How to be strange

Laugh

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

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.

Fashion

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.

More on the Enneagram

People

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.