Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Asshole or Crazy?

By this point, nearly every variety of suboptimal human behavior has been categorized as a syndrome, with big pharma, naturally, gunning for cures. Poor dresser? No sense of rhythm? Undertipper? Blame my genes!

It's true and it's not true. Genes may indeed be to blame, but they can be transcended. I've got a complete set of narcissism genes, but have spent so many years methodically sticking hot needles in those impulses and willfully pivoting from that frozen perspective that I've likely overshot, and tend to ignore my own interests (the whiff of sanctimony in that statement struck me like a stream of battery acid to my eye. Seriously, I'm a victim of Clockwork Orange-ish Beethoven aversion therapy, only I've done it to myself).

I do understand that some problems can't be overcome by force of will. A schizophrenic cannot train himself to ignore hallucinations (the film "A Beautiful Mind" did a terrible disservice), and a depressive can't simply "cheer up". I do believe there's often a trail out via introspection, but when your introspector itself is impossibly skewed, it's like a house of mirrors. Some - not all - people really can blame their genes for their behavior. But that's a tough call to make.

In my 55 years I've noticed two things I'm certain about: first, everyone's nuts (just some people hide it better). And, second, some people wield their neurosis like a cudgel, while others make an effort to shield those around them. As with nearly all other minor societal atrocities, it stems from a willful lack of situational awareness. As I once wrote:
I am, it appears, the only remaining human being with situational awareness. But the crux of the problem is not that others lack it. To accommodate other people, you first need to register their existence. Once you recognize that there are other human beings - and if that fact holds any interest for you - you may then, and only then, proceed down the path of developing situational awareness. You must 1. know, then 2. care, then 3. learn, then 4. apply. The problem lies at step one, not step four, for our sour-pussed, self-involved population of oblivious rich-world narcissists.

Yep, I just got back from Trader Joe's.
I have a friend who's a control freak. All the way - it's not just that he's "bossy". If you're going to meet him for dinner, it will be grievously hard for him to accept a time or place you set, even if they suit his preferences. It's literally painful for him to be in a situation where he doesn't call every single shot. While I can't get inside his mind, I imagine the sensation is like holding a conversation while workers hoist a piano directly over your head with a frayed rope. You may try to maintain decorum, but first comes the sweat, then comes the panic, then comes the freak out.

Thing is, he hates all this. He's a nice guy. He understands that nobody wants or deserves to constantly submit to someone's will. He firmly disapproves of the social politics of it. So he tries to hide it, to channel it, to soften it. He works very hard. He has a great big bag of tricks and workarounds to help prevent those around him from feeling pushed around. It doesn't always work, but he does all he can.

How many control freaks give a damn? Most pursue their programming, period. If it feels right to seize control, it must be right. They essentially behave like hamsters or ants; via rote instinct, without an iota of self-examination or empathetic consideration.

If you deal with neurotic people (and you do; once again, everyone's nuts) and you find yourself trying to navigate the tricky question of what to overlook and what to forgive - what's indulgent volition and what's intractable - just watch for situational awareness. Is the person trying, however feebly, to shield the effects? If so, is it all about passing for normal, or is there real empathy for those around them, too?

If there's consideration for others and an effort (however flimsy) to shield, the person has character. Forgive their impulses! If not, the person's an asshole in addition to whatever else is going on with them. Any allowances you make for them will be processed narcissistically; looped back into their unbridled impulses, often to your detriment.

1 comment:

Display Name said...

Damn you should post more often in the early morning Jim. Very nice read. Thank you.

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