Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom helps people realize their unique importance. Using my knowledge of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, my experience with therapy, coaching, somatic healing, and personal growth I create products to help you discover, develop, and express the elements of your identity critical to your health and your contribution to our world. My goal is to research, develop, and disseminate these materials so that every individual can reconnect with their uniqueness, realize their passion and purpose, and live the life they were born to live.
The Are vs. Should problem is unfolding before our eyes right here at KEW, on YouTube, and your favorite podcast server. The next step for me, and hopefully you will find this helpful, is to lay out the philosophical personalities of the Are and Should elements of ourselves. To me, the Should part can best be described as a bully, and the Are part best described as your DNA.
Bullies get their way.
Bullies continue to push your buttons to hurt you.
Bullies prey on our greatest weaknesses.
The Are, then, is your ‘real self’ and, to me, can best be describes, at the deepest level, by your personal DNA.
The Are is the unique you.
The Should is a big bully trying to make you into something else.
In this first of two Episodes, I’ll go in deep to characterize the Should Bully and how incredibly pervasive this personality has become in today’s society.
Full Episode, in podcast and video forms, coming right here this Friday.
As I navigate through the ‘Are vs. Should’ Problem‘ I see an initial split as we start to unpack our personal inventories. If we first have to lay out all the elements of our lives for inspection and understanding, it becomes obvious that there are (at least) two types of elements to consider. I’m calling these ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ elements, and they are defined within their respective realities. I’m not trying to make this esoteric or overly complicated, it really isn’t.
In short, ‘hard’ realities are measurable things composed of matter that can be studied by science. Things like foods we like, things we find beautiful, our favorite color, types of people we’re attracted to, jobs we’d like to do. Compared to ‘soft’ realities that are less . . . definable. Less measurable. More foggy. These things include our feelings about religion, whether we think abortion should be legal, how we feel about anarchy. . . . how one defines beauty (as opposed to things we find beautiful). And so on.
In short, I want to begin the process of understanding our personal inventories by introducing the idea that there are (at least) two ways of looking at our personality traits defined by these two ‘worlds’. I’m sure other authors and thinkers have defined these things differently, and I beg you to educate me, but this is the idea I’ll ponder this week as we move toward redefining ourselves.
I, for one, think it is important, even CRITICAL to know who I am, and presumably, for you to know who you are. I’m sure there are people out there who disagree with me, but I really can’t get my head into that space nor do I think those folks are coming here to read my blog. But I am very interested in knowing about people who never ask questions like, “Who Am I?” or “Why Am I Here?”. Of course, I’m more interested in folks like us.
And, truly, the “Who Are You” question is at the head of most personal growth, self help, therapy, or naval gazing endeavors. To understand what you need, what you want, what you want to do, or anything like that, you have to start with something. You have to start somewhere. You have to start with YOU.
I’m certainly not the first one to suggest that.
Like many things, figuring out who you are sounds super easy and impossible at the same time. I mean, who knows you better than you? But how well is that? Even if you know yourself way better than your friends do, how well do they really know you? And how well CAN they really know you, if YOU don’t know you. Man, this gets hard quick.
But just breathe for a minute. Let’s not overcomplicate this. All I’m saying is that to move forward, we might have to move backwards. If we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do (I know I don’t), we probably have to start there. And as I said in Episode 48: Unlearning, we have to forget a few things we got wrong prior to moving forward. Kind of like wiping the slate clean.
As I suggested in Episode 47: Values, part of knowing yourself is knowing what you value and what is driving you through this thing called life. I think we can, in part, define ourselves by our motivations and intrinsic passion.
Who you are is a huge question. And, like soooo many things, I don’t think the answer is that important. It’s not about knowing, definitively, who you are. After all, that’s going to change through time. More important is being on a known path toward generating answers and evidence and support for who you are. The path what illuminates the preferred and minimizes the unwanted elements of life. Who you are is in huge part who you AREN’T and only through investigation and interrogation will you reveal either light or dark.
In other words, this seemingly straightforward-yet-super-complicated question is entirely about the journey; the pathway toward. . . . . what, exactly? Enlightenment? Awareness? Living a better life? All of that. And more.
I hope you enjoy this episode leading up to my 50th Episode in two weeks. Next week will be the 10th and final installment in the Curiosity series. I am looking forward to the future and thank you for being a part of the journey.
We hear these terms a lot. He’s a narcissist. She’s being codependent. I would guess that these are two of the most common psychological terms used in everyday conversation. And I’d also bet, that many people use these terms very loosely and maybe even inaccurately. Like a lot of things, do we really know what these words mean? I guess as long as we’re all on the same page, or close, it doesn’t matter. So in this episode I use the terms loosely, like I hear them used in casual conversation.
We think of narcissists as being incredibly selfish, obsessed with their looks, and attracted to people who make them feel important. Narcissistic people are generally viewed with disdain and contempt and relationships with narcissists are viewed as unhealthy.
Extreme selfishness is easy to spot when someone bullies or abuses another, but mild narcissism is hard to differentiate. In fact, therapists teach that it is important to ‘put yourself first’ and ‘get your needs met’. So what’s the difference in someone who has a healthy self awareness and someone who is narcissistic?
Similarly, we are taught to have empathy for others and to provide help when we can. It is considered healthy to be of service to your family and community. Being a nurturing person is valued in most cultures, and being a caring person is considered a good quality; especially in a relationship. However, if you care ‘too much’, or let people take advantage of your caring nature, this is considered a fault. How do you know if you have the ‘right amount’ of consideration for others?
The fear is, being too selfish makes you a narcissistic a$$hole and being too nurturing makes you a codependent doormat. Certainly, in relationships these behaviors can intensify toward those endpoints if you’re not careful.
In this episode I share what I learned from my first marriage and the resulting divorce with respect to narcissistic and codependent tendencies, and the combination in relationships.
As I move toward Episode 50 and what I hope to be a major shift in what I’m working toward with KEW, I realize how important Unlearning is.
How do we KNOW if we REALLY know what we THINK we know?
Well, we don’t. But we can think about it. And unlearning comes in to play as a necessary ‘next step’ for those of us who have ever asked this kind of question. Or questions like:
Who am I? What’s all this about? What’s the meaning of life? Is there life after death? Why is my dad so racist?
Generally, Unlearning is only important to people who have ever wondered WHY they feel a certain way, think a certain way, or behave a certain way. Where did this ‘certain way’ come from? I’ll develop this idea much further after episode 50, but for now let’s say that MUCH of what we think, what we ARE, WHO we are comes from stuff we never really thought much about. Things we automatically learned as we grew up. Some of it we learned before we even had awareness. Or free will. Some of us carry these beliefs into adulthood. Some of us never know.
But for those of us who DO know. Who have asked these types of questions (who ARE you?). The first thing we have to do is recognize what we really KNOW and FEEL and BELIEVE and what’s just a bunch of stuff we learned. And then to sort of ‘wipe the slate clean’ and start over. That’s where UNLEARNING comes in. That’s all I’m saying when I say UNLEARN.
It’s about questioning our beliefs and our thoughts. It’s about figuring out what we DO think and believe. And about getting on the path toward exploring what life is all about. It’s pretty simple.
I hope you enjoy this week’s episode and stick around for what’s to come. Please follow me on my blog and/or YouTube and SIGN UP for weekly emails so you can participate in the development of these ideas.
In this Episode I tried to get at what our ‘soul’ is. I’m not sure I succeeded, but I think we all can agree that there’s a part of us that can’t really be identified. The soul is not our mind, it’s not our brain, it’s not our ‘self’ (whatever that is, see Episode 34 for my attempt at defining Self), it’s . . . something else.
Sometimes I think the soul is real, other times I doubt it’s existence. Most of the time I know there is SOMETHING going on inside us that defines us. Our, personality? or something? It’s beyond our appearance, or attitude, or how we refer to a group of people (I use y’all and you guys interchangeably because I was born in the south but grew up in the midwest). It’s . . . . much more than any of those things.
So the concept of soul probably lies in the unknowable. It might be something we just don’t have words for or something we can’t quite define.
And none of this even addresses whether the soul is immortal, which many religions suggest. My point in this episode is really just to explore the idea of soul – that which we can speak about but not truly understand. It’s ok with me if the soul is something we’ll never define or truly know about. But most of the time, I feel like I do:)
I am currently working on a larger project that will connect my background in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with personal growth, psychology, and finding more joy and fulfillment in our lives. In Episode 43 I introduce some evolutionary evidence that every individual human is born to discover their uniqueness (despite how ‘woo woo’ that sounds), and how NOT doing so goes against evolutionary theory.
I didn’t coin the term Unnatural Selection. People have used it, generally, to describe forces that affect evolution but are not necessarily a part of ‘regular life’. These forces become selection pressures when they influence the ability for a species to persist. For example, invasive species can be physically moved to new areas where they did not evolve and wreak havoc on the species living in that area. These selection pressures are some feature of the invasive organism that gives it an advantage and with which local species did not co-evolve. These forces often include predation, habitat use, aggression, or other forces that negatively impair local species.
The point of the term unnatural selection is that this novel selection force did not co evolve with the species it is affecting. Most of the time this disconnect is about time or space. In the invasive species example, the organisms didn’t occur in the same physical space (like a continent, island, or area) and so the issue is simply about relocation. Other times the unnatural condition is about time, and the obvious example is climate change. Many argue that human activities are a natural part of our evolution, but the key difference is the amount of time it has taken for these changes to occur. Sure, if human induced global changes occurred over millennia, the earth and its inhabitants may, indeed, have plenty of time to coevolve. But the sudden nature of temperature and CO2 changes over the past 100 years did not allow for such a response. Hence, the selection forces are unnatural.
That’s a long way to go to explain the basis for my argument, but well worth it I hope.
So the main argument I am making in this episode is that humans have imposed a few other unnatural selection forces upon ourselves. If you watched Episode 43, you will know that the main force I consider unnatural is that of conformity. Despite the evidence (which I find compelling, obviously, though you may not) that our DNA, by its very nature, demands that every human fully realize our uniqueness, yet human societies impose the opposite.
Societal norms, religions, laws, politics, and even the popular arts impose forces that encourage conformity. Because it is our nature to NOT conform, but to be UNIQUE, these forces are unnatural. Sure, norms and laws are important. Driving on one side of the road, wearing clothes, not punching people in the face. These are good things. Here I’m talking about mechanisms that discourage people from being different or to behave ‘like everyone else’. On the obvious end, ‘white people are better’ is an unnatural selection force. On the more obscure end, publishers requiring all books to be written according to a set of approved literary rules may result in really, really great books never being published.
The essence of unnatural selection is the intention to make everyone the same, and to make life difficult for those who insist on expressing their individuality. You probably won’t have to think very long to find examples of this in your own life. I have experience mdany examples in my life, and maybe that’s why it’s such a big deal to me.
Therefore, the ultimate travesty of unnatural selection is that the ideas, thoughts, and creativity humans need to survive the future may never come to light because they will be discouraged and effectively ‘weeded out’ of society. As the world becomes more crowded and less hospitable to humans, it becomes increasingly necessary to find unique ideas and approaches that will alter that path. Solving human problems, or any problem, REQUIRES unique viewpoints. As many as possible.
I hope you enjoy the episode. Your comments and thoughts are welcome and encouraged as I develop this idea further.
After my divorce I did some serious soul searching (and therapy) to figure out what happened. I accepted that both parties played a part in the divorce and wanted to understand what happened. Multiple lines of evidence support that my ex-wife became narcissistic and I became codependent. Now, I’m not saying ‘she is narcissistic’ or ‘I am codependent’, but our relationship brought out these personality traits and made them pretty severe. I think many people are affected by narcissistic and/or codependent tendencies, and the combination of the two in a relationship can be detrimental to both parties.
Narcissism is said to be an expression of selfishness, but self care is an important skill. Codependency has been described as prioritizing others’ needs over one’s own, but boundaries are important. While making this Episode I realized that a ‘healthy’ person probably has a little of both characteristics. In other words, a healthy person can practice self care and get their needs met, but also be empathetic towards others and accommodate their needs.
We tend to say or think things like, “He’s a narcissist” or “They’re a codependent’, but it’s probably pretty rare to encounter someone who is entirely one or the other. Sure, there are exceptions out there and I think we’d all agree that an extreme expression toward either condition is not good. At the very least extreme cases of narcissism or codependency we usually don’t want to be around or deal with.
My extreme codependency ended up with me being a door mat. And my ex-wife did end up being pretty narcissistic and self-serving (she had an affair and gaslighted me). But I think it was the combination of personality types in a struggling relationship that brought out the worst in each of us. I don’t really know if she is a narcissist, and I am not a ‘natural codependent’.
Since I can only really speak for myself, I will say I have codependent tendencies. I think this comes from how I grew up, some beliefs I formed as a child, but it’s also a result of my empathetic nature. I tend to have pretty weak boundaries and am very aware of how other people feel. This often leads me to feel like I need to take care of people (and that’s not really a good thing).
I don’t really know what it’s like for narcissistic people, but I can say that I am a bit jealous of people who know how to get their needs met – because I struggle to do that for myself.
I hope you enjoy the episode and get something out of my stories, my experiences, and observations.
Following up the Soul episode (KEW Episode 33) with a discussion of the Self.
What is the self?
I have been doing some work with a coach who is helping me understand the different parts of my psyche. Sound crazy? It isn’t. I am starting to believe that our ‘personalities’ or our ‘selves’ are comprised of myriad little parts. These parts are like characters or roles we play at different times in our lives and during our days. There are funny parts, angry parts, and sad parts. These parts, I think, exist because we give them our attention – or our awareness. And together they are elements of our Self.
Smarter people have written about and researched what the Self is, and I don’t pretend to understand the existing body of work on the subject. But it’s still meaningful to ask the question and to posit an explanation. This week I’ll share my thoughts about what a Self is.
Eliza Schuyler finally tells her husband’s story in Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton”. But we’ll never really know Hamilton’s story, because he isn’t around to tell it. And, really, did he even know his story? Do you know yours?
Here I argue that it is an important goal of human life to understand who we are and why we do things. To ‘know thyself’ by the time we die. No one else can know us as well as ourselves, and any ‘history’ or ‘her story’ told about us is necessarily inaccurate as it is filtered by someone else’s lens. Only one person can know the ‘truth’, and that’s you.
And, really, it’s not the knowing but the journey toward knowing. Making the decision to know yourself is how you learn. I wonder how many people care enough to make that effort?