My Schizophrenic Mind (And How It Might Help You Be Your Best Self)

By | March 11, 2016

A number of years ago, back when I was in my early twenties and starting my second “real world” job, I had the distinct pleasure of taking a personality profile test. Well, all of us in the company had this distinct pleasure actually; it was more like mandatory pleasure, which somewhat defeats the concept of pleasure altogether. It turns out choice and free will are typically important components in finding something pleasurable. Nevertheless, I have again wobbled off course on a pedantic rant of correctness and perfectionism that is threatening to ruin the creative masterpiece that this blog post could very well turn into if I could just get out of my own head long enough to let it reveal itself in all its enlightening and artistic glory.

Okay, early twenties, “real world” job, personality test. So at some point, typically shortly after hire for new employees, we had to take this test called the DISC profile. After looking at that link, it seems they have tweaked the description of each word in the acronym, but it’s still essentially the same. Or that webpage is a phony copycat. I mean, the words basically convey they same concepts, but subtle differences sometimes mean the difference between…ahh! Here I go again…

So I take this DISC profile, and it identifies your two main personality types out of these four:

D – Dominance/Decisiveness: Someone who is assertive and results-focused

I – Intrinsic/Influencing: Someone who is social, people-focused, and creative

S – Steadiness/Supporting: Someone who is reliable, team-focused, works “behind the scenes”

C – Compliance/Conscientiousness: Someone who is analytical and accuracy-focused, complies with rules

The theory is that these are the two realms within which your personality operates and expresses itself, but your first type is the one more likely to be your dominant type, especially under stress.

Certain sets of two types are also highly correlated and complimentary (meaning they wind up together frequently in a person’s profile), and thus a chart would reveal a rather circular relationship that I’ll attempt to portray linearly since I have a small budget (no budget) blog without animations:

D –> I –> S –> C –> D –> etc.

So the vast majority of people, and everyone else in my group of about twenty with which I went through the program, have two types that are next to each other on the wheel and thus closely related. Some people are “DI,” some “SC,” some “CD,” etc. So, by way of example, many CEOs are naturally “D’s” as assertive leaders with perhaps secondary “I’s,” social and creative to come up with ideas to forge their companies ahead into greatness. But there are very few cases of someone being a “D” and an “S” (in either order, “DS” or “SD”), and clearly they sound quite opposite (assertive dominance vs. team-focused and “behind the scenes?”). If you’ve done the permutations, you will have noted that the other two of the four unlikely combinations are “IC” and “CI.” I am a “CI.”

As a reminder:

C – Compliance/Conscientiousness: Someone who is analytical and accuracy-focused, complies with rules

I – Intrinsic/Influencing: Someone who is social, people-focused, and creative

What does this mean, exactly, except for the fact that I am that unique, special snowflake my mom always said I was? It can mean that instead of my two types being more complementary in nature, as with someone “normal” who has two complimentary types next to each other on the wheel, mine are a bit antagonistic, leaving me occasionally fighting myself inside my brain.

My most dominant trait is the “C.” For those who know me well, this comes as no surprise. I am supremely analytical and a recovering perfectionist. Well…how about “functioning” perfectionist? My brain doesn’t like to do anything until it’s run the simulation and is extremely confident it is ready to act. Sometimes the simulation is small leading to fast decisions, and sometimes it is long and I put it off for days, weeks, months…years. I am also very hesitant to take controversial positions without knowing the issue cold, and I’m very willing to say “no” to prevent me from winding up in a scary, dangerous, or embarrassing situation.

My second personality, though, is very much the opposite. It loves being the center of attention (um, yeah, this blog???). It loves positive interactions with people, especially ones that are intellectually stimulating from which I learn new things. And it absolutely craves creativity and accomplishment. This is the side of me that gives kick-ass wedding speeches. The side of me that plays guitar in front of people. The side of me that actually sometimes gets the girl in the end due to my confidence and witty charm.

Now I can see where someone would stop me here and say “Hey, that’s not all bad! It’s like checks and balances. Having a republican president with a democratic congress.” And in a way that’s true, when I’m able to get them to behave in a rational, give-and-take way to best walk the tightrope of life. But when I lose balance a little bit, especially when I become stressed and fatigued, they start playing tug-of-war in there and leave me exhausted and paralyzed, unable to make decisions or take action.

It’s like having a couple two-year-olds tethered together on a rope, and one loves to play in the backyard because it’s so spacious, it’s quiet, it’s safe because the fence keeps people out, and the squirrels are always back there running up and down the trees and eating nuts and stuff. The other loves to play in the front yard, chasing after cars and trying to talk to strangers while sucking on a half-eaten Dum-Dum sucker he found on the sidewalk. Unfortunately the rope is only long enough to reach either the front yard or the backyard, so neither one gets what they want, and they go back inside a tired, cranky mess.

Sounds a little schizophrenic, right? In fact, that’s what the lady running the program called me, right in front of all twenty of my new coworkers as we were openly discussing our test results amongst the group. As we work our way around the table, she looks at me and starts this dialogue:

Lady: So you’re a “CI,” huh?

Me: Yep.

Lady: Do you ever feel schizophrenic?

Me: What? Schizophrenic? No. I mean, yes. I mean, sometimes. Maybe. Of course not, no. YES! No, not really (my coworkers laugh, and my “I” personality is loving it).

Lady (now with super serious face): That’s actually an honest question.

Me (with mildly worried face): Maybe?

So during our next break, I go look up the word “schizophrenic” – because I’m a “C” – and it says this:

“A long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.”

Shit. I mean, I knew kinda what it meant from movies with guys in straight jackets and white, padded rooms, but damn. Darn. Sorry for all the cussing, “C.”

But then it also says this:

“(in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.”

Thankfully, she meant more of the second one. The one without mental illness. I still think she could have taken a more tactful approach to the whole thing.

Here’s the cool part, though. The Saturday morning cartoon public service announcements, “The More You Know,” were right. The whole point of taking all these personality tests isn’t to find out if you have a good one or a bad one; they are simply meant to find out what you are so that you can learn how to get the most out of it, to “Be your best self,” if you will (that’s good advice, right, Darrell?).

When I look back on all of my struggles – the times where I failed to accomplish things I wanted to, or even get started, or the times where I felt that I was struggling to find happiness – they were almost always times where I let my “C” completely run the show. The “C” made sure I didn’t do anything that might wind up in failure. The “C” made sure I didn’t say anything that made me sound stupid or ignorant. The “C” made sure I was always comfortable and safe, even if it also wound up making me feel numb and unfulfilled.

On the other hand, during the periods of my life where I felt the happiest and most successful, I was able to strike a balance between my “C” and my “I.” Without taking stupid-high risks with little reward, I took enough of them to give the “I” part of my personality a chance to create or achieve something without immediate judgement from the “C.” I gave myself a chance to act without fear of failure. I could tell a joke even if it might bomb. I could ask out a girl even if she might say “no.” I could start writing a blog post without having to have every single paragraph crystal clear in my mind before I began to type. I could just start typing and find my way in the process. And sometimes it’s okay to write something that sucks that we just throw in the trash; not everything we write, or do, or touch, or say is going to be perfect…or even good at all, and that’s okay. Actually, the majority of the stuff we create is probably rubbish…necessary rubbish. Because if we don’t start, if we don’t go through a few of those throw-away efforts, we never get to the one that was worth it all.

As a quick side-note, I’ve never really had a time in my life where my “I” completely ran the show. and that’s probably good for me.

My schizophrenic personality types are my version of what many people refer to as “resistance” or “the fog” or “self-sabotage,” or a number of other terms to basically mean inner crapola that gets in the way, creating hurdles or excuses that prevent us from doing what we really want, something really great. When I have my most lucid and conscious moments, the ones where I have perfect control and balance over the two types, I know exactly when and how far to let my “I” run before calmly reigning him in with the “C.” And when I do it in balance, there’s no tug-of-war or crankiness because the “I” feels fully expressed and satisfied with its achievement, and suddenly “C’s” rules just seem timely and prudent rather than restrictive and paralyzing.

Everyone has some source of resistance within their own mind that they need to learn to harness to be their best self. But you can’t do a thing about it without awareness. It takes a healthy bit of introspection, perhaps through meditation or therapy or journaling or personal growth courses (the DISC profile test) or whatever the method, to map out what’s going on in our brain and understand how it works and why it does what it does. More importantly, we need to gain enough working awareness of these traits so that we can catch ourselves in the act, so to speak, and recognize exactly when we are creating our own resistance, in the moment itself, to change the patterns and allow for growth, improvement, and ultimately happiness from authentic self-expression.

What are your experiences with your resistance or your fog? How do you become aware of them and work through them? Has anyone ever called you schizophrenic in front of a group of your peers? Feel free to comment. If you liked the post, please use one of the little buttons below to share it with other people so they can see it too. If you didn’t like it, comment and tell me why!

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