The Way A Different Mind Works

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I confess I have different ways of learning and processing information than most people.  And that has gotten me in much trouble over the years, especially while at a work place. I never could read people’s body language well enough to be good at socializing.  I can’t tell what they think just by watching them.  I can, however, read through the lines of what they write.  I have always been a much better reading learner than a hands on or auditorial learner.  I think one of the reasons I never became as good with my hands as I am with my mind or communications is that I couldn’t see diagrams or in some cases, even what I was doing.  And I never got enough repetition in to get good.  It always frustrated my teachers, bosses, and even family that it took more repetition for me to learn something than most people.  But once I learned the skill, I remember it for life.  I think I was given up on by teachers and employers too early in some cases because it takes me longer to learn through doing than most people.  But once I learned something through doing, I have never forgotten it.

Even though I am pretty intelligent in some ways (though some would argue this), I never did get the top grades in school or most of the accolades at work.  I did well enough that I gave my teachers and bosses that false hope I could be a superstar student or employee.  Yet, because of my mental make up being so much different than the norm, I couldn’t develop my skills fast enough for my employers and teachers to really see my potential.  I never could read a teacher well enough to know what was on a test.  So I had to study the entire subject.  It will make you well grounded in a subject, like biology or history, but it is not conducive to getting good scores on tests.  Likewise at work, I couldn’t read my bosses, coworkers, or customers very well.  I certainly couldn’t the first time I met them or even the first few.  Like I said, it takes me more repetition to learn things than many people.  Yet, once that knowledge is learned, it is learned for life.  Even though I haven’t played football since 1999, I still remember many of the plays we used in games and practice simply because our coaches believed heavily in repetition and details.  I loved that kind of take on sport.  I didn’t want to be fancy or eye catching, I just wanted to win and be good at what I knew and was doing.

Yet because I couldn’t learn in the way my bosses and clients preferred, I didn’t make a very good employee.  For years I was convinced I was defective and was damaged goods. I believed it so much it’s why I went on disability insurance in spite having a college degree and good intelligence test scores.  Sure I may have the natural brain power many employers are looking for.  Yet, the way my mid works and learns is not what gets a person ahead at a job, most of which are service sector jobs.  Attention to details and throughly learning your field was the way to go for a renaissance era craftsman or a high end scholar.

Yet, good luck finding those jobs today.  I have ability.  I have talent.  I have intelligence.  I have the ability to learn new things and remember those new things my entire life.  In many ways I am far smarter now than I was when I graduated college in 2004.  But that is because I found out through trial and much error how I effectively learned.  I learn by reading and by doing many times, not by listening to a lecture or two and doing a few trial runs.  It does take me longer to learn the basics than most people.  But I remember the basics far longer.  And I can build upon those basics to even incorporating some of my own takes on work tasks and ideas.

Sure it is an odd way to learn.  It is also one most teachers and employers especially don’t like.  I lost more jobs than most people have had in a fifty year career simply because my learning style didn’t fit modern corporate or service sector styles.  I may have done extremely well in an old style apprenticeship that took several years.  But, as it stands now, I’m halfway through my life and don’t have the energy or the courage to start over in something that I know will not accept my skill set or way of learning.  And it is a classic Greek tragedy as far as I’m concerned.

I have to wonder how many millions of people just in our day and age that live lives of quiet desperation and poverty yet would be model employees, crafts people, or business managers but never get the chance mainly because they learn things in different ways.  I have met only a handful of people in my life that I know was on the Autism spectrum.  Some of them were extremely intelligent, much more than even I am.  Yet most of them struggled socially and especially at work because the learning styles and ways of communication didn’t match up with the culture around them.

I think that things we classify as mental illness like schizophrenia, bi polar, autism, etc. (even homosexuality and bisexuality were considered mental illnesses until quite recently in many places) have always been with our species.  It just wasn’t as much of a disadvantage in a less structured Stone Age civilization.  In fact, I imagine that many of the first medicine men, shamans, astronomers, and priests were men and women who would be considered mentally ill by modern standards.  But they had a different way of learning and looking at the world than most other people in their little tribes and bands.  And it helped to eventually launch civilizations.  It’s the eccentrics and the odd fellows and odd ladies who took our species from only a few thousand scattered wanderers many thousands of years ago to the teeming billions who are actively making plans of colonizing other planets and celestial bodies.  Providing we don’t seriously screw up this transition, who knows what the human species will be capable of given thousands of years scattered across a few star systems.  And it was mainly because of the oddballs and mad men who, while scorned and condemned among their contemporaries, led the way forward out of the Ice Age caves to now standing at the entry way to the cosmos.

It’s been a long and strange journey.  And it’s one I hope is only entering a new phase rather than reaching it’s climax and decline.  The choice is up to us who are currently alive and how much we chose to nurture and value those who don’t think like the norm.  I may never be one of these innovators who profoundly changes the world.  For now, I am content to be among those who appreciate the eccentrics and encourage them onward.  The road to the stars is fraught with great difficulties.  But, because of the odd ones, I believe we are up to this task.

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Thoughts on Abnormal Thinkers

I readily admit to being eccentric and having unconventional ideas.  I have never completely subscribed to any one school or tribe of thought, instead choosing to cherry pick the best  ideas from all sides while throwing out the rest.  I get that some people consider me a hypocrite or even not having principles for picking and choosing ideas from the various schools of thoughts when it comes to things like economics, science, politics, and even religion.    Since I hold views from many different sources, and have for years, I have found myself in conflict with most conventional and normal thinking people.  Most of my friends, regardless of what their political dogma, find it extremely strange that my views don’t line up directly with either right or left schools of thought.  Some call me unpractical and even a hypocrite.  I call it ‘thinking for yourself.’  I get that people that don’t hold conventional thoughts or try to figure out ways to improve on currently used systems of politics or science or business or anything else are not going to make many friends.  One of the most painful truths I had to accept about myself and life in general was that I will never have a great deal of friends or popular simply because I look at the world in ways most people can’t picture.  I can see the world from multiple angles.  I even try to see it from the points of view of people that would consider me an enemy of all they hold dear.  My religious friends think I’m strange in that I love science and technology.  My science minded friends think I’m odd in that I find value in many aspects of religion and spirituality.

I have never understood why I have to be all one thing or another.  That shows a lack of thinking as far as I’m concerned.  I have never been much of a conformer, which has gotten me in serious trouble with my teachers and family, ostracized by peers and coworkers, fired by bosses, etc.  But, at least being a non conformist frees me to look at problems from many angles and contemplate more than one possible solution.  I do not believe violence and war solves all problems.  Also, I believe some people cannot and will not be negotiated with and only understand force and violence and death.  I think one of the greatest tragedies of early 21st century civilization is how inflexible and unadaptable many people, especially people in leadership of business, government, education, religion, and sadly sometimes science, are in their thinking and views of existence.  I don’t give anyone any career advice anymore because we don’t know what careers will be around in even fifteen years.  Many jobs will become automated and computerized and many industries and commodities and skills will be made either free or almost free within the next generation or two.  And our rigid and uncompromising ways of thinking and looking at the world are going to hurt individuals, families, communities, and entire nations in the coming years.

Change is coming.  We can either embrace it, grudgingly adapt to it, or rage against it to no avail.  We can’t stop science and tech changes, not even a major collapse in our civilization’s economy can stop it, at least as long as infrastructure and the thought processes of movers and shakers remains in tact.  We all read in school about the Depression of the 1930s and major pockets of civilization being without work and destitute.  Yet, many self made fortunes in business and science advances came out of those dark days too.  And if the money system does fall apart like I’ve heard from my economist and prepare friends, well it will be replaced by something else.  It’s not like we haven’t had failures in the money system before.  I know this isn’t normal thinking.  But so what.  I am not normal.  Never have been and hopefully never will be.  I may not have many friends because of my abnormal and eccentric thought patterns, but the friends I do have are amazing.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Normal does not change the world or individuals for the better.  Normal doesn’t improve anything.  Normal is decay and death, especially in our time and age.  And normal and stasis is only going to make things worse for individuals as time goes forward.  Normal sucks.

Dealing With Uncivil Behavior With A Mental Illness

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I absolutely hate any time some fools feel like they are required to spout off and read off a laundry list of transgressions (most of which are exaggerated or imagined) that another group has committed.  I have never understood why ‘normal’ people seem to thrive on interpersonal conflicts and strife.

We see it all the time; liberals vs. conservatives, racial divides, capitalists vs. socialists, men and women calling each other out, religious adherents and atheists unloading on each other, nerds and jocks despising each other on every high school campus, the elderly thinking all young people are lazy and unruly while the young believing the elderly are all parasitizing via social security and not providing adequate guidance, etc.  etc.  Even those of us in the mentally ill community often have our issues with each (namely among the medicate vs. don’t medicate or the work vs. disability insurance routes).  The most ironic part of these interpersonal squabbles is regardless of what side of an argument you are on, each side has at least a few legitimate points.  In spite of our differences we really aren’t that different.  And the way we treat each other over these minor differences is really wrong and petty.

I definitely have my beliefs about many topics that we humans think upon. I will under no circumstances discuss anything of any intellectual weight or contention unless I am for sure that the discussion will remain civil and not devolve into a modern version of two bands of cavemen brandishing sticks and grunting at each other over who gets the last slabs of wooly mammoth meat.  I promise here and now if I ever make it to any kind of fame I will never volunteer to take part in any debate with another person or panel under any circumstances unless I am completely cured of schizophrenia.

To me, listening to debates is the same as watching monkeys at the zoo fling manure at each other. It makes a major mess, the monkeys get riled up for awhile, and nothing is really accomplished.  I may do a TEDx talk if I ever gained any kind of traction, but that is decades away.  I’ve seen too many debates and ‘Crossfire’ type shows to believe that any kind of informing, enlightenment, and mutual respect goes on.  Do not even get me going on politics and voting.  I intentionally lie to pollsters just to throw a small wrench in their numbers.  I know they interview thousands of potential voters, but since politicians have blatantly and knowingly lied to constituents ever since there were politicians and constituents I figure this is my little way of protesting without being labeled like one of these hippies from the 1960s or one of the Occupy Wall Street guys.  I probably shouldn’t lie as it violates the whole Golden Rule (and I don’t mean ‘he who has the most gold has the most rule’).

One of the religious teachings I agree with states ‘let the one lacking in sin (or faults) throw the first stone.’  I have no doubt that every belief system in the world has their own uniquely worded version of this.  It is one that while we do not practice all the time. If we did, at least 90 percent of our interpersonal strife would immediately vanish.  When we are actually intellectually honest we will acknowledge we don’t know everything, we don’t have all the answers, and we have faults in our beliefs.  We are not perfect, no one is, and we would be better off to not expect perfection out of anyone.  We know it is right to treat others with respect.  We know it feels good when we are treated with respect ourselves.  Do to others as you would have done to yourself isn’t just a feel good meme or ancient proverb derived two millennium ago, it is a basic pillar on which civilized life is built on.  The whole idea of I got to get mine and kill or be killed is a relic of pre history that would be best left in a museum, not practiced in our interpersonal, inter business, and inter national relations.

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Anyway, as a mentally ill person I have a hard time dealing with uncivilized behavior and heightened emotions (namely negative ones) without the whole deal feeling like it is becoming a personal attack.  I literally feel physically threatened and scared to the point of anger (anger often is just a mask for fear) during heated discussions.  As a man who is much larger than most, I don’t think it would bode well for anyone if I went Ice Age Neanderthal hunter on an unsuspecting person who is either trying to win a discussion or  just being a troll.

In short, to my mentally ill friends and readers, feeling like melting down on someone in a heated situation may be unavoidable, but never act out on it.  Ever.  Fortunately I haven’t been in a fight since sixth grade, long before I got a mental illness or twice the size of most humans.  Sometimes a person just has to cut their losses and run, especially when dealing with mental illness.  Dealing with people who refuse to act civil and risking an assault charge because you had a mental break is not worth it.