I’ve always known I have a defensive personality, but recent thinking and observation has led me to surmise that this may be symbolic of the central conflict in my life.
I have two competing primary drives which I feel always push me in opposite directions: exploration and security. I’m very curious and driven to learn (especially about people), but this drive is often countermanded by my obsessive need to secure myself against “undue” risk. The compromise I’ve lived with for years and considered part of my personality is that I choose to explore through media instead of experience or direct observation, which enabled me to explore intellectually while maintaining comfort and avoiding risk. The compromise has always been out of balance though, as my aversion to risk made much of my learning inert through removing the impetus to act on the knowledge gleaned from my all my consumption.
Action and inaction both involve risk, but I believe I’ve sided with inaction more often than not due to the illusion of greater vulnerability from action. Inaction allows me to build walls and become an inert fortress of passive intellectual defense. It allows me to choose the areas which I can defend comfortably and “turtle” should I be challenged and the illusion of vulnerability threaten my defenses. What I did not understand until recently is just how much this defensive practice hobbled my intellectual development and grounded me in ridiculous ideas. I feel as though I built a mental Maginot Line, and I have became rigid and inflexible due to trapping myself behind it through the false belief that my perceived defenses make me less personally vulnerable to attack and criticism. How can I explore and question as I claim to want when I spend my time walled off, alone, and on sentry duty against my sense of superiority and security being threatened? I cannot because the drives are incompatible. I have to accept risk if I want to learn anything novel and worthwhile, which means I have to limit my obsession with security and maintaining some kind of perceived high ground, when I would be better off with the freedom to move and adapt as a situation demands.
Time for me to leave behind the social and mental fortifications in which I’ve long hidden and to start exploring outside of my comfort zone. This is going to take much more effort on my part, and quite a bit of personal adjustment, but I have learned that creating good habits is only hard until the new habit is established. I cannot be something other than I am, I will never purge my need for personal sanctuary, but I hope I am able to moderate the effect and give myself some room to breathe and accept reasonable levels of risk.