When I meet someone, their attitudes and assumptions often reveal underlying themes that define them. The most common personal script is: “Here’s how important I am.” Each time I visit my cousin, she shows off her five boats to me, a non-boat-owner.
Another popular self-concept is: “I know best and others should copy me.” An acquaintance repeats, “I’m vegan, so I’ll never get cancer.” She seems to be saying, “I’m smart enough to avoid the Big C, unlike lessor mortals. Everyone should be like me.”
Another old standby is: “Woe is me. I’m being victimized yet again.” A friend, Joe, endures a cheating spouse and undergoes several surgeries a year for a chronic condition. Joe stays with her for the health insurance policy she provides. I commiserate with him and it breaks my heart to see him suffer.
Another less common core identity is: “I’m searching for something better, and I’m never satisfied with what I have.” A distant associate owns two ranches. They’ve been for sale for many years, but he can’t get a good price, so he says. He searches for the ideal farm to buy when the two sell. To me, this quest seems endless and futile, yet it consumes his life.
In my opinion, it’s the rare person who maintains curiosity and awe, non-judgmental about life’s odd byways. A few years ago, a monk I know developed Type II Diabetes. His attitude displays wonder. “Imagine what kind of karma I must have had to result in this illness,” he says with a shrug and a small smile.
All the personality patterns I encounter fascinate me. I wonder what will happen next in their sagas. Will they stay true to their established mindset? Or will they break through, like the monk, into objectivity?
I see a bit of myself in all of the personality traits. However, I hope to be like the monk.
Cate Burns is the author of Libido Tsunami: Awash with the Droll in Life, in which she unearths the ludicrous in the emotional live traps surrounding us — in families, friends and disastrous romances. Get it on Amazon today.