Saturday, October 11, 2008

I think too much, little of it is useful, and rarely is it linear

Ach. A week without a post, and a short one at that. I have no excuse except that the economy weighs on me grievously, though I have yet to fully experience the full force of the Wall Street whipsaw. I spent the early years of my abstract thinking development (also known as puberty and adolescence) developing theories about the BRAC-induced recession of the early 90s and its effects on my community (not so good, as you might guess) and subsequently find myself compelled to think through the micro-consequences of macro events. As a result, the other day I found myself contemplating whether all the chalk people at the bottom of the chalk supply chain (namely, the people who excavated the chalk?) have found new employment, and whether the chalk producing companies partnered well with whiteboard manufacturers as they transitioned to dry erase markers and fiber, rather than felt, erasers. Because moving from chalkboards to whiteboards must have obliterated the chalk market. Right?

Earlier this week I hastily wrote a memo that I halfheartedly hoped would demonstrate my readiness for promotion, though realistically I do not believe I am fully capable of doing my job at the next level (news flash: I rarely think much of my work and can count on my fingers the number of times I've felt like I excelled at something). This stems from my special knowledge of what a spaz I am unless I'm experiencing the precisely right level of optimal stress and feedback. I think they call this optimal frustration in developmental psychology. (This level is often augmented by the optimal amount of what I suppose is either hypomania or narcissistic supply, depending on which diagnosis I would like to don at any given moment.) Unfortunately, I remain unable to divine what this level is, and I also fail to grasp how I might recreate these conditions, in part because the feedback piece is dependent upon authority figures, and I have an unhelpful fear of those. Thus I am constrained by my own personal demons and trapped in an increasingly unsatisfying self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is this the life of someone slightly off-kilter? No doubt. I grew up in a household where being inflexibly different was a badge of honor. At this point it has become a source of fascination, and possibly also a ball and chain. Having expended much effort cultivating a rationale for my idiosyncracies, I now find myself needing to rework a lot of the fundamental framework. The issue that vexes me most is this: am I the way I am because of choices I made, or am I fundamentally this way? Because the courses of action are very different given the answer. One requires lots of self-discipline, whereas the other requires lots of soul-searching and thoughts about different careers. I read a lot of productivity and personal development blogs because some (very irrational) part of me remains convinced that the answer is out there. Certainly, there are many who vie for the opportunity to sell me a solution, and most of them speak of following plans and unleashing potentials. The idea is that everyone has within them the raw materials for high levels of effectiveness, and of course, like anyone I find this notion appealing. On the other hand, I'm skeptical and prone to determinism. I'm both Scully and Mulder, if you will.

I recently read that positive psychology is a new discipline within psychology. Whether it deserves to bear the designation of psychology at all is a question for others to answer, but I will register this opinion: there are limits to the power of behaviorism now as there were when the science of cognition came of age.

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