Everyone needs a coming out post these days. It’s apparently still such a trend that even five years ago the atheists where “coming out” out of the closet just like the gays in the 1990s. Shocked, I tell you. I didn’t even know they were in the closet.
Nonetheless I have always been amused by coming out parties, gender-reveal egg tosses, and the like. But here we are anyway.
So I have a confession to make. I’m coming out. Again. I think. I’m not really sure this is any surprise to anyone though. Maybe in the finer details, but not in the broad strokes, certainly. If I’m going to go for it on the public level, let’s just go ahead and level the playing field so that everything is out in the open.
However, I also think this is a good way to introduce the way that I approach the world itself, the way that I teach others to approach the world and view the complexity around them. Some will look at this and think it’s overly simplistic. Others will look at it and think that it’s overwhelming. But it’s really just a visualization of the way in which each of us lives day after day.
We are such simple creatures. And yet we aren’t. I’ll show you.
Like everyone else, my identity is made up of four perspectives.
Upper Left: Objective-Individual
This is pretty much the biological ‘me.’ This is concerned with the physical design of who I am. I’m 5’9” or some close approximation thereof. I have red hair—when I have hair at all. I have hazel eyes and all that entails including the change of color depending on what color shirts I wear. But with the red hair comes the fair skin, the freckles, the high pain tolerance—and the high anesthesia tolerance as well—the quick sunburns, and the quick-to-addiction rate.
For me, it means that, so far in my life, I’ve never broken a bone—except that one time I broke my thumb in a pillow fight in my early teens and my mother didn’t believe me until days later. By then I’d already been water skiing with it broken and the doctor put a split on it, wrapped it up, and told my mother to believe me next time I told her something was broken. Also, it means I’ve had my tonsils removed, my appendix removed, and my ear drums designed from scratch more times than I have fingers. I have allergies—and deathly allergic to cats despite having a cat that I love dearly!
On the darker side, I’m bipolar. I’ve struggled with it all my life beginning quite early and fought with having been told that it was nothing more than teen rebellion or that I was demon possessed before ever receiving real help in my early twenties.
I was a drug addict for quite some time. This past Spring (2019) I passed two decades clean.
But all of this is superficial. It’s biological and neurological. It’s the body and the brain matter. Its behavior and action. I’m so much more than what you can touch and feel and poke and prod and observe.
Upper Right: Subjective-Individual
Where there is a brain, there is a mind. Or at least we would like to think so, right? Where there is a limbic system, there are emotions. In this, I have a sense of self that rises up from somewhere out of this mess of biology. I have feelings of love, disgust, sadness, grief, elation, and much more.
I have memories of my childhood, of my children, of my past (both great and not so great).
This is the space where personality traits come into play. Mine tend to be on the high end of openness, conscientiousness, and middle of the road on agreeableness.
Spirituality in this upper left is controversial but this isn’t spirituality in the sense of your values that you hold, but more toward the impulse of spirituality that you may have. For me, this is an impulse toward what I personally call (for the moment and subject to change at any time) the Transcendent Interior. (I’ve never actually put that in public before this post. I probably won’t explain it either—at least not the phrase itself. But there it is for those that are curious.)
As you can see here, all of these are subjective in nature. No matter how real they may be for me, they are very much strictly me things. They are my feelings, my memories, my thoughts. Even in this sense of spirituality, this impulse toward God or a higher purpose or whatever it may be, that it uniquely mine.
Lower Right: Intersubjective-Collective
This is a fun one. This is where things get juicy. When we talk in therapy about complexes, so many of them come from right here. Parental figures, religious figures, politics, sexual preference, gender identity: all that happens right here.
This has always been a conflicted corner for me. I grew up in a conservative, religious family with whom I shared very little in common right from the start. Being adopted—did I mention that in the upper-right area? that might have been important biologically, yes?—I was always at odds with one parent or another. Yet much of my values were still defined by and processed through those same filters of family, church, and the educational system which I had all around me.
So despite the fact that I knew quite definitively from a very early age that I was something other than heterosexual and not quite homosexual—I very much slot in nearly the exact middle of the Kinsey scale—I could fit in quite well anywhere with anyone of any sexual persuasion without difficulty at all.
Politics, on the other hand, has been less than successful in that regard. I find myself far more of a fiscal centrist-conservative and a social moderate-becoming-more-radical-all-the-time liberal. In a word, I’m an epicurean.
These are the systems that hold us together. I like to suggest these are our friends, family, factions, and fraternities. But more so, this is how our world actually comes together around us. How we see our world working, the access we have to opportunity.
I have been fortunate in this regard: I am highly educated. I come from an amazing family background that allowed for amazing support—at various times (my dad was my hero while he was alive while the rest of my family were/are cretins). I have been fortunate to have been employed by incredible companies in the past. I am currently moving into an adjunct faculty position with the University of Akron/Wayne College—a dream come true for me (and my late dad).
I had the good fortune—again—to work from home while my son was going through his teens, a very difficult time developmentally. I was able to be around more for him and focus on both him and my education at the same time.
Insofar as family goes: family is important to me—though, admittedly, I have been married thrice, twice to women, and currently to a man; and I have several children, two biological and several stepchildren that I love as my own.
My religious life is tied to a religious fraternity that has been around for over 100 years and a religious revelation that has been around about the same amount of time. The focus on individual sovereignty, self-discovery, personal accountability, and social accountability is very important to me. I hope that shows through everything that I do in life.
Obligatory Scooby-Doo Reference
One of the first real philosophical questions we ask ourselves as we mature is “what’s for lunch?” We stare at the weird brown paper bag that our mother put in our weird Scooby-Doo knockoff backpack and shipped us off to the weird little school on the other side of town in that weird yellow short bus. Or maybe that was just me. Either way, the one of the next real philosophical questions we ask ourselves as we mature is “where or how do I fit in?” That’s really shorthand for “who am I?”
No. I’m not Scooby-Doo. But there’s my coming out post. It’s as brief as something like that gets without turning it into some kind of traumatic affair with gnashing of teeth and rocking back and forth in a corner.