Friday, April 25, 2008

My Psychology

My Psychology: who I am and why I am the way that I am.
A paper I wrote for Dr. Thorpe.

So why do I disengage? It would be easy to dismiss this as a personality trait, simply ‘the way that I am’; but I’m going to try to look deeper than that. It could be to do with my upbringing. My parents never asked me to talk to them about my emotions or what I was going through. I still would, when I wanted. But it was, for the most part, my initiation. I think that this taught me not to ask when I didn’t need to. Not to be a nuisance. I generally relied on myself. I got through things myself. I could figure out the answers, I could do it on my own.

I might also say that living in Hong Kong made me realise how temporary relationships can be. Unlike a small town in which everyone lives their whole lives, Hong Kong is a place where people come and go frequently, often settling only for a year or two at a time. Because of this I saw many friends come and go, I developed deep friendships that were constantly uprooted. 

Perhaps I’ve gone off of deep, dependent relationships because I know that goodbyes hurt. Perhaps I’ve become unwilling to open up to others because I know it won’t last. Everything is temporary, so what’s the point? But I don’t believe this is the case. I don’t run away from deep relationships, I treasure them. But why am I more detached than I think I am?

I’ve always admired those who were strong, able to suppress their emotions – suck it up and get on with it. And I think I’ve always striven to be that way myself, to be hard and unemotional, maybe because emotion seems to be the root of a lot of foolishness. Maybe because it makes life a lot more simple when you don’t have to deal with all of that inward junk. The funny thing is that in suppressing emotions rather than facing them, you’re allowing for a complicated mess, not easily sorted or fixed or even understood. And I suppose that that is what I’m dealing with now. I am trying to disentangle the mess of my emotions and thoughts that I have built up over the years in order to get to the bottom of who I really am, not who I present myself to be.

My intuition has always been a huge way for me to gauge the ways and feelings of others, and God. I’m discovering now that I place too much weight upon my intuition, and I have become overly dependent on it in figuring out what I’m supposed to do. I think that it has been a help and a hurdle. I feel like it gives me a great capacity for understanding others, and I’ve failed to realise that others might not have the same ability to understand me in my self-isolation. As a result, I don’t say things that I assume others know, things that they don’t know and things that I ought to say. And I don’t express my feelings well enough because I expect them to get it. I’ve come to realise in recent years that this has been the cause of a barrier in friendships. I assume that they know me through and through, and in making this assumption I stop giving of myself.

When I left Hong Kong, my best friend gave me a letter at the airport, which I read on the airplane. It made me realise faults that I’d never known I’d had in our friendship. She stated her insecurities about our relationship which were based on my inaction and distance, which could easily be misconstrued as indifference. It was difficult for me to read, and it hurt me to realise that I was the cause of so much pain to one of the people I love the most, simply because of the things that I did not do.

In a way, this is just how I am. I process things internally; I am a very private person. Where my best friend placed value on everything in the relationship as a sign of how much I cared, I was very selective in what I deemed important. She was very right, and I recognised it as my weakness. I tend to be very absent minded, and while I feel that I can understand people very deeply, I tend to overlook the little things, and generally expect others to do the same. It’s a lesson to me to be more sensitive. To show people that I care, and that I value them. One of my friends recently told me that he feels as though we have gotten closer since leaving Hong Kong. This surprised me at first, mostly because of the infrequency of our emails, but I suppose it makes sense. Given that he’s not an active part of my life anymore, I have to more explicitly explain what is going on with me in my emails. And I guess he feels like I’m being more open and honest, whereas I simply feel like I’m keeping up. It is weird to realise how distant I can be in relationships without my realisation, and my independence has definitely been a barrier for others, and difficult to break down.

Next: my pride. My pride has been fostered, I suppose, by the various walls and barriers I have so conveniently placed around myself. I suppose in isolating myself so much from others, and keeping my core impenetrable, I became to think of myself as untouchable. I suppose I thought I was doing it all on my own strength, I suppose I still do. I don’t give God enough credit, and this is another place I stumble. Since I choose not to rely on Him, I can take all of the credit, right? I know the answer is ‘Wrong’, but it feels as though it shouldn’t be. 

In a way this kind of gets to me because it raises a whole other issue: to what extent can we take credit for our actions? It is common to hear people give credit to God for their good deeds. This is based on the belief that all good comes from God; He is the ultimate source of all goodness, or goodness itself. So if we have 'free will', why should everything good we choose to do be accredited to God when all of the other decisions we make are solely our own responsibility? And if God gets all of the rightful credit, are we really just incapable of good? When we make a decision that is 'good', it is only because of God's goodness that is within us (since we are made in His image). If only our wrong actions are truly our own, does this mean that our only choice in 'free will' is to choose evil, since we don't have the capacity, on our own, to choose good? But this is another essay for another day.

Anyway, I suppose an element of my emotional detachment was that it made me feel less human. It made me feel as if I was above all that – emotional turmoil, blind passions, foolishness. I felt like it put me on a higher playing field, I wasn’t one of the weak ones, I would not give in to fleeting emotion, instead I would remain calm and rational. And while I never expressed these feelings of arrogance to anyone, I nurtured them within myself. In fact I have always acted on the behalf of others, placing them above myself and putting their needs before my own. And while this stems from genuine care and concern for the wellbeing of others, it became yet another good deed on my part to fuel my pride. My caring for others fed my egocentricity. Oh the irony.

I have spent the better half of this year trying to break my pride. It is a difficult process, but extremely important. I’m taking a different approach than I’ve tried before. Instead of constantly trying to push these thoughts deemed ‘impure’ or ‘unholy’ out of my head, I am facing them. I am questioning myself about them. I am trying to understand them, and trying to understand their place in me. Before I would ignore my impurities, yet this did nothing to prevent my pride from taking hold. Now I confront myself in honesty, all that I am, and I am trying to act on it. I am trying to see myself as God sees me. I am a sinner. I am so wrong. I have no idea about anything. I am allowing myself to acknowledge that I have wrong feelings, thoughts or emotions. And in finally acknowledging my sins, I am realising just how much of a sinner I am. I am realising that I cannot do this on my own. I am realising how much I need God. I am realising that I am dependent upon His Grace. I am realising that I am no better than anyone else. I am realising that I don’t have all of the answers.

Just one question: what is the greater sin: to live in pride blindly, or to live in pride acknowledging one's own arrogance?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

hello, i am

What kind of fucking intersection
is this,
that a
roads branch out from it.
What kind of fucking mess
is this,
that a 
choices hang suspended,
awaiting my decision.

This is the Game of Life,
I am Your pawn.

Upon my chest
a tag that reads,
hello, I am expendable. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

God's Labyrinth

There is a reason that my blog is entitled 'Destination:Beautiful'. I know it's the title of a Mae album. And I love that album. But Mae is not the point. The point is that we are striving for a destination, and I'm sure you can guess that I'm about to say 'and that destination is beautiful'. From a Christian perspective, for me this means a destination not only in the sense of reaching heaven, but in a sense of achieving beauty in this life - beauty through a deeply personal relationship with God. And the while the journey doesn't end there, by no means (HECKZ NO!!!!), there is still a sense that we have achieved our purpose.

"The Journey is the Destination" also has huge significance to me. It comes from a journal of the artist Dan Eldon, who lived an amazing life, traveling through Africa and countless other countries reaching out to people. I love his artwork (check it if you get a chance, his journals are absolutely incredible). He poured so much of himself into what he did. And I believe that the journey in itself is so much of what the destination is. After all, we are only the product of our journey at the end.

I've been feeling, very heavily lately, an overwhelming sense of a journey that I am on. It is not physical. One might say it's something of a pilgrimage. What I seek is the truth. I seek to know my Faith. I want to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what I believe and why I believe it. I have been so furiously sorting and processing all sorts of information and experiences since my arrival, and I feel that I'm really getting to the core of this whole faith business. Realising so much, taking in so much that I can't hold it all in. I want to know my God, and myself. Who am I? And more importantly, who am I in relation to God?

Today I did a Labyrinth walk. It was good for me, a sort of physical embodiment of my thought process and emotions, a symbolic way for me to understand. It encourages a lot of reflection. And as I was walking I began to thank God. For such a beautiful city, for University Scholars, for the SMC program (or opportunity), the weather, the friends I have made, the people I have met. And then I surprised myself. I began to thank Him for the hurt. For the anger and resentment and pain I went through. I thanked Him for the suffering that led me to this very moment. That suffering has probably been the most valuable part of my experience thus far, and has caused me to look far beyond myself.

I've realised that I'm finally rejoicing in the gift God has given me. Yes, coming here has been a gift. Not a punishment, not a trap. A gift. And finally, in releasing all of the harmful emotions that I harboured for so long, I am freeing myself to receive the gift. I haven't only been freed from the suffering that I experienced in coming here, but also that which I have held onto throughout the years. How stifled I felt because of IB, how little I grew as a person in those two years, how little I felt like striving to be the best I can be. And now I can't keep track of my growth. I'm living again - and really living. I feel like I can finally smile again. I feel like I'm glowing.

Oh I don't know. It's all been a rather odd experience.

[There is much more to come. Posts concerning Human Nature and Mortality and all sorts of thoughts that have been floating around in my head lately]