Why write in online journals?I realize now that anything and everything that attracts me to psychology is this dynamic between fact and conventional wisdom. I remember my first semester in college, Psychology 101, I kept seeing this ongoing debate between heredity and environment with no mention of free will, which makes sense in a science-oriented field, as free will quite simply breaks a basic law of physics: something cannot be created from nothing. Contrast this with how widely accepted free will is among the general populus and you've got one hell of a confrontation between what's known to be fact by a few academics and what's accepted to be fact by most. Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance was the other major convention-challenging concept that drew my interest. Our ideas about the world are often mere rationalizations to maintain harmonious mindsets free of discord, I learned. We humans aren't truth-seekers so much as we're seekers of homeostatis, of equilibrium. Without regard to what the actual truth is, we conform our own "truths" around preconceived notions and emotions with which we've established a comfortable relationship. I've come to view psychology as a kind of secret, hidden window into very universally public affairs. In a lot of ways, it's like Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Most recently, I've been drawn to the idea proposed in this article, that human conflict -- the situation in which we see our truths but not the truths of others, we see our side as valid and the other's as disengenuous spin -- relates to "two innocent facts": (1) "because our senses point outward, we can observe other people’s actions but not our own," (2) "because mental life is a private affair, we can observe our own thoughts but not the thoughts of others." I'm seeing this principle applied over and over again in each and every point of contention I encounter. It's fascinatingly absurd in how obvious, but obviously not so obvious, it is.
And I wonder what is wrong with me that I am so obsessed with these sorts of challenges. What is up? Why do I care? Why don't I maintain a mild, fleeting interest like everyone else?
On a surface level, what's true is important to me, and that so many people's attitudes are misaligned from or in opposition to what is true boggles my mind. On a deeper level, when I was a young child (my mom informed me recently), I would very often become extremely frustrated when unable to figure something out -- clip together or detach a toy, zip or unzip my jacket, etc. I've noticed this same intensity in other young children, especially babies when they focus on trivial things -- they'll stare at a spec of lint on the carpet for several minutes trying to pick it up -- they really fucking care, it's amazing -- it's a devotion to the trivial only a child or an insane person would have. Whatever that is, I feel I have it. I believe that's why I was able to develop the skill of drawing so well. I had this unusual tendency to obsess, to devote, to focus. This is an obvious turn off when interacting with others as evinced by the poor results of the post-9/11 emails with friends. So, most often I push myself away from action because of the effort involved, but when I do get into something I really get into it -- loyal and obsessive -- I'll read over an online post, for instance, a dozen times till I feel the wording, format and arrangment are to my liking.
Another layer infused into all this is that my mom ingrained in me this idea that I would do great things. The key, though, is I believed her. As far back as I can remember, she'd tell me some variation of how I was special before tucking me into bed at night. As I grew older and she stopped tucking me in, she stopped telling me this, but the seeds of delusions of grandeur had been planted. At present, I have a more realistic view of my role in life, but the feeling of purpose and the need to feel functional remain.
Being oriented toward introversion, much of my time and energy is spent in my own inner world of thoughts and ideas, pondering over abstractions, forms, ideals. It's always been this way. So, it's natural that my function in life would be sought and fought for in this realm. The fight for the inner ideal of truth when this outward world seems in large part to so consistently mischaracterize its very nature may be a battle fought inside the mind but it has great and vast implications on the way people live day to day. My real life occupation may be wheedled down to analyzing behavior change in youth or the efficacy of education, but it will all be driven by the larger philosophical premise, the fight for truth.
I realize this is all very personal and idiosyncratic and wordy, but nothing else seems quite as functional a fit with who I am and quite worth the fighting for, quite so important to contemplate and put out for public scrutiny. Although, for once, I'm more concerned with the personal benefits of this introspective analysis than with how many comments it generates. If this generates no collaborative dialogue, it still will have been more than worth it to me to think and type it all out.
As strong as my interest in challenging convention is, I realize there's more to interaction, online and otherwise. People, myself included, participate in online journaling for a variety of reasons, the same reasons they maintain friendships -- not to challenge but simply to communicate: to vent, to seek advice, to inform, to garner attention, to entertain, to impress. A large part of it is getting and giving that 'aha' feeling -- in recognizing something you know -- in sharing with someone you know some new variation that fits with what you know -- which relates back to why we so rarely challenge conventional wisdom. In a desire to maintain equilibrium, we seek out the like-minded, more often than not.
But, this isn't so bad, wanting to just get along, seeking peace and harmony, laid-back social interaction. That's the stuff of life. We can't be warring to challenge and change all the time. That's exhausting, draining, unhealthy. Laying in the grass; picking berries in the field; shooting the shit at the water cooler, listening to, thinking about, sharing a song or what someone did over the weekend; painting a picture -- these are all more than valid experiences with important psychological functions. One needn't challenge to feel functional.
This may appear obvious but to somone who's spent most of life virtually drowning in cynicism, it's a realization. I realize there are limits, though, on what people will and won't do. Certain personalities place their energies in certain areas in certain ways. Different stimuli make different people tick, different activities bring different people pleasure and make them feel functional. So, it's your function to do what your personality prescribes, what particularly interests you. Your devotion to working in the peculiar field of your interest is your unique contribution to society. For, if you don't do it, there's a limited number out there who will. Perhaps that limited number is zero, for those who will contribute just what you will.