Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More Thoughts on the Linear and Non-Linear People

In my last blog piece, I asserted there are two types of people, linear and non-linear. This topic came up in two talks I gave last month at the Kansas State DBSA conference. It also ties into a closely-related peanut butter-tofu theme I introduced at the conclusion of my first talk. So let's jump in, conclusion first:

Why don’t I conclude with a short reading from the book I’m working on?

Anyone NOT familiar with Star Trek? The people not familiar, of course, they're not going to raise their hands. That's like asking a room full of psychiatrists, "Anyone here with a mental illness?"

So, I'll read from the draft of the book I'm working on, which, as you will recall, is entitled, "Raccoons Respect My Piss, But Watch Out for Skunks." (Oh, I'm going to fight with the publisher to keep that title.)

So ...

No doubt, you recall the now-classic scene in the movie Star Trek where I attempt to explain the concept of peanut butter to an incredulous Spock.

"Peanut butter is not logical," Spock keeps telling me.

"You of all people would know that peanut butter is logical," I retort. "And if your mother truly loved you, you would feel the same way about peanut butter that I do."

Spock is valiantly trying not to give in to his anger. Although he identifies as a Vulcan his deceased mother was human. Earlier in the movie, his Vulcan father informed him he had a choice between two paths in life, his rational Vulcan self or his emotional human self.

Neither is right or wrong, father informs son. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Head or heart. Informed decision or gut.

So, here we are - Spock and me - on the bridge of the starship Enterprise. The Romulan renegade Nero has just destroyed Spock's planet and Earth is next. But first, time for a sandwich (priorities are priorities).

Spock keeps trying to explain that Cardassian tofu is logical.

"Yeh," I reply, "but it tastes like shit." I mean, seriously, have you ever seen a happy Cardassian?

"What does happiness have to do with it?" Spock shoots back at me.


That's my point. And there we go. We're peanut butter people trying to fit into a tofu world governed by Vulcans.

Now, probably you don't know what any of that means, but I like to leave people confused, I like to irritate, so maybe a pearl of wisdom might pop out.

So in the meantime, as I always tell people, enjoy the peanut butter. (Now you're really going to write on your evaluations I'm crazy.)

After my second talk, the other three speakers and I formed a discussion panel that took questions from the audience. The very first question involved bipolar and creativity. This was my answer:

If I can add something to that, Evelyn. I kind of jokingly referred to the linear people and the non-linear people. It's a idea I got from Nancy Andreasen, who does a lot of work studying creativity at the University of Iowa. She's the first one to do studies into this, and she's doing brain scan studies on creative people right now. Basically, our brains are organized in different ways that encourage us to think outside the box, and sometimes this means we don't test well doing linear tasks.

If there's a multiple choice question, sometimes all four answers look right to me. Because in a non-linear way, I can say, oh yeh, two plus two does equal six. Because if you do it this way and this way - can't you see that?

Or then they ask something stupid. And it's like - wait a second - there's a lot of ambiguity to this question. And that makes me look stupid, because: "Can't you understand the question?" "No, because there's too many possibilities with the answers here."

I've had to learn as part of my own social development - linear people think, "1,2,3,4,5, ..." I go, "1,2,28." And if I come up with a 28 answer in a group of people, they're going to think I'm weird. So I have to dial my 28 answer back to 6. Then it looks like I'm a little bit creative and lively.

Seriously, we're peanut butter people living in a land of tofu. And we have to learn to adapt to tofu, unfortunately. But the world gets its gifts through the peanut butter people.

I think you know where I'm going with that ...

To which my fellow panelist, Kansas WRAP coordinator Karen Cook, added:

"The question is how do you keep from being tofu - and stay peanut butter."

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