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I was spending Sunday morning reading up on specific psychiatric disorders and stumbled upon something like nidotherapy. This type of therapy seeks to achieve a better fit between the personality and needs of the patient and their environment.

First off, it was a pleasure to see that my own scattered ideas and leanings regarding what might potentially the most beneficial therapy had a term for it. It also seems to be quite a new approach, but I hope it fares well and will be perfected in time and lead to a change in attitude in the treatment of a lot of mood and personality disorders. Too many people receive no benefit from conventional drug treatment nor cognitive behavioural therapy. It does seem truly hard to implement, however, but my highly subjective and non-evidence-based opinion is that there is no better treatment for most personality disorders and mood disorders than this, and even scizophrenia could be made more tolerable if the environment of the person was suited to their personality and …..um, biology.

Also, The Secret Garden sounds like a manual of nidotherapy and its successful implementation.

Winter passivity

I discovered a good way of feeling absolutely normal.

I took the MMPI test (MMPI=Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which is a test used to determine the existence of psychopathologies). And there was absolutely nothing significantly wrong with me.

Then by some mysterious route, I ended up reading about attachment styles, and took a test to determine my own, which was once again, the most normal secure style.

I haven’t felt so normal in a while.

*Blows a kiss to personality tests*

 

Attachment style test here.

Being an introverted extrovert

Every personality test I’ve ever taken – and I’ve taken my fair share because I like that sort of thing – has placed me firmly in the introvert camp. Reading the descriptions of introverts and extroverts has never made me doubt I was distinctly introverted.

Until…

This spring I came upon something that turned my understanding upside down. Apparently, introverts are more prone to experiencing negative emotions, particularly neurotic introverts. Extroverted neurotics, on the other hand, experience strong ups and downs and life is more like a roller-coaster to them.

This confused the hell out of me because I could relate much more to the latter. I can be ridiculously happy about small things (and big things). None of my introverted friends seem to have that propensity to jump around because of feeling too excited and happy to sit still. They are a lot more subdued, although not necessarily less neurotic.

I began exploring. I talked it through with my introverted friends, I did a lot of comparing, kept my eyes open to the distinctions between extroverts and introverts. Eventually, I had to conclude that at the very least, I was an atypical introvert.

I live an introvert’s life and can’t imagine myself ever starting to value small talk or superficial interactions. I get bored with such talk fast and want to escape. I like to be alone much more than most people. But, unlike other introverts, I sometimes feel the urge to talk to strangers in public places (I’m too shy and polite to do it, but I want to) if their conversation and personalities appeal to me. I love people staying over. I love hosting guests. I look forward to getting my flat in decent condition so I can invite everyone I like there. What sort of typical introvert likes having a house full of guests? But I love it. I don’t, however, like being a guest at other people’s place when there are lots of people who are strangers to me. My shyness makes me uncomfortable and I generally like to get to know people individually and privately rather than talk over the room.

I don’t mind party games, provided they are not embarrassing nor force me to be the centre of attention. I don’t mind strangers coming to talk to me in public places. Usually, such encounters are at least memorable and make for good stories later. Proper introverts are likely to hate all these things.

I can also talk excessively when I’m in the mood. I’m not always in the mood, but when I am, I can be a chatterbox. I have a greater need to share than most introverts, and I can get restless and edgy when there isn’t anyone to talk to (provided I’m in a sociable mood). Talking to likeable people can energize me and make me happy, but small talk does tire and bore me. More bore than tire perhaps.

So I think I’m more shy and sensitive than introverted. I have some distinctly introverted traits, but I’m by no means 85-90% introvert like all the tests I’ve ever taken tell me. Somewhere around 60-70% seems truer. I think the reason I score so high is that although it is generally accepted that shyness and introversion are not the same thing, the tests can’t well distinguish between shyness induced behaviour and introversion induced behaviour. And if I ever get as far as writing a paper in psychology, I’d like to try creating a test that can do it. But I’m sceptical about it happening, so if any psychology researcher reads it and wants to steal my idea, feel free to do so.

It matters, it matters not

At the beginning of university, I struggled with stress management. My particular problem were presentations and essays. I could fret and worry about them weeks, months in advance.

And then magic happened and I learnt to “think about it tomorrow”. While I so rarely make leaps in self-development, that was the start of my present life philosophy. That I consider to be the most useful skill I’ve acquired during university and during adult life in general.

At first, I used to think about things tomorrow when dealing with school work. Everything came to be categorized into two groups: the immediately relevant and the not. All things in the ‘not presently relevant’ category I would deal with when I came to them, a day or two before the presentation or essay. While at first a conscious stress-management technique, it later became automatic. Rather than worry myself sick over the upcoming exam session or thesis defence, I managed to switch off, enjoy carefree walks and film evenings and have an altogether better time of it.

In time, the same tendency to categorize crept into other areas of life. I’m  overly sensitive, so there is only so much I can take into heart. I had to learn to control at least to some extent what I care about. Psychologist might call it the repressive coping style. They say it is bad for you, apparently, but I’ve only found it to be good, so perhaps my strategy is not THAT repressive? I’ve never believed in suppressing one’s emotions. I’m the sort of person who advocates letting yourself hit the bottom because only then can a full recovery follow. So, when down in the dumps, I cry in my room and don’t repress a thing. When in the heights of happiness, I dance and giggle and don’t repress a thing either.

What I do believe in controlling, however,  is the things I have an emotional reaction to. If I allowed myself to take everything to heart, life would be too emotionally overwhelming. I’ve learnt to stay calm when someone pushes past me in a queue, cheats me out of a small sum of money, snaps the very thing I want from in front of my eyes, listens to music on full volume upstairs, gives me a bad grade unjustly, and other trivialities. I always ask myself in situations like that whether it would matter on my death bed. If it does not, it’s not worthy of a strong response. Rather, a few deep breaths and maybe a curse, and life goes on.

I also do not read or watch the news very often. Major news do reach me, but I try to avoid constant exposure and commitment to following the madness that goes on in the world. I admit I felt or feel? ambivalent about that. Am I being cowardly? Hiding my head in the sand? Perhaps. Some crime reports can be very detailed and it is hard to read without having your imagination spoilt by yet another atrocity that cannot be unseen. Also, what good would MY knowledge of the worst of humanity do? I’m not in a position to help or influence. It amuses me sometimes how people are opining away on TV about what ought to be done to fight crimes against humanity or do for the poor, but then go home, drink tea and have a cuddle with their spouse. Nothing but waffling. All talk and zero action. From times immemorial, the doers and talkers are often different people.

But, to return to categorisation, to what matters and what does not. The death bed question is what I keep returning to. If I lose something that seems important, if I get hurt or angry, I always ask myself if it would matter on my death bed. If it would not, then I try to calm myself, take a few deep breaths and let it go.

I lost my job? Will it matter on my death bed? Not unless it was my dream job. If it weren’t, there will be others. There always are. Particularly in my field.

I have even learnt to categorise illnesses and dangerous situations. I ask myself: is it deadly? Will it change my quality of life? If not, then I’ll suffer through it or try to ignore it if it is chronic and nothing can be done but live with it.

Human relationships are a little trickier, but to protect myself from overdoing on the caring front, I also tend to categorize people into two basic groups: friendship material and superficial social butterflies. The former I invest myself in emotionally. Social butterflies are the kind of charming people that you can have a nice chat with once in a while but who are incapable of caring about you deeply. They have just too many other friends and acquaintances, and a different sort of personality altogether. But I want some sort of devotion, even from friends. I want to matter. If I feel I don’t matter, my heart stays locked in self-defence.

Overall, this ability to categorize may seem suspect to some, but it has helped me immensely in limiting what I get worried, hurt, angry or sad about. Very often, I can’t avoid the hurt, worry or sorrow, but thinking like this – that it doesn’t matter in the end – it helps me overcome life’s little annoyances and disappointments much faster and relatively unscathed. So there is more room for my heart to be scathed by the big things. Haha.

When does being lost end?

Being reasonably intelligent and capable has its downside if you haven’t found your one true calling.

I’ve said this a number of times that I should have been an athlete. Unfortunately, the right personality is only a small ingredient in professional sports, perhaps the decisive one, the factor that makes some win golds and others take the 6th and 10th places. But if physical ability is lagging behind, there is really no going to the Olympics. When I did sports, I had enormous dedication, which I’ve lacked in all my future exploits. Lacked, because there is no feedback, no measurable indicator of progress. It’s hard to keep going if the measuring tape does not tell you exactly where you stand.

After my dealings with sports as a teenager, I discovered literature and decided I wanted to be a poet. It was Byron and Jane Austen that first inspired me. I scribbled bad poetry like a lot of other adolescents, but I wasn’t particularly devoted to it. It soon became obvious I couldn’t write very good poetry, so I decided I might make a decent novelist. This has been my distant dream ever since.

I have never intended to make money as a writer because that would entail a totally different approach to writing. I’m too impressionable and absorbent, so if I know I want the novel to sell well, I’ll subconsciously put in stuff that might appeal to the average member of my target audience.

Now on to real-life choices. I’m working as a translator and dream of also working as a psychologist. Doing two things equally well is naturally very hard. Yet this is exactly how I’ve seen my life, being a translator-psychologist. I do not want my therapist activity to become dependant on the number of patients I take. I want to actually treat them, so I would not take more patients than I can handle, which I imagine is around five to seven. This means I’d have to continue translating to pay the bills. Translating also has the advantage that it is quite close to my pursuits in writing, so if I read grammar and style books, I will improve not only as a translator but also as a writer. And since writing is the distant glorious dream, I should prioritize things that get me closer to that goal. Maybe the digression into psychology was a mistake? A madcap idea.

Maybe I must show persistence, remove superfluous demands on my time and intellect and focus on the one goal? The writing one. Rather than try to become an expert in two areas. I really don’t know. I have an entire year to think about it at least.

Future work fantasies

It is no surprise to any one who has read more than one of my blog posts or knows me personally that I detest my studies. I love the subject, but hate the competitive, stressful atmosphere. And if ever I do pull myself through it and get myself that wretched clinical psychologist’s diploma, it is thanks to fantasies like these.

I enjoy likening myself to Sherlock Holmes in my future work.

My profession – the solving of the problems of the mind. My tools: knowledge, intuition, daring and creativity. My passion: unusual characters and understanding the very depths of human nature.

A patient enters. I tell them that if any one can fix them in our country, it is probably me. But I cannot do my work if they withhold information and deceive me to save face. And if I detect it, I shall sulk like Holmes and send them packing.

And then, on some rainy days, I shall moan about the dull problems the majority of patients have. All those marital troubles that are pretty much identical, and the hordes of anxiety suffering women. I’ll smoke my pipe and long for an exciting, unique patient. A real case! Nothing predictable and ordinary. A personality unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

If I ever become a therapist, I want to be like Holmes.

If ever I become a psychologist, I want to be like Holmes (here played by Jeremy Brett)