Thursday, May 12, 2011

"Oklahoma" and Missing Social Cues and the People of the Red Pill

I think I’ve said it before, I believe Freud was right about some things. Actually, most philosophers, psychologists and theologians seem to start with nuggets of truth. The only problem is when they become obsessed with that nugget, taking to the extreme, to the exclusion of other facets of truth. But that is not my point.

I haven’t slept well for a while as I’ve been under a lot of stress. The stress is abating and the other night I had a wonderful 10 hour-night of blissful sleep. I apparently needed to catch up on a lot of dreaming as well. The entire night I felt like I was being led from room to room (or dream to dream) by some invisible guide. The most vivid dream occurred just before awaking, or at least the one I remember the most.

In this dream I was with a large group of family and friends from my past. The friends seemed to be same as they were during the time that I knew them. I think I even remember some characters appearing simultaneously at different ages and from different periods of time, somewhat like Marty meeting himself in 1955 in Back to the Future. The strange thing was that—spontaneously—members of this group (and different characters faded on and off the stage all the time) broke out into well-choreographed songs and dances over an over. I, on the other hand, was the proverbial bull in the China shop with no clue what was going on and, like in reality (rather than a musical), I couldn’t follow the steps, music or lyrics on the spot. My lack of talent was pissing everyone off. So the dream was quickly becoming a nightmare for me.

Getting back to Freud, I really do believe he was right that we have this subterranean flow of consciousness, which can rear its head in dreams and other thoughts and, of course, those infamous slips so named for the man. But that well-spring of thought must be dressed in symbolism once it is above ground, to make the (sometimes disturbing) thoughts palatable and understandable. So they flow in those deep caverns because they are either primal or complex.

What I mean be being too complex is that every (above ground) conscious thought has to be squeezed through the fine-mesh filter of language to even think about them logically inside our heads. Some of this subterranean flow can not be expressed in language so it must remain in the unconsciousness because it is too complex for language. I do believe that elite group of people; poets, song writers, novelist and other artists, have the ability to express some of those complex thoughts through their mastery of language at least more so than us mortals. It could also be the meaning behind the kind of the gift of tongues mentioned in Acts 14, an intimate language between your spirit and God’s. In that case you draw from that deep well and it is expressed directly to God, bypassing our logical, language-based consciousness. Sorry, but I seem to be on another tangent.

So I awaken in this cold sweat. I didn’t have to get up to go to work that morning because I had just completed my last day at my previous job. So I had the luxury of lying on my womb-like “memory-foam bed,” listening to the birds and feeling the cool Puget Sound breeze waffling through the screened window above me. I got to think about the dream, which was so real, that I was honestly surprised when I discovered that the crowd dissipated like semi-transparent fog on a sunny day and I was suddenly in the house alone.

“What was that all about?” I asked myself. I had a strong sense that the dream was from the subterranean aquifer of serious consciousness rather than a simple collage of random memories (which I believe, differently than Freud, is usually the case in dreams). It didn’t take me long to figure out that the “felt board” on which the images were being arranged did come from a recent memory. It was the musical Oklahoma, which I had seen about a month earlier. It was a wonderful production by talented actors from our island, although I did fall asleep and almost fell into the aisle during the second act. But I have an excuse because I was suffering from severe jetlag, having arrived home from Italy that morning.

Once I realized it was the musical, I searched to find the emotions of it all . . . those too complex for simple language. My pondering soon bore fruit with the realization that it is the fear or, or more accurately the reality of being rejected because I fail to follow the social cues. I’ve felt this rejection my whole life.

I want to make it clear that the only reason I decided to blog about this very personal introspection is because I think I’m not alone. I think there is a fairly large group of people who feel like social misfits and have so their entire lives. For me, and I think it could be for most of us go-it-aloners, it is because we have this insatiable desire to live in reality and truth (we are the “red pill” takers, as from the Matrix). So for us, in our minds we aren’t constantly thinking, “What ought I say?” “What ought I do?” Or “What ought I think.” But we are constantly contemplating, “What is the true reality here?”

Because of this personal conspiracy, we intentionally miss the cues and don’t fall in line with the dance steps. This really frustrates those who want conformity and are leading the dance. We mess everything up.

Before I sound heroic, I must add that I am not always true to this longing. I’ve spent moments, hours and even decades forcing myself to look for and act on the cues. Actually trying to learn the cues is not the problem, we know them. The issue is following them. What I mean, is that I sometimes I catch myself mouthing silently the words that I know the person (who does want, desperately, to follow the social mores) is going to say next. We do know the scripts, the dance steps and the timings . . . but we chose not to follow them. The words fall like a chain of clichés. During those long decades of conformity, it was the act of me silencing the voice of reality within me and forcing me to conform to what I knew wasn’t reality or true.

Once again I’ve let my “introduction” eat up the entire blog space. But I want to leave one thought before I try to pick up again next time on my main point.

It was during my Evangelical years that I was the most conformist. Ironically, we Evangelicals convinced ourselves that we were society’s only nonconformists. We took great personal pride that we were “not being conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2 I think). In a very dualistic way, we saw us as being heavenly minded and everyone else worldly-minded.

But my point is, we Evangelicals did not understand the rules of social conformity. We were simply conforming to one subculture, while rejecting the other. The mores were even more strictly controlled in our group. We were more conformed to this world (meaning a human-generated subculture) than our non-believing counterparts.

I don’t know why we are the way we are. I know from a very early age I had an intrinsic desire to know truth at all cost and very early one saw through the dance. I remember the coolest girl in my high school telling me, “You could be the coolest guy in this school if you wanted. But instead, you are a fool.”

But this place of nonconformist is a very lonely place to be. I am hated by more Christians than non-Christians. I don’t use the word “hate” loosely either. They would use the language “disappointed in me” or “I’m not Biblical” but those are code words for hating me for rejecting or evening questioning the cues. I saw murder in the eyes of my ex-pastor. It’s hate and they hate me even more for calling it hate.

Again, I don’t mean to sound heroic. I’m not a very good non-conformist. I don’t speak boldly with conviction like a Wilberforce did. He was a heroic nonconformist. I sneak away to myself to avoid the confrontations.

I will try to make more sense about this when I come back. Sorry I rambled too long and probably had my notorious typos.


Anonymous said...

It was during my Evangelical years that I was the most conformist. Ironically, we Evangelicals convinced ourselves that we were society’s only nonconformists.

Any look at the counterculture movements of the Fifties and Sixties could tell you: Nonconformists are Totally Conformist in their Nonconformity. It seems to be a universal pattern.

Headless Unicorn Guy

solarblogger said...

One insight of dream theory was that your subconscious is a literalist. It might make very literal something that happened earlier. I once went to a wedding where someone was in the way of the wedding picture. She was going to "ruin the picture." Later I had a dream where this person walked into the living room and destroyed the wedding picture. Someone else pointed out the connection after long discussion of the dream and the original wedding memory. (In the dream, the photo was up on the wall in a frame before the reception started, and the woman ruining the picture tore the picture with fury, but then consoled the bride when she found the damage.)

If I apply the literalism idea, I wonder whether "felt board" might not have some meaning. Looks a lot like "felt bored."

jmj said...

I'm glad that I'm not the only to contemplate dream theories and how they relate to reality.

I have had other dreams that expressed in symbolic ways, frustrations of real life, but were too complicated to get a handle on. Or maybe irrational fears coming to the surface.

solarblogger said...

I'm also into more modern neurological understandings of dreams. But however they work, I think Freud had some real insights into the workings and structure of the mind. Interpretations of my own dreams by an analyst were often much more convincing to me than any that Freud mentioned in his Interpretation of Dreams.

Another tool was to try to reverse characters. See if the dream makes any kind of sense if you trade the roles of the people in the dream. The pursuer becomes the pursued, etc. I wouldn't say that such tools are "scientific" in any sense. But I have found them to be intriguing. Whether or not they yielded an ultimate meaning from the dream, they did yield up interesting food for thought.

I originally stumbled onto your blog after searching on Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Christianity.