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scion ri(o)t hi

June 7, 2012

When I find myself spending a lot of time in an environment that is not especially congenial, first I look for allies to help me understand its nuances and complexity. But almost immediately, I also conduct experiments that will tell me things about my environment that I can’t ask others about, because I don’t have a way of explaining what I want to know. And I generate a stream of ideas to customize my niche.

If I achieve a certain threshold of comfort, I will begin looking for ways to disseminate my own ideas beyond my niche.

I seek to bring change, and ultimately, transformation … of the environment itself, of my neighbors in it, and of myself. Ideally, there would be synergy, and we would all be part of emergent phenomena.

If I look at my life as a whole, taking a very long-term view, I think the (ideal) process is occurring.

But more short-term environments, like jobs, were not amenable to what I offered. They sought to change me into someone who would be content with what other people said was possible. To accept “my place”. To stop searching for ways to advance my own vision. To lose sight of the larger picture.

I have stayed in environments where I had lost all hope. Where I wasn’t “me” anymore. “Me” went dormant, retreating back into a cocoon. A veneer of me then held on by its fingertips until something external changed the situation, allowing all of me to escape.


I have recently realized that there are situations that I need to have in my life, but currently I don’t. I’m fumbling toward finding ways to add them back in, or create them from scratch where they never existed before.

Figuring out my boundaries isn’t just defending what makes me uniquely me. It’s also actively finding new things to try, because some of them will resonate to frequencies that are a conversation amongst Who I Am Now (me, in the present moment), Where I Am Now (environment as a whole; subset of local habitat), and With Whom I Am Now (my neighbors). That conversation is always changing. As stuff becomes possible, I want to try it. I need to keep trying things. An environment that punishes me for continuing to try things is toxic, and I will leave it, one way or another. I don’t seek stability, or homeostasis; I seek homeodynamics. Some parts of me are always interested in adventures.

Adventures, though, can be solitary endeavors. But there are parts of me that seek an audience. Not just for my words. I need to perform. I need to fully inhabit my body, feeling my awareness stretch beyond my own borders. I have felt that, mostly in athletic situations (high jumping, swimming, skiing, archery, gymnastics, dance). Part of me wants to find out if I can feel similarly while acting or singing.

It seems like performing athletic feats should be satisfying even when you’re alone, especially since most of the activities where I had these feelings were solitary in nature (not team sports), and yet… Being in a meet, knowing there were eyes upon me, added something ineffable. It was like Flow, but somehow Social.

It wasn’t connected to anything like cheering. Or what someone told me after my performance ended. It wasn’t because people I knew were watching me. Because nobody ever cheered for me; I rarely got any feedback; and invariably, even when one parent or another attended, somehow at the critical moment that I was doing, they were distracted and didn’t see it.

I think what I’m seeking must be something like a channel of perception that emerges only when certain conditions are met. And those conditions must include the presence and participation (in some sense) of other intelligent beings.

I do experience Flow when I’m by myself, say, creating art. But it doesn’t have this extra dimension.


I’m now wondering if that large reservoir of emotional energy (that I had posited was originally earmarked for becoming family atriarch) might instead be connected to a need to perform, in some capacity. I don’t want to tell anyone else what to do. But I do need to be competent, in public.

I dreamed I was a teacher. I don’t think that’s the right answer, but what is? And there is a boundary issue here somewhere.


Dale Archer, in his book, Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional, writes:

“I believe there are 8 important personality traits that when extremely dominant can constitute a disorder. Almost everyone on earth exhibits at least one of these traits to some degree. … These traits can be seen as positive and powerful, or as problematic and limiting, or, most often, as somewhere in between. … I have found in my own practice that these eight traits are the most prevalent ones that manifest themselves along a continuum and that people worry most about.” (pp. 22-23)

There were questionnaires to help you assess where on the continuum of each trait you might fall: absent (none); dominant (middle); super-dominant (you have it in spades).

The eight traits, and the disorders they are associated with, are:

  1. Adventurous/ADHD
  2. Perfectionist/OCD
  3. Shy/Social Anxiety Disorder
  4. Hyper-alert/Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  5. Dramatic/Histrionic
  6. Self-Focused/Narcissistic
  7. High Energy/Bipolar
  8. Magical (thinking)/Schizophrenia

I was especially interested in this approach because I’ve been diagnosed with ADD (which also runs strongly in my family), and some kind of anxiety disorder. I expected I would score low on narcissism and the others, none of which I was particularly interested in.

So I was not surprised to receive a “super-dominant” score for Adventurous/ADD, but I was surprised to score almost as high for Dramatic/Histrionic.

(My scores for the two related to anxiety, and narcissism, clustered around the middle; the other three scores were lower.)

I was even more surprised when I read the chapter on Dramatic/Histrionic, because so much of it resonated for me emotionally, even though my life doesn’t actually contain a lot of drama.

“The dramatic trait can be thought of as flowing along a continuum ranging from showing very little emotion at all (a state known as flat affect) to histrionic personality disorder. People with a flat affect don’t feel or express their emotions much at all. They don’t feel particularly sad when they experience tragedy or disappointment; they don’t feel great joy when they experience good fortune. Furthermore, they rarely show what little emotion they might be feeling. … As you move further up the dramatic continuum, you begin to show a more emotional awareness. Your emotional state becomes an increasingly important part of your decision-making process. You seek out pleasure and, when you are in a situation that causes you pain, frustration, or sorrow, you express those feelings and you seek to change this circumstance. Most of us fall somewhere within this range. But for some people, the emotional state overwhelms other interests. These people … easily show their feelings, and every time their emotional state changes, they tell the world about it. … Unfortunately, the world isn’t always tolerant of behavior that is perceived as histrionic. People who don’t have this trait often find dramatic personalities shallow or overwhelming. … People strong in the [dramatic] trait tend to be sensation oriented, demonstrative, and affectionate. They have rich imaginations and tell entertaining stories.” (pp. 111-113, 120)

The book lists 4 ‘ascendant strengths’ found in people with the dramatic trait. I definitely have two of them; but occasionally the third and fourth ones manifest. In fact, the third strength is what he calls ‘personal charm and charisma’, described as, “you tend to be lively, enthusiastic, and flirtatious and enjoy excellent social skills”– surely that could be an equivalent to my “sparkle”.

The fourth strength, ‘ability to entertain’, stopped me in my tracks:

“You like to be the center of the action. You enjoy being noticed. You’re happy when people are watching you. Such attention generally brings out the best in you. You can be witty, charming, and gregarious, and are often the most talked about personality in the workplace.” (p. 121)

All of that is true … as long as I’m not around my family of origin. Because in my family of origin, the spotlight is reserved for my mother, then my brother, and my sister fights both for it. There’s no room for me to be noticed.

So I have this internal sense of having a ‘larger-than-life personality’, and I’ve made a Big Splash at all sorts of jobs, and grad school. But in my family of origin, I’m relegated to being a wallflower, and pitied for being socially inept.

Spouse is a rising star at work, despite being an introvert.

I need a stage upon which to work my own magic.

I need to find who I can be.

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