How to be strange


I once read a statistic – and I can't remember the exact figures that were quoted to me – that the odds are several trillion-to-one that someone could be born with the same genetic code as yours. Which, effectively, means that you are absolutely unique. There will never be another person with your temperament, character, experiences and personal gifts until God goes to sleep for good. 

However humdrum or unhappy your life might be at the moment you are a special person. You have unique experiences and perceptions that no one else will ever have. And it doesn't matter whether you have a humdrum life, or whether you suffer from the delusion that you are a failure. Nor does it matter if other people fail to appreciate just how different you really are. Just get on with the task of becoming the person you were always meant to be. Or, as I advised in my last article – cultivate your weirdness.

One way to do that is to start following what your personal genius wants you to do. Another is to break free of your personality. But there are other ways, and I shall write about each of them:

  • Be playful with the truth.
  • Become an expert at least one thing.
  • Break away from slavery.

 Be playful with the truth

I don't mean play with the truth (meaning: tell lies). I mean: telling the truth so straightforwardly that you make people laugh. Even telling the raw truth, just as you see it, is often amusing, as well as fascinating. As a rule, saying shocking things about yourself works best, but you can do the same for life, god, other people, or about anything else you like. As Bernard Shaw once said, telling the raw truth will be taken by most people as an outrageously witty thing to do.

Some examples:

1. Abraham Lincoln was once heckled at a rally and accused of being 'two-faced'. Lincoln (who was famously ugly) replied: 'If I had two faces do you think I would be wearing this one?'

2. Oscar Wilde was once listening to a rather vain artist who was complaining that the critics never wrote about him and that there must be 'a conspiracy of silence' against him. 'What should I do, Oscar?' he asked. 'Join it' said Wilde. 

3. I once met a woman at a party who told me that her husband was so depressed that he had given up his job and spent most of the day in bed. I also learnt that she had gone back to work to pay all the bills while at the same time looking after their four children, running the home, and dealing with his moods. When I asked: 'Don't you get depressed too?' She replied, satirically: 'Me? Oh I don't have time to get depressed."

Einstein is a pretty good example of how an 'ordinary' person came to seem more and more interesting to others. Although it took him a long time to get there. He was a failure at school and dropped out when he was 16. One of his teachers even wrote on his school report that he was probably retarded. From thereon he lead a dreamy, secluded, life as a University academic, his theories and himself more or less unknown to most people until he was 41, when he suddenly became famous. Therafter, his eccentricities and sayings became the stuff of legend. Here is one of my favourite stories about him: one that illustrates his personal humility, and his sense of mischief, as well as his playfulness with the truth.

One day, while Einstein was on a speaking tour, his chauffeur, who often sat at the back of the hall during his lectures waiting to take him home, remarked that he could probably give the lecture himself, having heard it so many times. Thinking it over, Einstein decided to give it the test and switched places with him. As he suspected would happen, no one knew who he was or what he looked like, and the chauffeur went on to give a flawless lecture on Relativity. Things only went wrong near the end when he was asked a question he couldn't answer. The driver pointed to Einstein, sitting at the back of the hall, and said:

'The answer to that question is so simple even my driver could answer it."



Why it’s ok to be a bit weird


When I was a teenager one of my recurring worries was whether I would ever be normal. In the 1970s being 'normal' seemed to mean the exact opposite of what I was doing at the time: living on my own (and liking it that way), being on the dole, writing poetry, reading philosopy, worrying about the meaning of life, and consuming too many drugs.

Normal people, I was told, were contented with life, unlike me. They were also good at making their minds up early what job they wanted to do and sticking at it until they made lots of money. In fact, being normal, as far as I could tell, meant spending lots of time thinking about money, making it, and then spending lots more time thinking about how to spend it. So all the people I secretly admired were skilled shoppers, and bang-on-the-mark about the right clothes to wear, the best car to buy and the newest restaurants to book.


Back in 1976 when I was having this weird phase which still hasn't come to an end yet, that meant wearing baggy high-waisted trousers, platform shoes, and flowery shirts with big collars worn with a safari-jacket. To go with the moustache, huge side-burns and and big sunglasses that were de rigueur for normals. Which fitted neatly with the Ford Capris parked outside the Lee Ho Fook at the less grubby end of Croydon High Street. 

I could, just about, cope with the fact that I was a drop-out who didn't have any money and not the least idea how to spend it and make myself look normal. But (and I am being quite truthful here) what was more disturbing to my sanity was the fact that all the well-adjusted 20-somethings I knew were getting far more sex than I was, and were planning to get wed to one of their sexual partners, buy a two-bedroomed house, and make some more money. But the thought of having endless sex on demand made normality sound quite attractive. It was only later I discovered that many normals don't, in fact, do good sex.

But weddings were a turn off because weirdos like me aren't very good at settling down to live in the same house, with the same person, doing the same job all the time. And the thought of living in New Malden for the rest of my life sounded like a prison sentence.

So being a bit weird gave me a more interesting life than might otherwise have been the case.

Next up, I will be writing about how you can cultivate the strangeness in you – and become still more interesting than you are now.

Is your Personality based on your Blood Group?

Personality Fans of this Blog will know that I am sceptical about theories of personality. I really don’t believe people either have, or need to have, a fixed personality. Nor do I believe that standard personality tests are that accurate. And even if they are accurate at this moment in time they may not be so next year.

You will also know from me that you are better off losing your Ego and your Personality (if you have one) because they limit your possibilities, intensify your bananas, keep you in your comfort zone, and stifle your Personal Genius.

However a Japanese friend of mind asks whether I have heard of the concept of ketsu-eki-gata, in which temperament is said to be influenced by the individual”s blood group. Since there are only 4 groups:  A, O, B and AB it would seem that there are four basic types – as shown in the table below (click on it to enlarge):


She goes on to say:

If this idea has some truth in it then in we have more evidence that Bodymind – working through the blood-group – has an influence on our preferences, our moods, the way we express emotions, our behaviors, our attitude towards other people, and our career choices.’

It could be that she has a point if we consider that blood group types might influence temperament (emotional make-up) rather than personality. But nobody has yet been able to show whether there is a link, and how it works, although theories like this are at least 2500 years old.

She tells me that in Japan and Korea, blood groups are widely used by dating agencies to match people up, and by employers in order to assess whether applicants are ‘right’ for the job.

Apparently my own blood group – B – has a bad reputation in Korea and Japan as we are widely viewed as mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

A few years ago Dr Peter D’Adamo published a book in which he argued that people could more easily lose weight by following the right diet for their blood type. So Blood Group O should avoid wheat and dairy; Group A should follow a mostly vegetarian diet; Group AB the same as A, but with occasional meat and fish; while Group B should avoid nuts (one of my favorites!) and processed foods like white bread. If this is the case (and this is still a controversial theory) then it suggests that blood groups can influence taste as well as metabolism. So why not temperament?

I ran the description of the ‘B’ personality past my wife and a few friends and they all agree that it is fairly accurate of me. That doesn’t make it true though!

What do you think? Do you – and those close to you – believe that these descriptions fit you?

And – for you readers who know me personally – do you think that Type B is accurate?

I promise to publish all replies – appreciative or sceptical, and flattering or non-flattering!

More on the Enneagram


Some of you may have taken one of the two Enneagram Personality tests I recommended in my last article. If you did then it is important to remind you of the following principle:

Whichever of the Nine Enneagram ‘personalities’ you think you have (or scored highest for) you should fight as hard as you can not to be that particular way. In short, you should lose that ossified way of being.

For example, until recently I scored high for the Number 8. Here is a description of the Eight by The Enneagram Institute:

Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable.

In order to avoid the fate of becoming fixated on strength (and thereby making myself obsessional about it) I had to let go of the banana about having to ‘be in control’. In point of fact I never particularly wanted to be in control of anything until I became a well-known therapist. After that point my Headmind decided that it had something to prove to people who did therapy or training with me, and then the banana about having to be ‘strong’ started to work on me. Before that particular delusion took over I usually scored high on the Number 5 personality. Here is a description of that one from the same source:

Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation.

I would guess that I was a ‘Five’ all the way from my teenage years until about 10 years ago, when I learnt to see through that false ego. What drove it was my emerging experience of being typed as ‘deaf and therefore ‘stupid’ and ‘inadequate’. That was why I went for one banana about having to be a know-all and another one about having to live in an ivory tower. Neither obsession did me any good.

Here are the fixations that go with each of the nine types.

The One: Has to be in the right. Must never be in the wrong. The Perfectionist.

The Two: Has to look after others. Must never be rejected. The Martyr.

The Three. Has to be a success. Must never be second-best. The Workaholic.

The Four. Has to be admired. Must never be ignored. The Show-off.

The Five. Has to know everything. Must never be caught out. The Loner.

The Six. Has to belong. Must never stand out from the crowd. The Conformist.

The Seven. Has to be happy. Must not be sad. The Addict.

The Eight. Has to be in Control. Must not be weak. The Bully.

The Nine. Has to be inside the Comfort Zone. Must not get stressed. The Slob.


Harmonious This is the first in the series of articles about the Enneagram.

The Enneagram is a method through which you can understand human personality. There are 9 personality types, which I will describe in later articles.

I have written about Personality – and also about the Ego – before. In the system of Reverse Therapy, your personality/ego is a creation of Headmind, which bears no relation to who you actually are.

A common problem with  Enneagram books is that they try to label people as belonging to a certain ‘type’. Nothing could be further from the truth. All that knowing someone’s Enneagram type will tell you is how far they have got stuck in Headmind.

You are far more than your personality. Somewhere, deep down, you possess a Personal Genius which holds  the personality you give out to others in contempt, and which seeks to break free of it. Personal Genius, if anything can be, is your real self. But you have no control over it for that was given to you at birth.

Your Enneagram personality, by contrast, is something you need to work on in order to abolish it. Your personality is not you; rather it is your Prison.

The ideal, the goal, is to become ego-less and to cease to possess a personality.

Only then can you become that which you are truly are. Gurdjieff, the originator of the Enneagram taught precisely this.

Before you read the second article in this series you might want to take the Enneagram test and here are two:

Eclectic Energies (This is a free test which is reasonably accurate).

The Riso Hudson test (The Riso-Hudson test is the most thorough test currently available. It costs $10.00).

Losing your personality

For the most part, what you and others see as your ‘personality’ relates largely to the way you present yourself and the feedback you get. So, if I go around without washing the response I get will generally be disgust. In that way I will become ‘a disgusting person’ although I can easily change that by using some hygiene.

The way you project yourself on to others is also related to your confidence in your own abilities. If you regularly practice speaking to strangers you will gain confidence in your conversational skills. You will therefore be less likely to be labelled as having a ‘shy’ personality and more likely to be labelled as an ‘extrovert’.

Here are some tried and tested ways of changing the way you present to others (meaning I have tested them myself and found that they work).

1. Change your job.

The most dramatic example of this was when I gave up my banking career in 1990 and became a therapist. Almost overnight I changed from being a de-pressed, suit-wearing, routine-bound wanker-banker to a guy that wore yellow trousers!

2. Do something that is ‘just not like you’.

I wrote something about this on my last blog Reverse Personality. This is about dropping habitual ways of being and experimenting with the opposite set of behaviors. So if you ‘never dance’ then do just that. If you are ‘impatient’, slow down. If you find it hard to show love to others then practice.

3. Give up your parents

To some extent your parents establish and reconfirm your false personality. If they thought you were the ‘sporty’ type, or ‘the reliable one’, or ‘the family show-off’ then chances are that that is what you became. When I left home at 19 I quickly realised that the way my parents often saw me had become, in some ways, a self-imposed limitation. The same applies to the perceptions you accept from your partners, your friends, and your children. There’s a great Bette Davis movie about this called Now Voyager, in which she transforms from a mother-dominated, neurotic frump to a sex siren!

4. Learn a new language.

Because each language carries a different way of thinking (based on the words and grammar unique to that language), the use of the mouth and vocal chords, and the expressions that go with it, this is one of the fastest ways to change that I know. Works still better if you live and work there. I discovered this even when I moved to New York for six months a while ago. Although the words were similar – the differences in grammar, intonation and meaning were very powerful.

5. Change the way you dress

That includes the way you dress when you are by yourself and the way you dress outdoors. Remember, what you see in the mirror subtly changes the way you project yourself to others.

6. Acquire new skills

The list could run from assertiveness training through to art, car mechanics, poetry, cooking, meditation, or sexual techniques. Different skills entail different behaviors….which lead to new experiences and new kinds of feedback from others. They will also raise your so-called ‘self-esteem’ – which is just another way of describing the way you present to others.

7. Develop your personal ‘genius

This has to do with making the most of your innate character – the tastes, skills, talents – and the  individual mission you were born with. When you become what you were truly meant to be, it radiates through your eyes. But I will write more about this ‘genius’ in my next blog.

8. Have a nervous breakdown

This solution is a little drastic but it could be the most effective of the lot if you can stand the temporary disorientation.

All that is really meant by having a nervous breakdown is that you have lost your ego – the scripted, routine personality you have over-identified with. It typically happens when your deepest feelings  and desires are completely out of sync with the life others expect you to live, so that you end up de-pressing who you really are. The resulting crisis leads to an uprush of powerful emotions which sweep away the false self and enable you to be born anew.

(By the way. you don’t have to have a breakdown to be reborn. Practicing new ways of being each and every day will remove the necessity for that, unless you are the religious type).

Reverse personality

There is this illusion that we have fixed personalities. The associated delusion is that who we are now is created by our genes, our parents, or our childhood experiences. And that we cannot change that.

Most human beings are too complex to have a fixed personality.  We are creatures with a vast library of personal experiences, desires, talents, gifts, dreams, hopes, emotions, thoughts, strengths and weaknesses. You can’t pin a real human being down with labels.

What most people call ‘personality’ is usually a small sub-set of attitudes which you tend to use in very specific situations. They are the front you put on, not who you are.

So I can be introverted – quiet, reflective, withdrawn – when I am writing this blog. And extroverted – outgoing, people-focused and excitable – when I am talking to an audience of 200 people about Reverse Therapy. So long as I don’t go around thinking that I have to be one or the other, I can do both.

Personality tests are not only inaccurate but inhuman. They seduce us into believing that we are always going to be the same person. Ken Lyen has a great blog on this very point. He argues that Personality tests work through typecasting – as when an actor plays the same role too often and becomes identified with it. So we adopt the personality the test says we are.

Most of us wonder who we ‘really’ are and tend to accept the first plausible description that comes along. So I am a Leo, a Monkey and a Number 11 in numerology. But, even if accurate, these portraits only show one side of who I could be. There are thousands more ‘John Eatons’ I haven’t even begun to explore yet.

20 years ago I was sent on a very expensive management training course (this was when I still worked in banking, before I regained my sanity). We were tested, interviewed, given role-plays to perform and then video-taped, analysed, and typecast.

Now one test – the Myers Briggs Inventory – caricatured me as an ‘ISTJ’ (Introvert, Sensor, Thinker, Judger). So, to make things interesting I spent all 4 days on that course doing the opposite of what was predicted of me – in other words, behaving like an ENFP – Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeler, Perceiver. I stood in the centre of the room and told weak jokes in a loud voice, talked vaguely about ‘the big picture’, shared with anyone who would listen my feelings about my new-born daughter, and never, ever tried to be on time or make decisions. I became someone I never knew I could be.

The expression on the face of the Psychologist who had to debrief me at the end was interesting. He looked like he was about to give birth to a calf. In fact, one of the first things he asked was whether I had ever had psychiatric treatment. On the grounds that if psychologists can’t predict your behaviour then you must be crazy.

Those 4 days were tough because I had to do the reverse of everything I did by habit. I had a headache most days. But very liberating too. And I have never taken personality tests seriously since.

Until… I did some research for all you readers out there and found a free Myers Briggs Test you can use. And, just to test it, I took it myself. And – guess what? My personality (as of yesterday) was…ENFP!

Here’s that test. But don’t forget to practice doing the opposite of what it tells you that you are when you get the results.

The Personality Surgeon

I am a big fan of Colin Wilson (pictured right), who’s written numerous books on the theme of The Outsider – people living on the edge of society, misfits who have to find a way to channel their passion into something creative. Otherwise, their passion will turn inwards and destroy them. So unhealthy outsiders become alcoholics, criminals, black magicians, madmen. Healthy outsiders become visionaries, spiritual leaders, artists or humble therapists. The difference is that the latter have connected to a purpose – something beyond self and society that keeps them connected and keeps them sane. I can vouch from personal experience that this is entirely true.

This weekend I read Wilson’s novel ‘The Personality Surgeon‘ again. I first read it in 1988 while I was wondering whether I wanted to become a psychotherapist or not. Most of my friends thought I was crazy as the pay was crap and you only ever got to meet dodgy people (they meant the other psychotherapists). But reading that book clinched it for me. And now, when I read it again, I am astounded by the fact that so many of the ideas that went into Reverse Therapy years later are in that book. It’s just that I had ‘forgotten’ about them.

The Personality Surgeon is an ordinary GP called Charles Peruzzi working in South London who stumbles upon the reason why people become ill with Depression, Anxiety and unnecessary diseases. Their  personality has taken them over and squeezed the life out of them. Personality is the fixed identity we have taken over from the way other people see us and which we store in our head. When we identify with it too rigidly the effort required to stay in the strait jacket drains us of vitality. That is especially true if the personality we have adopted is timid, self-denying, conventional, or a people-pleaser.

In the book Peruzzi discovers that a shock or a crisis can be enough to
catapult his patients out of the personality strait-jacket. A surge of
vitality comes up out of the body to meet the crisis, overwhelm the
fixed ideas of Headmind and (once the crisis has passed) point them to a
new way of life.

I had also forgotten all the cases Wilson cites and, since he credits
some medical doctors with help on the book, it is likely they were
taken from real life.

  • One man develops urticaria (a painful skin rash) after he retires and no longer has any purpose in life. He is cured when his daughter drives her car into the river and he goes into shock. Later on he starts up a new business.
  • An airline stewardess tries to commit suicide as she can no longer live with the disfiguring facial scars she sustained in an airline accident. She ‘sees’ herself as a freak. But once she recovers she loses her poor self-image just by behaving differently with men: assertive rather than meek.
  • A US Astronaut becomes severely depressed after the Moon landing project ends. But his real problem was that he chose the wrong career to follow next. Instead of following his real love: ecology, he becomes a politician. And once he loses that personality, his depression goes.

Colin Wilson writes about all the things we pay attention to in Reverse Therapy. How symptoms of illness come up when we are living a life based on repressed emotions and lies. How rigid ideas keep us trapped. How we get healthy again by taking risks. How we became ill by relating to people dishonestly and can get well again by becoming more authentic. Most, importantly, health depends on vitality, and vitality depends on exercising your love of life.

But if you are ever feeling depressed then read The Personality Surgeon. That alone will be enough to revitalise you. It’s an inspiring work.

Dr. Miller says we are pessimistic because life seems like a very bad, very screwed-up film. If you ask “What the hell is wrong with the projector?” and go up to the control room, you find it’s empty. You are the projectionist, and you should have been up there all the time.”       
Colin Wilson