By Troy Headrick
I don’t think this is going to be anything like any of my other blogs. Actually, I’m not for sure what this is going to look like or how it might turn out. That’s why I’m calling it an “experiment.”
I will conduct my experiment by asking a series of personal, self-discovery questions and then answering them. Each response will be used to generate another query and answer. I will repeat this several times.
I want to be slow and deliberate each time I create my questions, but I want to be quick when writing my responses. Answering quickly is my way of allowing the ideas to flow. I want to get them out very spontaneously and then go back and clean up the language afterwards. I don’t want to edit my responses in any sort of substantive way other than to make them more readable.
There are probably several reasons for doing such an experiment. One of them is to drill down, farther and farther, toward some kind of foundational idea. Another is to see if I discover any interesting connections between the ideas that are generated from this activity. At the conclusion of this exercise, we’ll reflect on whether it had any value and if you could do something similar.
My First Self-Discovery Question: Why have I spent so much of my life feeling afraid and anxious?
My Answer: Maybe it has something to do with my upbringing, that I didn’t have any siblings for the first eight years of my life? So, I ended up dealing with things on my own or feeling like I didn’t have a peer to turn to for help or answers. I think such a feeling of being alone in the world, surrounded by only a very small number of much older adults, turned me into a very serious kid. I’ve heard from many that I was this sort of youngster. Being this way also contributed to me becoming very self-critical and a kind of perfectionist.
My Second Self-Discovery Question: Why did I become so hard on my myself and such a perfectionist?
My Answer: That is a very good question. I’m trying to think if any of my parents or grandparents were perfectionists or if something happened to me early in my life—some kind of trauma, other than being alone much of the time—that would cause me to become this way. Well, I can’t see that any of my relatives were perfectionists, per se, but my parents got a divorce which was very traumatizing.
My Third Self-Discovery Question: How did my parents’ divorce contribute to making me self-critical and serious?
My Answer: I remember the period when my parents were having trouble in their marriage. It’s still very clear in my mind. I even remember the actual day my mom moved out, taking me with her. I’m trying to get inside myself to see what was going on internally. I know I didn’t freak out or panic or even cry a lot. I think I tried to understand what was happening more than feel it. Does that make any sense? I think from a very early age I used my reason more than my emotions. Once I got in school and was around other children, I played, of course, but I was just as happy being aloof and watching, observing, studying, and I suppose this made me appear to be “serious.” (It is likely people were reacting to me as if I were serious which then became a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.) Also, because I was so alone, I don’t think I had a lot of positive reinforcement for the good things I was capable of doing. I didn’t hear or receive praise from other kids (there were none around), at least until I got into school and found out, by listening to others talk about me, that I was smart and had talents. I think not knowing that I had talents made me assume that I had none or that I was “nobody.” This feeling of being nobody must have begun to take root and started to turn me into someone who needed to prove (to myself) that I was somebody.
My Fourth Self-Discovery Question: To what extent are some of these early psychological factors still at play in my life?
My Answer: I’d say quite a bit. I enjoy laughing a lot—it feels like taking a powerful medicine—and experiencing great peak emotional moments, but I often distrust emotions. Emotions, by their very nature, are extreme and unreliable. I know, for instance, that if I’m angry, I’m liable to overreact, so I intentionally keep myself silent and wait for the emotion to subside and my head to clear. It is only then that I trust myself to make a response. I pride myself on being a thinker and I love being a thinker, but I don’t trust emotions as much. Emotions are dangerous. Did I really say that? Plus, being overly emotional means that I’m not going to be able to show “moderation in all things,” one of those philosophical principles of life I try to live by. I try to keep an even keel at all times. Otherwise, I feel tossed about on rough waters. This raises an interesting question: How much emotion is too much?
So, I’ve finished the experiment. I know I could have extended it quite a lot. In fact, I included an interesting query in the last line of my last response—how much emotion is too much? I think that one would have been interesting to answer.
I feel that this had value for me. I hope you can see how these kinds of queries help us drill down into things and make fruitful discoveries. For example, it was interesting to read that I wrote not receiving positive feedback from other children had kept me from knowing myself or what I was capable of. Does that mean we can’t know ourselves unless others tell us who we are? What a wonderful question to ponder! If I were to redo this experiment, I would certainly want to ask and answer that one.
What do you think about my experiment? Such could be used in journaling or for self-exploration or to come up with blog ideas. These queries could stretch out in all directions, taking us many places.
I look forward to reading your responses.
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.