expectations of me won’t help them – it only supports their not facing realities.  But I can’t always keep silent. When I do speak out about how things might change, everyone throws up a big mirror and I am accused of being negative.
  •     They all know that when my attempt to help-the-situation, and they dismiss me, I flip-out and SHOUT.  Yes, I am also trying to make my own life more livable here, but I am never thinking only of myself.  In fact, as this essay is leading, I really don’t think about myself nearly enough – and am far too easily manipulated by others. SHOUTING has become a cardinal sin for me; once I shout everything I have said can be dismissed further.  Even when others shout back making ugly faces at me.  For this family at this time, I am the cause of all their difficulties.  Yet, this is not a conscious decision and they are all truly good persons.
  •     I extrapolate that variations of the dynamics of my family are repeated in other families everywhere.

Periodically I have wondered about my “ego”.  My “family” believes me to be very self-centered and trying to “control” everything.  My own view is that I am only resisting being controlled by them.  Larry (the biological organism) hosts nuet (the emergent “world” in Larry’s brain). Nuet is the center of my attention, to the neglect of Larry. In a sense Larry has no “ego” – except, maybe, when he is dismissed by others.

  •     Larry is weak and easily manipulated. Larry is passive with respect to people – but he can be very assertive when promoting ideas from nuet.
  •     Larry never asks anyone to accept his ideas as important – he can’t expect acceptance until there is comprehension.  Larry asks only that others attempt to comprehend some of his ideas.  To comprehend doesn’t necessarily lead to belief – although some appear to fear so.  Long ago Larry chose to study to comprehend a concept before he chose to strongly reject it.  Larry seeks to read the best defenders of ideas he wants to oppose. He is suspicious of attacks on ideas that are not based on comprehension of those ideas, often by those who emotionally oppose the ideas.
  • In conversation I often refer to an idea/insight of mine – as in the sense above of my trying to help someone. I claim to have a talent to detect “holes” or “context difficulties” in my imagined comprehension of the ideas being expressed by others. I foolishly attempt to expand the context of the conversation to enable discussion of  what I intuit as a “problem” in our attempted “convergence to shared comprehension”.  This seldom can be done in linear conversational mode; yet it my habit to continue the attempts. Unfortunately, this is often taken as my attempt to change the topic. The meta issue this brings up is also very difficult to share.

It is time for me to end this rambling. Be back later.  3/21/2014 11:55 PM