Channeling William James

William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910)

William James

It’s going to be a very late night.

The usual reasons apply – studying, coffee, and the need to write.

The latest PWRP post is going to be up on Wednesday, because I tossed the one I was going to publish due to the fact that I was incredibly bored with it.

Going through some old entries in my little black book, I realized that I had forgotten one of my ‘rules’ that I created because of William James. When James was bored with a subject (he was originally going to be a painter, which his father positively resented), he would just drop it and move on to something that interested him. The art of giving oneself permission to give up. So, while I will always place information in my PWRP posts that I think you should know, I am no longer going to write just because I have to, but because it’s fun.

I think one of the reasons I fell for William James (if you’re one of the new subscribers – William James was a philosopher and psychologist that I have officially declared ‘the unofficial love of my life’) was because I saw myself in him. Or rather, everything I want to be. And in the process of trying to become William James, I’ve noticed that it requires many moments of giving oneself permission to do certain things, as well as reminding oneself to do other things, such as:

1. Ask stupid questions and don’t mind the stares that follow.

2. Just get up and leave things that no longer lighten the heart and cause one to pursue something with happiness.

3. Never get up and leave the people who matter.

4. Procrastinate and whine a bit when one doesn’t feel like doing work, and goof off when you’re supposed to be serious (James actually frustrated some of his students because he would frequently joke in his lectures and avoid grading papers as long as possible).

5. Chase after what makes you happy. Nevermind that people on the outside will think you’re naive. (The key word being ‘think’.)

6. Think.

Sometimes I feel like I should go after things that I want to do right now, but, thanks to you folks, I pause and ask if that would be wise in the long run.

I wish sometimes that I could live two different lives. So I could see how it would all pan out and which way would make me happy. That word keeps popping up lately, because that’s all that I’m looking for, that’s the cornerstone of many actions.

The good news, I suppose, is that I don’t have to stay anywhere forever, I can get up and leave. I’ve said it before and I say it again, I don’t want to be left wondering ‘what-if?’

Maybe I’m just meant to forever run around and look for ways to feel like I belong. As much as I dislike my personality type (INFP), I can’t deny that it’s true that I always feel like I’m looking for my purpose in life. When I was ten years old I suddenly had this overwhelming feeling that I had to find my purpose, because I’m supposed to be ‘different’, so I jumped wholeheartedly from one career choice to the next until I found forensic psychiatry at age twelve. Endlessly frustrated that I couldn’t find efficient ways of accomplishing great things. I still feel this way everyday, because I’m young and I know what I can do if given the chance. But I can’t, I can only try and continue feeling like I’m fighting quicksand. Like an anchor is chained to my ankle while I’m trying to reach the surface of the water.

I don’t want to go to med school, but I know I need to in order to become a forensic psychiatrist, in order to get people to listen when I talk, in order to have what I say hold weight and actually be able to move a mountain or two.  The next fifteen years of my life will be in a classroom or standing beside a preceptor in a hospital somewhere. I’ll find a way to fall in love with it, but I’ll be silently whining and easily procrastinating the whole way through, the way James would, and I’m going to be good at it… the way James would.

Back To Studying I Go,



7 thoughts on “Channeling William James

  1. You know, according to some versions of multiverse theory, every possible alternative for every choice we make is played out in a parallel timeline. So really, I guess what you need is a TARDIS.

    I would be very surprised if there is anyone who does not understand that feeling of being obligated to be someone or do something, in spite of what you may actually think, feel, or want. Everyone wants to be loved, admired, and respected. We’re just programmed that way. But it’s not the only component of happiness. Doing something that we don’t prefer simply as a means to make others respect us doesn’t work out very often. Now, I know it sounds selfish when phrased as “Look out for #1 first,” but really, that’s the only conclusion that I can develop.

    The only opinions that have the right to shape your future are your own and God’s. Mainly the latter, but you get the point. 🙂

    • Now I just need to hunt down Dr. Who…

      I had a conversation with Heather a couple of days ago and I realized how much I dislike medicine. I don’t hate it (most of the time), but I’m not going to be thrilled at the thought of fighting my way into med school and then living and breathing it, only to never really use what I learn there (I’m going to be mainly evaluating the state of mind a criminal was in during the time of the crime in forensic psychiatry, and I’m not planning on being a psychiatrist, perhaps a good old fashioned talk-therapy therapist, but never a psychiatrist). And I’ve tried to find little loopholes where I can still work in the criminal justice system and psychology at the same time without having to go through med school, but any other role seems to just fall short of the impression I need to make to be taken seriously. If I really did what I wanted to do, I would just study the criminal justice system, criminal psychology and government, but, there’s nothing I can really do with any of that (nothing that I would want to spend my life doing, anyway).

      Sometimes the most frustrating thing is that I think about what I should do about everything all the time lately, and I always end up convincing myself that I have made up my mind and that is that, and then some little thing comes to mind or someone says something and it starts the process all over again. I suppose I just like feeling in control too much, I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen.

      I just hope I don’t wake up fifteen years from now and regret everything. It’s easy enough to be an optimist in the moment, but then there’s all of the other moments every minute of everyday, and I dare even Elmo to look on the bright side that long without flinching.

      Ahem… Sorry about that. Good morning! 😀

      • Elmo scares me. The freak…

        Why exactly do you have do study medicine in order to enter forensic psychology? I’m having difficulty imagining why someone would think that was necessary.

        I certainly understand the cycle of decision and indecision. It’s like you have finally come to a conclusion, but all that it takes to make you doubt is for someone to ask the question again. It doesn’t even require a change of circumstances; just asking again is enough to eradicate any previous decision you had made on the subject. And the fear of regret is certainly a powerful deterrent.

        I always get a little bit ticked at people who use the phrase “let go and let God.” I feel like, most of the time, it is used as an excuse to avoid a problem, rather than an act of faith in letting God solve the problems that we can’t. It seems to have become a religious version of “passing the buck.” But originally, before the expression came to be abused so widely, it was directed at those of us who like being in control, and knowing all of the variables in a given situation so that we can make a knowledgeable decision, and the simple fact of the matter is that we can’t. That’s why it’s good to have an omniscient Guide.

        • I think behind the smile he’s plotting to take over the universe, after all, he does sing a song called “Elmo’s World”, so he has probably been thinking about it for a while…

          Mainly it’s psychology vs. psychiatry, a psychologist can declare a mental disorder like anyone else, but a psychiatrist has a better understanding of the possible physical factors that led to the crime (like a chemical imbalance in the brain). Psychiatrists can also prescribe medication to patients, where psychologists can only use talk therapy. It means a lot more freedom career-wise, too, because it leaves open the option to work in medicine or psychology.

          I have a terrible habit of deciding to give everything to God and have Him lead the way, and then ten seconds later trying to control everything again because I’m worried about how things will turn out. In that area I’m certainly a work in progress. It’s just a feeling of “If I do it, then I know it will turn out right, but if I hand this over to anyone else…”

  2. When you go off to college you’re going to meet some fascinating professors. And you will be given a chance! They will see the potential in you, the passion, the desire. They will know. You’re answers to life will come clearer as you get older. Try not to harp on them right now. I know you’re eager to get it all going but patience is a virtue. Good things come to those who wait.

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Madame Ryoko! 😀 I’m horribly impatient about everything, the only time I can even come close to being patient is when I have no other choice (or when I’m around someone who is).

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