So, to conclude today’s posting (ahem) frenzy: a musing that doesn’t mean very much, but has been in my head for a while.
When I was travelling home after The Social Event mentioned in the last post, I felt an unexpected and incredibly sudden sense of… anticlimax? Not sure of the right word to express it, but my mood had been nice and stable for a while, and then all of a sudden, this happens. I don’t think it was particularly a result of The Event itself; instead, more a reaction to my observations during the prolonged exposure to Outside. If that makes any sense at all.
I’m admittedly rather nervous about posting this, in case the above statement is taken to be a reflection on the individuals present and their company, which it absolutely isn’t. I can’t stress that strongly enough; the company was brilliant (I know, I say “brilliant” far too much, but I like the word, and it’s true… so there).
It is far more to do with my overthinky brain doing That Thing I Wish It Didn’t, namely the response I learned as a young(er) Aspie to, erm, work around the fact that other people had emotions that I didn’t understand. Lots of thinking. Lots of thinking. And for the most part, I think it’s worked. It’s just sometimes… it works too well.
One of the recurring topics featured in my brainthoughts – both during The Event and on my way home – was that of change; more specifically, that of people changing. With time, with experience, with new-found freedom… and so on. And this is what I’m posting about.
So, when I got home, my brilliant sounding board (also known as my mother) was there, ready and waiting – as always – to help me analyse my thinking. She’s been my main source of emotional education throughout my life so far, and she still helps me to work out what people mean when they’ve said [whatever] or made [this] face… and so on. And I would be completely lost without her input. That and her smile – she has fantastic corners.
(I should probably explain to the sane people reading this that I’ve always found faces fascinating, eyebrows and mouths especially, and I like watching the corners of mouths whenever an expression is changing; my mum’s corners are particularly pointy, and it’s very entertaining when she starts to smile because it looks like they’re dancing… it’s fun to watch if that’s what you’re looking for, basically. Or, of course, the more likely explanation: I’m bonkers.)
Back to the point. As swiftly as possible. Ahem.
So, I was sounding my thoughts off my human board, and in one of her earlier responses, she referred to the “new” me that I was apparently presenting, and it set off a further chain of thoughts which took several hours to dissipate.
Because I disagreed. Strongly. I haven’t changed, whether she was meaning the openly-trans thing, or the increase in confidence/stability since starting uni thing, or anything else, for that matter. I’m not a different person. I’m not using uni as an opportunity to be different, and nor would I want to. I know that this is what people seem to do, or claim to do, or want to do, in some capacity, but I fail to understand how such a thing can be possible.
It opens up the whole nature/nurture debate, I suppose, and that’s probably too heavy a subject for me to try and go into in any kind of detail right now. Maybe it’s my Asperger’s blinding me from understanding the full psychological motivation and progress of such things, but I don’t have much faith that it is even possible to successfully “becoming a different person”, regardless of how good the intentions behind it may be.
When I read that back, I realised how incredibly narrow-minded it sounds, so I’ll try and explain my thought process further…
When my long-suffering mother used the term “new you” at me, it felt like an insult. I’m no different, actual-personality-wise, than I was before; that is, while some of my cells have been shed and replaced with new ones, and I’m more comfortable in myself than I used to be, I’m still the same person in essence. While I do understand what the phrase “really means”, I still find it rather grating, as it always sounds accusatory to me somehow. Like I’m either deceptive now, or I used to be; like one “version” of me is a lie.
And I resent it. My DNA doesn’t – can’t – change, and nor does my personality. While I agree that people can “improve” themselves (although that in itself is perhaps so much a matter of individual opinion that it would be impossible to judge) with a great deal of effort, I highly doubt that it’s possible to successfully change their own personality traits, and thus their selves.
For example, one can work at becoming kinder, more open-minded, more confident, and so on; that’s an understandable choice to work on what’s already there, ie. it’s only the proportions of certain qualities that change. And with that, I believe it would take a continual effort to maintain; unless it occurs naturally with age or experience, in which case the situation causing it only need change before effort is required again. However, I find it hard to comprehend the notion that one may ever be able to, for example, “become” extroverted when it is in fact introversion that is woven into one’s DNA.
Being an introvert myself, I’m always pondering these kinds of things (especially when I’m thinking along the lines of “why can’t I just be normal and want to be around people all the time?” and “why can’t I express my opinions aloud like everyone else?”), hence the above example. And indeed, from the limited experience I have of Trying To Be Normal – it didn’t last long, I assure you – the way I see it is this:
- Start off as [whatever]. Don’t like it.
- Let’s try and be like Everyone Else.
- Force the issue, and put in a constant effort to be more [whatever else].
- Do this for a reasonable amount of time, whether it’s comfortable or not.
- It slowly becomes less uncomfortable to be [whatever else].
- Still not happy. Still not fulfilled.
- Eventually realise that trying to be [whatever else] takes up more effort than it would to work on accepting natural [whatever]ness.
And I think this will happen, regardless of circumstances, and with any trait that doesn’t come naturally… except the last stage may be missing; some will inevitably continue to work towards an unattainable goal, instead of working on self-acceptance.
While we know that human behaviour fluctuates throughout life, and it is naïve to assume that any one person will be completely unable to react in an even-slightly-uncharacteristic way, I find it highly doubtful that anyone will be able to “flip” from one end of the spectrum to the other, for any ingrained personality trait. I do, however, believe that it is possible for uncharacteristic behaviour to occur completely naturally… just not forever; people will either move back unconsciously to their natural point on the spectrum in question, or ultimately drain themselves of energy trying to find fulfilment in their “synthetic” self.
I don’t really know what I’m thinking as I type this. It’s just a long-winded thought process because I suppose the People Change Idea makes me uncomfortable. When I get to know someone and find that I like them as a person, I like them for who they are, and I think that if they change dramatically, then they’re spoiling themselves. Which sounds strange. But it’s true.
Genuine people are the best kind (although that’s kind of obvious, I know), and as long as you are really yourself around me, there’s not a single personality trait or idiosyncracy that will freak me out or provoke any judgement of you; your perceived “flaws” are like fingerprints, and they’re often what I like most about people. Flaws make you human, and I find it difficult to be around cardboard cut-outs or plastic people who don’t appear to have any problems, because it’s not real, and that is what feels deceptive to me. Does that make sense?
Anyway, I’m really just thinking aloud. People grow up, people mature, people gain wisdom or confidence… but they don’t naturally shed the skin of their Birth Selves and substitute it with a new and improved model. And if they do, then I admire their determination, and I hope it turns out to be a better fit than my thinking predicts.
If I’ve missed something along the way, I’d welcome thoughts and opinions; in fact, I’m rather uncomfortable posting such relentless pessimism publicly, as it feels like I’m overlooking something important psychologically, and so I would appreciate some perspective if anyone out there has some to share!
For now though, I’m all reasoned out.