By: Jacob Taylor

I'm a minimalist in a lot of ways. And a reductionist. I try to find what the smallest kernel of truth is in anything. The most pure kernel. The same goes for people, and their personalities. Recently I've turned into several people's life coaches, you might say. What I'm doing with them is guiding them towards the kernel of their personality within. Many people have bad experiences and, when they don't know better, resolve not to do something associated with that bad experience. Those experiences and resolutions add up over time and they end up being that person's social armor. The cumulative effect of this armor, when constructed in this way, is to turn the space between the core of the person (really, their true character/personality) and the rest of the world into an amusement park of half-broken rides, which interactions with the outside world must navigate. In abuse scenarios, this amusement park is a hundredfold deeper and more complex. Not only do all interactions with the outside world have to navigate through this space (which may visually be, or feel like, many miles in any direction), the responses of the person may go back out to the world through an entirely different path than they came in on. This, in conversation, looks like mismatched responses "What they said didn't make sense as a response to what I said" or overreactions to ordinary stimuli.

The solution here is to very slowly (and usually very painfully) get rid of all that machinery, to get back to the core of who you are, to learn what you can from the bad experiences (there is always something constructive to learn), and then to move forward. Once you've thrown away all the machinery, you purify and redefine your character (core). Finally, you rebuild some of the armor you threw off. This time however, you get to do it from scratch with a cool head, and not in response to outside pressure or situations. It'll be much thinner, much stronger, and much more efficient armor. Your interactions will go through this new bit of armor, and that's fine. Everyone needs some social armor. But it seems to work out best when you get to construct that armor yourself, rather than having particular experiences force you to hastily erect something to protect yourself.

The fastest (not easiest) way to approach this that I've found is to start asking why. Everything from "why do I speak the way I do" to "why do I lead with my right foot" to "why does that event lead me to behave this way". Don't worry if you can't answer right away, most can't. The goal is to eventually be able to answer. Sometimes you'll encounter a situation where you've asked why about some event or action, and there's a precursor event or action — something that came first, that started the other thing into motion. Go for the earlier event. Place the latter on hold for a bit while you tackle the earlier one. This is part of my formula for introspection. You should start doing this in your 20's, and you shouldn't stop until you're dead. It really is a lifelong process. You want to be the best person you can be. The best YOU. So do it. Get out there and do it.