Michael is originally from California, but currently lives in beautiful Sydney, Australia
I like to think in terms of narrative in reflecting on who I am – that is, I like to think that all the places, people and experiences (lived experience is a crucial word!) help determine how I see myself today… my identity.
I think we begin to realize how the experiences in our life have shaped as, more so than any inherent disposition or internal belief. We have personalities, but our personality is not ‘us’ – we are more than our traits. We are the culmination of everything that has been put into us… we are the cumulative result of every experience and encounter we have.
A book my father discarded after buying it came to have a big impact on my life. It was a book on personality, and
as young adult, I was captivated by the ideas and speculation it offered. If I find my ‘type’ amongst these different personality tests, I will realise why I think and behave the way I do!
It became clear to me, though, that what/who we are a person is is far more complex and far more intangible than the short descriptions and templates in this book. The question, though, of why/how we might be different, or who we are, was the important revelation.
These interests have sent me on a path of discovery through the fields of psychology, social science, rehabilitation science and disability theory. Listening to people describe their life story – their most memorable life events, and seeing how this exercise captivated each and every person who did it, leads me to believe that on some level we all understand that we are like clay sculpted by time and experience.
My love of personality theory was nourished; I was lucky to end up in an undergraduate program at a University that put Personality Psychology on a pedestal … we had a whose who of lecturers and researchers; direct disciples of the great Albert Bandura, and his school of thinking.
Things shifted in life and I moved to Australia.
Working with people from all walks of life, I encountered people with harsh labels attached to them by society (anti-social, psychopathic, borderline, whatever). At the end of the day, many psychologists are interested in telling you who you are based on a basic textbook’s analyses.
While working as a therapist, and before that, a disability worker and a teacher of gifted students, I moved more and more to the conclusion that we must be the accumulation of our experiences, and the choices we made in their context – myself included.
While all of this was going on, I was also imbibing everything I could in the realm of Buddhism. Formal Buddhist doctrine; Buddhist Theology … views on causality, conditioning … the cosmos amazed me. At the core of my interest in Buddhism, though, was experience… words don’t really convey “direct” experience well!
The “experience” that led me toward an interest in studying, what I later learned to be, the emptiness of things. This idea, that things were always changing and probably random, was a shift in the way I saw things. It happened just like that … I remember gazing up slightly toward the sun one day – for a moment, my overactive mind went eerily silent. Silence overtook me, and I looked at the things around me… everything changes. That personal event changed who I was – regardless how simplistic, its importance was massive.
I play chess … constantly. My love of chess spills over into most things I write; it’s a well of euphemism and analogy … not unlike Zen Koan’s or Parables … Chess is at the heart of the way I am able to put life into words, boundaries and articulated perspective. It honestly does encompass every life situation.
The most important part of my life is my wife, Colleen. I won’t write too much about her here, just out of concern for privacy – but she’s been central in holding me together for about 15 years now. She’s the best thing that has ever happened to me; the most fortunate. When I write about relationships, forgiveness, love, etc., she’s always hidden somewhere in the midst of the “unspoken”.
That’s a nice way for me to think of my wife … the “unspoken” part of me.
Life has now led me to a place where I’m combining everything I know to try to write and “narrate”, or help narrate, the stories of the disabled, disenfranchised and alienated. I don’t see myself as being an “outsider” here; I would just as soon put that label on myself.
Thank you for reading a bit about me – I’d love to hear your story.