Monday, August 29, 2011

Jung's Chaos Theory - with a Kennard twist

The older I get and the more experiences I, well, experience, the more I am completely amazed at the human psyche.

Before I go any further, I have to admit I just looked up “human psyche” to make sure I was utilizing the right term. What happened then is what usually happens – I get a little sidetracked.

So here’s what I found. Let me just tell you first of all, I’m no rocket scientist. But I know who Carl Jung is. His name pops up when you look up “human psyche”, but of course I’m going to put my little twist on it.

According to Jung, the psyche is “a complex, self-regulating system, and the psyche functions in our causal space-time continuum via the conscious ego, but also functions in a psychic continuum that is wholly unconscious to the ego.” The psychic region of complexity that bridges the gap between these two egos is said to be the “edge of chaos”.

Now, I could get into the Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect but honestly, I know enough about each of them to nod in agreement at a cocktail party but not enough to debate it with a professor, other than mentioning that Ashton Kutcher was really good in that movie.

But I do find it fascinating that Jung considered the Chaos Theory applicable to “the holistic unity of the mind, brain, behavior and environment, and none should be examined as a separate entity.”

When I manipulate that statement and squeeze it and apply it to my own "Kennard Chaos Theory", I come up with, “This explains why you can keep your mind occupied at work during the day, play nice with your friends and family, enjoy the outdoors and be thankful for the material and non-material things you have, but still feel empty inside when you go to sleep at night.”

I think I’m a perfect example of the Chaos Theory. I am convinced that I have an equal percentage of these “entities” in my brain, and when one isn’t firing on all cylinders, it throws me into chaos until I can self-regulate.

For instance, you can be in love and have healthy, happy kids and be in good health and not have a job. Chaos.

You can have a great spouse, tons of money and supportive friends, but a sick child. Chaos.

You can have a wonderful house, a good job, and supportive friends and family, but no one to share your life with. Chaos.

And maybe “chaos” isn’t the right word, exactly. Maybe “unbalanced” is better. The thing is, all of us are somewhat in chaos. All of us are unbalanced. Very few of us have it all, depending on what our definition of having it all is. That’s why we look at each other at times and say, “I wish I were them. They have (insert big house, great job, amazing spouse, perfect kids…).”

Here’s my second point, and I go back to Jung for this one, too. I am learning that though all of us have chaos, some of us are more cognizant of it than others. Specifically, men vs. women. Now, I’m speaking in general terms, but it seems that many women, (I have to be careful here), because of their causal space-time continuum via the conscious ego versus the psychic continuum that is wholly unconscious, coupled by the fact that they are inherent multi-taskers and seem to have more of that “psychic region of complexity”, are pretty much virtually always on the edge of chaos. I think many women struggle with keeping their lives and the lives of those around them “balanced”. It's kind of what we do.

Men, on the other hand (and I’ll say it again – generally speaking), have more of a compartmentalized approach to life. They may have chaos, sure, but it seems more orderly with less overlapping as far as the number and variety of issues. In addition, I think some men try to avoid chaos at all costs. When they see that they may be on the edge of a crisis, or an unbalanced moment, they attempt to “fix” it, even if they don’t understand it. And if they don’t understand it, many get frustrated in an attempt not to “feel” it.

Here’s an example. It’s the end of a long day, and the woman is crying. She’s frustrated because she had a fight with her son and isn’t proud of how she handled it. That begets feeling guilty for not being home for him more and having to work. That begets her financial responsibility, worries about budgets and bills. That begets wondering if she spent too much on groceries, which begets beating herself up for burning dinner, and wishing her husband would have been home on time because then maybe they could have gone out to eat since she didn’t feel like cooking anyway. Now she feels inadequate as a wife, mother, and career woman. Dramatic? Uh, yeah. It is. But it happens. Women? Agreed?

So here’s the kicker. The man comes home, sees the wife crying. I don’t even know what he’s thinking. What happened? Are the kids OK? Crap, what’d I do? God, I just had a long day at work and now I have to deal with a weepy wife? Why is she always so unhappy? And where’s my dinner?

I don’t mean to make the man sound like an ass. My point is, the woman almost embraces the chaos sometimes. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing, obviously. Men, I think, on the other hand, run from it. Not because they’re weak – in fact, I wish sometimes I could do the same thing. Choose not to feel. Choose not to embrace the chaos. Their psyches are somehow wired to push the chaos down and get on with the tasks at hand.

Women know that chaos comes with their territory. Their chaotic moments are usually not the product of one specific thing – an issue at work, a problem with the car, a fight with a son or daughter or spouse. Their chaos seems to come when one of the balls they’re juggling is dropped, causing the audience – and themselves – to go, “Awwwwww.”

So how does this all tie together? Well, back to my first sentence: “The older I get and the more experiences I, well, experience, the more I am completely amazed at the human psyche.” I think I have experienced the Chaos Theory, as has everyone else in the world, some to much more of a degree than others. But upon closer examination on how different people react to their own chaos, I am incredibly amazed and sometimes perplexed. But in the end, I try to learn a little bit. I try to learn from the man who refuses to let any chaos rile him and stays on an even keel, yet feel a bit sorry for him and wonder if he’s somehow missing out on the human element by not experiencing some of these “extreme” emotions. I feel for the woman who is so overwhelmed with so much chaos that she is literally debilitated and doesn’t know how to restore order. I sympathize with the person that feels guilty that “most” things in his or her life are balanced, but the one thing that is not has created so much chaos that she can’t see the forest for the trees (that would be me).

I watch, and I learn. And I marvel at the human psyche, and the chaos we all have – of all levels – within. In the immortal words of Mr. Jung, “In all chaos there is a cosmos; in all disorder a secret order.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First day of the next four years of his life

I made sure he got up on time and showered. Provided him with a breakfast of protein and vitamins to help him get through the day alert and energized. Ensured he had put on deodorant and brushed his teeth. Ran my fingers through his long, blond hair that I had washed and conditioned the night before. Nixed one heavy metal t-shirt for one a little more "mainstream". Asked if he wouldn't mind if I walked with him to the bus stop. "I don't care" gave me the opening I needed, yet I stayed 50 paces back. As the bus arrived, I mentally hugged my firstborn son and told him to "have a good day".

What I really wanted to say was:

- Smile and stand up straight so people think you're nice and want to approach you.

- Don't talk about heavy metal so much that you ostracize everyone who doesn't appreciate it like you do.

- Keep your schedule in your pocket so you know where you are going.

- If you don't know where you are going, ask someone and don't think you're dumb.

- Say hi to someone in your class; start up a conversation if you can. Don't keep to yourself.

- Don't freak out if your locker gets stuck or you forget the combination. Laugh and ask someone for help.

- Be respectful to your teachers. This is their first impression of you. Over time, find one teacher or counselor that you hit it off with. Then when you have a problem or issue that you don't want to talk to me about, perhaps you can talk to them.

- Pay attention so you know what's going on tomorrow. Take notes if you have to. Write down your homework if you have it.

- Lose the attitude. Everyone can see through it and it will do you NO good.
- Give people a chance and they'll give you a chance.

- Look into joining SOMETHING. I told you ONE THING. I don't care what it is. You must join ONE THING this year. I know you think I'm crazy, but I know what I'm talking about here.

- Know that how you act now is how people are going to perceive you for the rest of the year. Be the nice, kind, funny and endearing kid I know you can be and lose the uber-cool "can't touch me" exterior.

- If you can't find your bus at the end of the day, don't panic. If you miss the bus, call me. I will be there.

I will be there. You don't want me to be there right now, but I am. And I think you know that. I am hoping that these next four years will be some of the best years of your life. These will be the years you will learn - both academically, socially and emotionally. You will have amazing ups and horrible downs. You may fall in love. You may experience heartbreak. You may find the friends who will be your friends for the rest of your life. You may discover your passion and realize that it's what you want to do as a career. You may discover yourself - at least a little bit. And through it all, I will be there, walking 50 paces or so back, but there just the same.

Happy first day of freshman year, Fearless 15. 

"Don't get too close, Mom."
"I know, I know. I just need to make
sure you're safe."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"It's a God thing"

I recently attended a funeral of a teacher who I scarcely knew. I had spoken to her in passing. She was tall; I am tall. We compared notes on where we bought our pants. That was really the extent of our interaction. But I watched her. I watched her smile. I watched her interact with her students. And I admired her.

She was taken from this earth suddenly, and I felt compelled to go to her "celebration of life". Fitting, because she was so celebrated. As I sat there amidst her family and friends, I watched photo after photo appear on a big screen - her with her husband, her children, her students, her friends. I listened to them honor her with stories of her life and how dedicated she was to everyone she touched, especially her God. In fact, there was one resounding remark that seemed to come up again and again when they talked about her. It was something she said time and time again, in good times and bad.

"It's a God thing."

So simple. Yet so complex. "It's a God thing." What did it mean? Was it her way of somehow explaining the fantastical things, the horrific things, the unexplainable things that happen in our lives? And if it truly is a "God thing", WHY? and HOW?

I think of those she left behind. I think of those who wake up and feel the void she left each and every day. I think of those struggling with major, life-threatening health issues. Beautiful, God-fearing, lovely people who never even saw it coming.

"It's a God thing."

I haven't yet experienced such sorrow - the death of a loved one, a major health crisis. What I'm going through now is probably the hardest thing I've ever gone through in my entire life. And I think now I understand. Because I don't understand. I don't understand why I'm here. I don't understand why God led me down this road, and why I am where I am. I cry out to Him and ask him why. I cry out to Him and beg Him to lead me, to give me a sign, to show me His plan. And I wait for His answer to be revealed to me. It may never be revealed to me entirely.

The emptiness I feel in my heart right now is a physical ache that I wish I could just take a pill and make it all go away. I want to somehow reverse the past and change who I am and what series of events have led me to this place. I want answers. Validation. Something. All I can come up with is, "It's a God thing."

We all need to have some kind of faith. We all need to have something to desperately hold on to when it seems that all is lost - that we've lost control. That we've lost the ability to go on. That we're drowning in a sea of uncertainty and standing in the middle of a cave with dozens of different tunnels, none of which we have the confidence to walk through, for fear that it's the wrong one and we won't be able to find our way back.

It IS a God thing. And we have to trust Him. We have to know that we weren't just put here by some random evolutionary explosion. We all have a reason to be here. We all have a path. For some - the lucky ones - it's defined and set. For others - like me - it's uncertain. Is it solid ground or quicksand? And if it is quicksand, will I be able to reach that branch to suck me out before I submit to its weight?

For those people, like me, we cling to God and trust in Him that he knows the way. We follow, sometimes blindly, hoping that in those dozens of tunnels, there is one that has a dim yet visible light that will give us a hint of where to go.

"It's a God thing." Hold onto that. I know I do.