Over the course of years, I’ve slowly determined that most of my flaws and ugliest tendencies are simply the things my parents let me get away with as a child. I say this not to shirk responsibility, but because I think we often flatter ourselves and over complicate the causes of our pathology.
Whatever flaws I see in others I fast find in myself, among them a certain brattiness that masquerades as sophisticated angst or existential frustration. I look back at the style of temper-tantrum or pouting I performed as a kid, and catch myself doing a grown up version when things don’t go my way.
My parents let me retreat into my comfortable spaces far too often. I was allowed to retreat when I should have been helped up and told to get on with it. My room was a refuge, and when I didn’t play well with others I had toys and gadgets to replace them. That privilege granted me the luxury of an early introversion that probably had even less utility then than now. The benefit of such an early start was that eventually, introspection got boring, like mining the same stone, again and again, allowing me to be frank about what was once hidden and unknown.
They say our personality is locked in by age 4. But what you can observe you can measure, and what you can measure you can change. I’ve put myself on a steady diet of self-observance, and in many ways become the stern parent for myself.
Being willing to do this dirty work might give me a fighting chance at changing course a bit, correcting the things that should have been corrected some time far back on an elementary school play ground.
Sometimes it feels a bit like watching a nature documentary where I myself am simultaneously the subject and viewer.
I’m not saying it’s fun. But it just might work.