I and Why #3 (Framing Your Story)

I and Why #3 (Framing Your Story)I don’t think you need to take a personality test.

But there’s something I love about all personality tests and systems.

For me, it’s finding and embracing in the results a version of myself that feels very accurate and comfortable.

Every reading, test, disclosure, or assessment, brings me back to identify (again) as something of a flaky idealist type who cares about others and means well.

I find such blueprints easiest to adopt.

But well-meaning flakes are limited in obvious ways.

So, before long, the comfort and ease I feel in identifying with what comes most natural crosses against a rising compulsive pressure to fling myself toward opposite ideals.

I’m driven to make up for what I lack.

So I fight to turn myself into the sort of person who takes what he wants in the moment, or who can effectively measure plans and results.

Nine years ago, my daytime gig could basically be summed up as paying close attention . . . listening in to clients, while at the same time keeping track of a growing collection of useful communications I could deliver in conversation by tying those communications back to the clients’ needs.

I loved being right there in the middle . . . bridging feelings and concerns with timely content.

Nothing could probably feel as effortless or like a better fit for me career-wise.

But then every night I found myself staring lost at blank screens, failing to will myself to write whatever I was convinced someone who fancied himself a wannabe writer should be producing.

Countless times, I tried launching into various stories and other projects.

But nothing stuck.

It all felt forced and fake . . . something extra to be added, instead of something there to be uncovered and settled into.

As the months wore on, I railed against the notion that trying to identify as one pragmatic and driven to create off the top of my head might simply not fit within the realm of my personality and potential . . . at least not directly.

That’s just one instance.

The same pattern has repeated for decades . . . that dark, ugly identity crisis trap I’ve been attempting to narrow in on and show throughout this series.

It’s like I shift back and forth between accepting what’s innate, and forcing what’s foreign . . . between resting in what all personality tests point to, and fighting to embody what none would.

I remember catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror one day many years ago, and realizing I looked as good as I’d ever looked.

So I was a little confused by how much I hated my reflection.

I began to wrestle with suicidal thoughts.

I then watched my mind leap for the nth time to plan out how I’d change.

But even while already mentally mapping every detail of my next persona to embody, there I stood still staring back . . . incomplete, limited, and fully dissatisfied with all I’d ever been.

The dissatisfaction remains.

So, am I doomed to spend forever failing to live up to “I” ideals that feel like a grueling sludge . . . then falling back to traits and qualities every personality theory affirms (those I take to like a fish to water)?

Or does being honest with myself about what I am mean accepting a life of peace, love, and intuitive vision, but stifled ambitions and little outward success?

Let me ask those same questions another way: Since nothing about my painful back-and-forth cycle has really changed, how did I go from failing to write night after night to living now as a working writer who can at least see long-term enough to gradually garner real results?

Was it simply willpower in forcing myself to stick to an “I” regimen that flew in the face of every test and methodology combined?

Was it some hybrid model—a course built on combining the easily accessible and prevalent with hard work and dedication to its opposite?

No.

In fact, I tried all of those approaches, and whatever else I could imagine.

But no map for “I” or “why” has kept me from looping the same old circles . . . still getting just as excited for whichever new plan I’m firmly convinced will finally be the one.

So, what happened?

What changed?

Nothing . . . and everything.

Glimpsing all the way down to the evolving clash of “why” values at the base of my experience has not erased my fixation on the details of whichever plan I’m committed to.

My ego continues to push me to cling relentlessly to how I see things.

But along with feeling as locked as ever into the current rendition of my “I” story, seeing ego and my perspective for what they are helps me also step back to look at my life more as a whole.

That’s when I see my painful pattern for what it is.

It’s the first time I see both sides . . . either forcing something missing, or falling back to settle for what’s latent but limited.

Seeing Both Sides At Once

Seeing your life as a whole, while still clinging to how you see things now, can be your key to incorporating all conflicting parts for growth and progress instead of further fracturing and frustration.

Any good system for understanding personality doesn’t just get you to the parts of you that feel most natural, comfortable, effective…

A useful system also teaches you to integrate and have a good relationship with your weaknesses and limitations.

I believe the combined approaches to personality we’ve dug into are not only sufficient for framing both what you have and what you lack, but they can also serve as effective bridges to reach any other framework you might come across.

We saw how personality theories based on repeatable observations have the benefit of “working both ways” in that as well as reading your story (or someone else’s) into a given system, you can also make system-based predictions just by observing behaviors and preferences.

Get someone’s birthdate, read them their astrology chart, and they might find much there to connect with (hopefully awakening and bolstering unconscious hopes for possibilities).

Still, could you ever guess a person’s birth chart from observing how they live?

But watch the way someone tends to take in information, to interact with others and their surroundings, to express themselves, to spend their time and make decisions, and you can fairly easily recognize which Myers-Briggs or Big Five Model traits and qualities best frame those behaviors.

Again, the benefit with systems like MBTI and Big Five over astrology is you can make accurate predictions about how a person will act, what will likely frustrate them, what they’re probably hoping for, how to best communicate with them…

But regardless of whether you frame your “I” story with apophenetic divination or a system grounded in scientific observation, all personality frameworks prove equally limiting if you hold to your “I” self story as more than a story.

Story or Prescription?

If “I” is fundamental and real, than any framework you use to understand yourself becomes a prescription to be locked into and lived out from.

Whether the prescription says you shouldn’t date fixed sun signs, or that your preference for deep cumulative insight renders you unable to really get lost in endless possibilities for fun in the world around you, you’re automatically confined to the prescription’s particulars.

But if you see yourself as a collage of “why” forces explained by an “I” story, then whatever framework you use to understand yourself shifts automatically from being a fixed prescription to an imperfect description . . . at best a helpful way to understand a true reflection of an accurate copy of an ultimately unknowable, unpredictable set of fundamental forces.

I mean, how dogmatic should you really be about a structure supporting a reflection of a copy of [changing] reality?

So, if you’re stuck in your head . . . maybe imprisoned by the prescription of a personality framework that once ignited your hopes for a better future . . . how can you find your way out?

Well, as we’ll see next time: When your fixed prescription framework becomes a flexible description, even those personality traits or qualities any test or system would show as lacking can begin to be approached and employed without force.

The bottom line: No perceived limitation or hindrance to your values ever has to set a boundary on what you are or can become.

<Previous | Continue>