Psychological Homeostasis

I have this theory about how to be happy. Mind you, being an INTP, all my theories are half-baked. I usually test it out, debate it out, play devil’s advocate, bounce my ideas off someone just to see whether it is sound. When I encounter something (or someone)  that opposes what I theorise, it enchants me into drawing them into a discourse (read:an argument) to stimulate my mind into improving/improvising/adjusting my theory. 

Until it is made perfect. 

Once it is perfect, it becomes my rule. My overvalued idea that would colour my every thought and every perception and every action. (because what’s the point of me going through the trouble of analyzing/arguing/thinking about my theory if I am not going to simplify my life by making it a rule and applying it when the situation arise? See? I make my life efficient by not having to go through the same trouble of thinking about it next time. I will just say, this is my principle. I might explain how I come by that principle if asked, how that theory become a rule….. but for my own efficient decision making in the future, I already bypass a lot of thinking process by simply converting my perfected theory into a principle)

INTPs are really, really, really lazy. Truly! That’s why we adore efficiency. And that’s why we hate redundancy. Having to do things multiple times with no appreciable benefits in outcome will drive us up the wall. 

So here is my theory that has become my overvalued idea (but not yet a principle) of what makes people happy.

Ready?

***

I think that our psychology has its own homeostasis. 

Just like our physical health depends on our body’s ability to maintain its homeostasis (temperature regulation, hormonal regulation, blood pressure, fluid balance, acid/base balance, osmoregulation), our psychology must be brought back to its homeostatic level; its baseline contentment level.

But the problem is, each of us has its own unique homeostatic profile, depending on many factors in our lives (our personality, the way we were brought up, our experience of the challenges we have faced in our lives etc etc).

I believe that my particular homeostatic profile is  ‘freedom and assertiveness’. Being free to assert myself, is my state of psychological homeostasis. When I am in a state of doubt and therefore deviating from my psychological homeostasis , I will not be able to rest easy until I have researched and found out what I need to know so that I can dispel the doubts that I have and return to being assertive.

Doubts gone. Assertiveness returns. Balance restored.

Back to baseline.

Back to being content.

freedom

So…I purposefully design my life, my needs and my desires in such a way that my environment, people I associate with and things I own will enhance my freedom to be assertive.

If it means I have to cut demanding relationship, then I do it. If it means I need to give up a few worldly gains and materials to restore that balance, then I do it. If it means I need to fight and annoy a few people, then I do it.
Because I know that I have to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to restore that balance. Because psychological homeostasis is not automatically regulated, the way hormones and thermoregulation are regulated. It is NOT AUTONOMICALLY CONTROLLED. It requires a heck of an effort.

Psychological homeostasis have to be consciously regulated by what we do, who we associate with, who we decide to let go and what goals we decide to forgo, and what purpose we decide to pursue.

Find out your psychological homeostasis. What it takes to make you feel content? Know yourself. Then, work for it. Design your life so that it revolves around that theme. Make every decision based on your own particular psychological theme.

***

When people asked me, “Why do you choose to take MRCPsych rather than pursue the Master Program?”, I always replied with the short version of what I really wanted to say. I simply told them that “I wanted to have the option of working elsewhere outside Malaysia. And MRCPsych is recognized worldwide”. Or I would say “Tak suka pindah randah waktu buat posting.”

Those answers do not cover even a quarter of the real psychological, logical and practical reasons behind it. But well…that was all I was prepared to say to most people.

To some close friends, I gave them the truth.

It’s because I need to keep that psychological homeostasis in place. I know my natural inclination. I know I am pretty bad at receiving instructions that I don’t agree with. Most of the time, I seem like I am anti-authority.  I can come across as difficult and challenging. 

I don’t think Malaysian lecturers will appreciate that. 

To be honest, I have had enough of Malaysian Education System. Year 2002 (my SPM year) is the final year of my being institutionalised  in the education system. I spent my schooling years avoiding interaction with teachers outside the class hours. Consulting a teacher (or any authority figures) has always been my very last resort. The few times when I did have to encounter them, we got into disagreements. Perhaps, because I came across as abrasive and stubborn. In the times when I DIDN’T fight authority figures, I was so uncomfortable about making polite talk and faking an enjoyment I didn’t feel. Hahah. So… I guess, I am just anti-authority. (I think, I will make a good psychodynamic case, if I say so myself. ROFL) 

In Australia, I didn’t feel that oppressive feeling of being a student. I felt free to disagree, to argue, to demand to be convinced without being made to feel like I am being difficult. Without being perceived as “suka bangkang,” when all I really did was asking for explanation, wanting to be 99% convinced.(I look at it as having a 99% confidence level…lol)

I believe that if I am not convinced of your logic, it is either you are not explaining the truth properly (and hence, my question provides you with more opportunity to do it properly), OR what you are saying must not be the truth, after all (and hence, it will benefit us all if we explore the answers together and come up with the right one). In my mind, I am just assisting the intellectual process for the benefit of all of us. But to others, I am just being a smartass. Hahha. This is something that non-INTPs get irritated with INTPs. We are very interested in wanting to know the facts and the truths that we sometimes forget that we might come across as disrespectful and challenging. 

2 years of housemanship basically cemented any overvalued idea I might have had about being under the mercy of any Malaysian authority. That was the last straw.

The only reason I didn’t decide to create a lot of shit with certain specialists and quit housemanship altogether… the only reason I decided to complete my housemanship in two years time was because I was committed by the agreement I had with MARA to serve the government for 3 years. I knew that I was obligated to serve 2 years of housemanship plus one year of MOship to fulfil my end of the bargain. That MARA agreement was like a tight chain around my neck. Stifling. Suffocating. Confined. 

Trapped.

Now I am in my 3rd year of MOship already.

 I have tasted my freedom and enjoyed it for the past two years already.  I am not gonna sacrifice that feeling for anything. I will take the longer, tougher and more expensive way of being educated if I must. But I could not make myself ever be under the mercy of any authority of the Malaysian system ever again. (at least, that’s how I am feeling now.)

Of course I am still an MO, you say. Still under the authority of the specialist and KKM, you point out.

Sure! But I can quit and walk out anytime I like should I feel dissatisfied with my working condition. Should I ever feel that my work does not fulfil my need for self-actualisation, I can decide to walk off without having to think about paying JPA any compensation. My hands and feet are not tied by debts and obligations (this aspect is so very important to me). So the authority only has a certain amount of power over me…but no further.

I can still live with that.

After all, none of us is completely 100% free, 100% of the time. But, should the authority become overbearing, disrespectful or bullying, I can decide to fight back and then walk away without having to worry about any unmanageable consequences, financially or otherwise. I am the sort of person who when people give me shit, I smear it back on them. 

Just knowing that I don’t need something that much….Just having the knowledge that I don’t feel trapped, means a lot to me. And this is something people just don’t understand. They can never understand why I just don’t want to do the master programme. And having to explain it to them takes too much time and too much words that I just don’t bother. (It is INTP being lazy again. We basically invest our time and words on things that will bring outcome. I don’t think any amount of time or words can make anyone understand why I am so set against the master programme. Hence, my laziness at giving extended explanation).

So that’s my overvalued idea. 

Well…at least I have good insight about my personality issues. LOL.

To avoid future melancholic dramas in everyone’s life (especially mine), I choose to do something that complement my style of ‘freedom and assertiveness’. 

Because that’s my happiness theory.

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Above anything else, I just want to be happy. I can be happy not being a specialist. But I can never be happy being under an unjust authority with no way to fight back without suffering unmanageable (financial) consequences. Some said, I am a rebel, being a second child and all that. (For the record, I think the second child theory is not accurate and does not apply to me). But I feel that I am only rebellious against overt injustice. 

When I was a HO, there were not that many malignant specialists or MOs. In fact, there was only a few in each department. But I saw fellow specialist turning a blind eye when their own colleagues were being unnecessarily harsh and unfair to their subordinates. They may not agree to the harsh method of that particular malignant specialist, but they did not lift a finger to correct their own kind or to defend their dependents. The most we could hope for in MOST specialists were tolerant indifference. That was considered good enough. That when we came across a friendly specialist (which is only a normal human social behaviour, but is a rare thing in the Malaysian hospital culture)  we think he/she is extra special. That was laughable. They were not special. They were just normal.

Desmond Tutu had said that “being silent/neutral in situations of injustice means that you are taking the side of the oppressor”. It was so true. There were few malignant specialist. But the silent ones make it seem more.

It was not that HOs during my time could not take the scoldings. It was not that we could not take the long on-calls. I took the scoldings, whether they were fairly or unfairly given. I did the 36 hours on-call in four out of six of my postings. With never an MC. Or AWOL.

I could take hard work. I could take the lack of sleep. The physical torture was nothing. But it was not the physical torture that hurt.

Let me quote  Victor E. Frankl of what he felt as a prisoner in a Concentration Camp during World War II in his book “Man’s Search For Meaning”.

Beatings occurred on the slightest provocation, sometimes for no reason at all. For example, bread was rationed out at our work site and we had to line up for it. Once, the man behind me stood off a little to one side and that lack of symmetry displeased the SS guard. I did not know what was going on in the line behind me, nor in the mind of the SS guard, but suddenly I received two sharp blows on my head. Only then did I spot the guard at my side who was using his stick. 

At such a moment it is not the physical which hurts the most (and this applies to adults as much as punished children); it is the mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all. 

I repeat, it is the mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all.

It was the unquestioned obedience we had to display when certain specialist become histrionic for nothing in the middle of the ward, nagging loudly then bursting into unprovoked crying. It was the helpless confusion at having to face flying files and tantrum-throwing of an adult-sized baby who refused to be pacified no matter what. It was the inability to retain self-respect because we were supposed to be silent when we were publicly scolded like so much dirty beggars in the street (who I don’t even scold when they beg). It was words like “I am not going to throw my shoes at your head because my shoes worth a lot more than your brain.”

Now, other than witnessing a histrionic specialist enacting a drama in the middle of the ward, none of the others I enumerated above have ever happened to me. I learned fast and I became efficient as soon as possible. The only truly bad posting for me was only in my first posting. Even then, I passed it without being extended. But in each posting afterwards, I saw those things happening to other first posters who were much slower to learn. Those things stayed with me until now. Strengthening my conviction that when we are dealing with authorities, we must have an escape plan that does not involve kissing their ass.

I survived my schooling years without ever being a teacher’s pet. Because even when those teachers liked to address me in the class (especially teachers of those subjects I was good at), I would maintain distance outside the class. Avoid and evade. I survived my housemanship without ever trying to ingratiate myself with any MOs or any specialists. If they were nice to me, it had nothing to do with me talking badly about other HOs to them. It had nothing to do with me playing the game of licking their butt because I avoided talking to them unless it was about work. Occasionally, I did end up being friends with a few of them after I moved on to other postings, (especially with everyone having Facebook account nowadays) but even then, I made sure the distance was there. Until now, I don’t cross the line into unnecessary interaction. Because in general, I have trust issues with authorities. So many of them can be nice in front of you but among their friends of the same level, who knows what they talk about?

I saw it happening among my own colleagues in my department as well as in other departments. The HOs could never have guessed what the MOs were talking about them because outwardly everything seemed fine. I told my friends clearly, “Weh, I am very pro-HOs.” Or I cut their ramblings about HOs short by saying “Aku rasa HO tu ok ja.”. Then I changed the subject.

I am just not interested to play all these games. It sickens me. I still remember how it was during my own days as a HO. We all knew which MO was a backstabber. We all knew which specialist could act all okay in front of you and then suddenly you found out you didn’t pass your end of posting exam. Hahha…that was one of the best gossip topic during bitching sessions among HOs. I remember that happening to a colleague of mine. Sure, they would say that my colleague was not up to par in her performance and that was the reason for her failure. But why didn’t you tell her so and make her learn? Why did you just ignore the HO like everything was OK, and then you failed her?  Talk about false hope, LOL.

If I have a problem with a HO, I simply don’t interact with him/her. I don’t have to talk behind their backs. I don’t have to say anything, period. If you really don’t like a HO, bullying them or badmouthing them is not the way to show it. “The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference.”

If it is work-related, I make sure my instruction to my HOs is clear. I don’t get angry at them for  not doing things I don’t EXPLICITLY tell them to do.

That’s how I deal with HOs. I get explicit, giving clear direction. Because I believe it is not fair for you to be angry at things you merely assume they should do and then they don’t. It was your fault for assuming. If you have made things clear, then you can scold them privately if they still haven’t done what you explicitly told them to do. I always find that most of the time, HOs complete works that are explicitly given. So, sometimes it might be our own communication problem. So when problems arise due to your lack of communication skill, who is the easiest scapegoat to blame? Well, the HOs, of course.

***

I am not saying that all authorities are unjust. Most of them are actually not.  But I do design my life and plan my action based on that assumption, just to be on the safe side.  Of course, I recognise that this is merely my overvalued idea. But this is an overvalued idea that keeps me happy and does not significantly affect my functioning. It is very much in sync with my need to feel free. It also happens to be in sync with me being lazy. Hahah.   

So for now, I am keeping that overvalued idea still. (stubborn, eh?)

In the future, who knows? I might end up signing up for the master programme if I feel that the consequence is manageable. At the moment, I am enjoying the freedom too much to care. 

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