William Beaty March 2004
I was painfully shy, totally asocial up through college. Now I'm not.
Well, mostly not. I have lots of explanations for what caused the change,
but nothing unmistakably correct. Here's an explanation from someone with
an advanced degree.. in armchair psychology!
One of my favorite theories is that human personalities are like "swiss
army knives." (Not my idea of course. It comes from Jung, Eastern
OK, suppose that you and I, as well as all other humans, have "Multiple
Personality Disorder" all the time. Also suppose that our shattered
fragments are held together by our strong
misconception that we're really single persons. We think we have an
"I" inside and not a "we." This
misconception dominates our behavior, and then we all stick to one narrow
personality. If we do shift to other personalities, we don't even notice
it. And if someone points it out, we deny that it happens; calling it
"emotional moods" rather than "distinct personalities."
If this stuff is true, then what will happen if I do things to
weaken my self-image rather than strengthen it (pursue egoless
states rather than stoking my self-importance?) If I weaken the bonds,
my separate personality fragments can more easily act as independent
tools when needed. The Swiss Army Knife won't be welded into "large
blade mode" anymore. Then I can be seized by an Archetype when
circumstances require it.
This actually seems to work. It makes me (or "us?") act more moody/crazy
than usual, but "we" suspect that this mental state is closer to the
original human mind of millenia past, as opposed to the closed-down
uncreative neurotic "stable personality" of the city person, of the
overly-civilized single "I."
I look back on my own history and see that I was never really a "shy
person," since I wasn't shy when working on projects, or while reading,
or while exploring outdoors, while singing alone, writing, sleeping, etc.
I had a variety of personalities. Storytellers. Intense focused artists.
Life-of party types and intellectuals. Yet I was always dominated by a
"shy person" during actual parties or when with large groups. Bring in a
bunch of people, and all of the other versions of myself were out of the
picture and forgotten. During a party I was convinced that I really was
a shy person and nothing else, that I had always been that way, and I
couldn't recall anything else. After the party I'd revert to normal
again. But I wouldn't notice this happening. Something always pulled
that "shy" tool out of the swiss army knife. Something about self
defense, but it's not clear.
How did I get over this? I can't put my finger on it, but it happened
after years of brutally truthful introspection; of seeing many things
inside myself that I could barely stand to look at, and then accepting
them. I stared directly at my disgusting parts, and finally they were no
longer disgusting (especially when compared to other people!) I guess I
did what the religious people are always going on about: I attained
forgiveness, I ditched all the "I'm disgusting" crap. But I found that
*I* had to forgive myself, nobody else could do it, not even Jesus,
I also spent time forcing myself to act like one of the "popular" types:
go to useless parties, force myself
into public speaking situations, etc. Painful training, like boot camp.
A good pain though. Next I mostly gave up the idea that popular and
a**holes, and I suppressed my habit of swearing to never become one of
them. I no longer
hated the successful party-er types. I also ditched the concept of the
"single ideal soul mate" which seems to ruin so many lives (after all, we
don't believe there's one perfect best friend out there that we must find,
or only a single perfect career, so why should we believe there's a single
Also, I totally accepted my being a loner type, and I gave up all hope
that I'd ever meet friends/lovers at parties. This was very freeing; no
more concealed neediness and dashed hopes. Sometimes I would screw with partygoers' minds.
Sometimes (rarely,) events were even fun. But over the years the rare
fun started happening more often.
I started being outwardly honest, freely admitting that I was a nerdy
disgusting overweight cowardly wimp
who reads way too much and has no girlfriend, or any hope of getting one,
ever. Simple idea really, but so hard to admit, or to accept.
I no longer desperately tried to maintain false facades to keep others
from finding this out. And other people sometimes said "hey, you're one
just like me!" I also gave up the idea that I was superior. No longer
"special" or unique, and I started assuming that everyone in large groups
of people was exactly like me, like individuals in a team of good friends
(although some of team members
could bring out better tools.) That "specialness" stuff is pure
narcissim. If you're "special" then others will see you as being stuck
up, even though it doesn't feel that way from inside.
Also I developed an expanding array of "pet topics" upon which I could
hold forth for hours once someone got me started. Crackpot scientists who
were later vindicated. Massive errors in grade school science books.
Those aerodynamics experts don't even know how WINGS work! Electricity is
taught wrong!! Individual drivers can UNPLUG TRAFFIC JAMS!!!!!!!!!!
Don't get me started. :)
Of all these, which was the cure? Can't tell. But I suspect it was the
part about not lying to myself anymore; of forgiving myself for my deeply
screwed up state; of confronting uncomfortable ideas and shredding
illusions that I'd long been trying to shore up. I had always been trying
to preserve the overly-positive illusions of myself that I was seeing.
Whenever I caught others detecting my illusions and perhaps seeing the
embarassing truth behind them, I defended myself. I defended myself by
adopting the "shyness" stance.
But with nothing to hide, "shyness" has almost no purpose.
In hindsight I think my "shyness" might also be labeled "depression," and
as I slowly defeated it I was somehow changing brain-chemistry to where I
wasn't trapped in one narrow "I" or personality, but occasionally had
access to a whole array of them, plus the large creativity hidden between
them, and I migrated away from "depressed" and towards the "manic" end of
the mood spectrum just enough to be normal. (Heh. Perhaps with too much
overshoot on occasions.)
Another possibility. In recent years
I spent stunnigly huge amounts of time
hanging out on newsgroups, getting into longwinded discussions, even
sparring with nasty flamer types. This definitely had an effect. Once
you've experienced almost every form of namecalling that opponents can
invent... you can let down your guard quite a bit. You've heard it all
Once the single strong "I" becomes weak, and your real self starts moving
around down there, an obvious technique shows itself: the intentional
creation of alternate personalites. Once you know that you aren't
who you thought you were, then... who do you want to be? Garbageman?
Mystic? Lothario? Lecturer? You can play around with alternatives. Go
intentionally crazy. You'll find that fairly quickly the alternatives
lock in and become very real. It's "method acting" where the character
dominates the actor. The ventriloquist dummy takes over the ventriloquist
for awhile. Your very own Dr. 'enry 'iggins, your "Facade Engineer,"
doesn't bother with tired old one-layer-Eliza, but confronts the world
with a hoard. (But then, much of the hoard was already in there, just
subsumed under the illusion of being a single solidified "I.") No, I
didn't invent this stuff. It comes right out of Carl Jung spinoff
authors, Castanada books, Eastern religion, etc.
About the only thing I've yet to attack is... the "girlfriend" thing. Tough problem, no?. After decades of being sneered at, I regard most women as The Enemy. I can reverse this temporarily by intentionally applying pressure to myself, but it snaps back again when I stop thinking about it. I'm happy enough talking to the dumpy intellectual types of either sex. But with any girl who looks good enough to attract the attention of Normal males... if she dares to talk to me, all my alarms go off and my defenses evolved during High School deploy themselves. Why is she paying attention to someone who looks like me? Is she mentally damaged? Is this the typical "cheerleader takes pity on the creepy intellectual" scenario? Or is it some sort of weird ploy to Make Fun of the Nerd in front of her friends? Hm, well, High School is over. Maybe she's just plain being friendly. But in the past this NEVER happened, there was always an ulterior motive, so I have great difficulty beliving that things are any different.
So I end up being cut off from most of the female population. After years
of practice I can fake a friendly conversation for a short time, but I
always quickly find an excuse to escape; to bow out. My "hypervigilant
distrust" personality will only vanish when I'm dealing with fellow
weirdos. Gimme a girl with frumpy Academic dress style and a weight
problem. (Heh. I guess I'm just shallow; obsessed with surface
Perhaps if I constantly try "bending" this system of mental structures
over years I can change it into something different. Or if bent enough,
it may shatter. Or perhaps I can find the mental equivalent of a hammer
which can crack certain supports and trigger a collapse. Too bad I'm not
gay, it would make things SO much easier.
For defeating shyness, have you ever considered using, um., "artificial
If a stranger comes up and starts talking to me, I can reach into my coat
pocket and grab... rare earth supermagnets. Tiny explosive pellets. A
quarter which was compressed to half normal size by a titanic magnetic
field. A core fragment from an exploded planet (hint: nickel iron slice.)
LED mini-light that lets you see the capillary bed inside your eyeball.
Soap bubbles that dry out after you blow them. Two laser pointers for
playing with kids or cats, or simulating some orbital mechanics or a game
of "Pong" on the ceiling. A fifty power microscope to explore
civilizations growing under fingernails. Glass sphere powder that makes
sidewalk rainbows. And on and on. It all started off as stuff I messed
with when alone and bored. But eventually I was saying to strangers: "Hey,
wanna see something REALLY COOL?"