Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thoughts on the Linear People

The most interesting part of any talk I give is question time. Late last month, I keynoted the Kansas State DBSA conference in Manhattan. A gentleman pointed to a list on the wall of famous people with mental illness. "Where would the world be without these people?" he asked.  

"I like to say to people," I replied, "we give you the gift of civilization and how do you treat us? You marginalize us."

I went on to say:

We discovered fire. I don't care if nobody wrote this down. Anyone crazy enough to go out into a burning forest and bring a flaming twig back inside a cave was not normal, was not thinking linearly, okay?

And just everything, from discovering America to painting the Sistine Chapel to writing Beethoven's Ninth to great poetry, great works of literature, to Isaac Newton, great works of science. I mean, literally, every field of human endeavor, we brought the world the gift of civilization and we get marginalized.

We also have to acknowledge the gifts within us. When the bad part of our illness is flaring up, I will trade it in for anything. But I'm not going to trade in my personality. I'll take it bad stuff and all. A lot of people are not there yet with that thought, and I respect that. But once you get your recovery up to a certain level, hey, acknowledge the gifts.

To me, the linear people [my term for so-called "normal" individuals] are dull and boring. I don't like hanging out with them. I much prefer the company of the non-linear people [that's us] which explains why my relationships are just terrible. Because I gravitate to these people.


The next question was seemingly unrelated:

"Before you were ever diagnosed," a lady asked, "did you ever self-medicate with alcohol or drugs?"

"Thank God I didn't," was my immediate response. Then it turned out I found a new angle on the theme I had just explored:

This is kind of a paradox, because growing up in the sixties and seventies - if you didn't do drugs you were really weird. But I didn't see what the big deal was because things are going in my head, I've got racing thoughts, visual things come in - and what people were describing, hey, that's me, normal.

I don't need to take anything. I inhaled and the stuff put me to sleep. If somebody is unfortunate enough to be born linear, maybe they need the drugs to be like us for a little while.

I know with a lot of our population we take drugs to self-medicate, but I think the linear people, they take the drugs to be like us.


Stay tuned for more Q and A ...

10 comments:

Lavinia said...

There are people who do not experience your gifts of mental illness who are not linear. I have tested whole brain and balanced in all my quads with strong intuition. I think the linear people do challenge a lot of us these days. They sometimes suffer lack in the emotional intelligence department.

Life is a roller coaster and not a journey on a straight line.
Even once the rocket is shot up in space it travels in circular paths and spirals.

Leslie said...

wow I am only hurt to hear you do not like to hang with me

John McManamy said...

Hey, Lavinia. Yep. Non-linears are not necessarily synonymous with people with mental illness. So when I say I prefer hanging out with non-linear people, I am being very inclusive. I'll have more to say on non-linear in an upcoming blog. And welcome to my world. :)

John McManamy said...

Hey, Leslie. Of course you're welcome in my world. But it's not a case of me accepting someone into my world. It's more a case of others accepting me into theirs, and this has been a major problem for me a good deal of my life. We minority non-linear people have to conform to majority linear social norms. That's the way it should be, but it does make a lot of our lives difficult.

It took me a long time to learn to adjust my behavior so that I was considered merely slightly offbeat and eccentric rather than totally weird. Naturally, I gravitate to people who accept me and enjoy my company instead of viewing me as an outsider. And naturally, I tend to avoid situations that make me uncomfortable. I'm pretty safe in saying we all tend to make these same choices.

Miranda said...

John, in what way are you non-linear? The truly creative and non-linear thinkers simply are who they are. I've never known a true creative that has to continually shout it from the mountain top how creative and outside the box they are. Or are you just "original" in that way?

John McManamy said...

Hmm, Miranda. James Joyce in Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man had nothing to say? Nor did Oscar Wilde his whole life?

"Continually shouting from the mountain top?" Where does "continually" come into it? I've only just started discussing this facet of my personality.

I've been quiet my whole life. The brain science is now giving me a reason to talk. Or maybe you wish we would go back to being invisible?

Mig said...

Hi John. I too avoid uncomfortable situations, but I've always defined it, in my head, as "avoiding conflict." I can safely say that I make conscious efforts to avoid uncomfortable situations which may later give a desired benefit. However, that benefit is not certain, and is most apparent in retrospect. I believe awkwardness is naturally unwanted, but should it be avoided whenever possible?

Sometimes, it's almost painful to reach an answer that I fear only I can find. Knowingly falsely believing that things will fall into place is difficult. I seek truth, but all I find are rationalizations.

By the way, I respect your successful, and positive self-actualization to the utmost degree. I am very envious.

John McManamy said...

Many thanks, Mig. Your comments made me think: If we avoid situations where we know we're going to be uncomfortable with little or no chance of benefit, I think we call that setting boundaries. I'd rather stay home. If we avoid situations where we're likely to be comfortable and with a chance of benefit then we're being avoidant and isolating. I've been there, too.

Often it's hard to know the difference, or it's easy to rationalize. Last night, for instance, I had a commitment to go to a gathering put on by a good friend. I would have preferred to stay home. But I was glad I got out. I knew I would be among like-minded people. Still, I had to struggle to get out the door.

Tonight, I will be attending a function I would just as soon miss. Maybe nothing good will come out of it, but I know if I give into my tendency to isolate I am guaranteed of nothing good happening.

Trust me, it took me the longest time to work this out. And I need to strike a balance. I need lots of alone time - lots and lots of it. But I also need to be out amongst both friends and strangers.

Abbey said...

Hello John:
Many thanks! re. the linearity discussion, it's a very convenient and clear way to demonstrate a concept that has bedeviled me all my life! No, am not bipolar, but have suffered from chronic depression all my life, with much of that stemming from (I am slowly coming to believe) the inability of my family and friends to "live and let live", i.e., just enjoy my creative nature [grin]. I was always told I "over-reacted!!" [sigggh] to pretty much everything, ykwim.

It's lovely to find others who have survived being in similar boats. AND appear to be working on a peculiarly interesting variant of emotional flotation devices as well... [grin]! Keep up the good work, dearie!
affectionately, Abbey

John McManamy said...

Thanks, Abbey. I'm sure you'll be interested in one of my recent blog posts: You See Four, I See Twenty-Eight. More stuff on how we non-linear people get into trouble because we see the world differently than linear people. We're reacting to 28, which is in plain sight to our intuitive brains, while linear people are logically plodding along in the low single digits.