Much like Campbell Scott’s character, “Roger,” in the film Roger Dodger, I am a Reductionist. Being a Reductionist has little to do with finding any sort of lowest common denominator, but rather, Reductionism is about cutting through the fluff, the superficialities, and falsities of human sociological interaction. For the first few decades of my self-aware life, my place in society — and how well I conformed to the social norms and abided the social contract — drove and defined my self-esteem. My own personal self-image had its foundation in how well I was perceived by my peers, particularly those from whom I sought social approval. In high school, this concept was drawn from my position on the social food chain, my abilities as a well-known school athlete, and my occasional ability to date someone attractive. In college, the concept morphed into my need to draw self-esteem and self-worth by how many women I was sleeping with on a regular basis, as well as my performance as a student in the realms of both academia and athletics. Then, finally, as a young professional, my self-esteem and self-worth became entangled in my position and/or status in the work force as I sought to climb the mountains of occupational accomplishment in whatever field of work I happened to be in at the time; of course, coupling this new endeavor with an amalgam of my previous social priorities, much of which was still dominated by quality of image and quantity of sex. Put bluntly, for many years, my senses of self-esteem and self-worth hinged on what I was doing and who I was screwing. And while this mindset changes for most people as they age, it didn’t for me.
Now, I see the world differently. The band Sister Hazel sang, “If you want to be somebody else, change your mind.” For a vast majority of my life, if I had done something that I felt was less than moral or that violated my own personal standards of conduct, I would (obviously) seek to change or correct that behavior. The problem always seemed to be that, while my intentions were sound, my results were lacking. It seemed like nothing ever changed. And it wasn’t until prison that I realized that it wasn’t my behavior that I needed to change, but rather, my own personal set of cognitive and intellectual priorities. I couldn’t seem to change, the world wasn’t going to change, and I certainly was not going to change the world, so I spent an inordinate amount of years feeling like I was stuck at some sort of impasse. But while sitting in prison, I had a very significant Oprah Winfrey “Ah-Ha Moment.” I realized that if I could change the way I saw the world – the way I thought of the world – and therefore myself, then the manner in which I encountered life would change without the world needing to change around me. I didn’t need to alter my world, I simply needed to understand it more clearly and approach it more productively. As a result of this epiphany, I spent my remaining months reading books that would help mold my view of the world so that I could see myself and my life in a much more positive light, leading me to be a better person. Instead of reading shallow books by authors like Tom Clancy and John Grisham, I sought deeper and more socially-important authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Klosterman, Hunter S. Thompson, and J.D. Salinger. Along with these works, I also began reading up on my struggles with sex addiction in books by leading experts like Patrick Carnes, learning the how-and-why aspects of the addiction in preparation for returning to the real world.
The transformation was amazing. By the time I was preparing to go home, my family and friends who had been visiting on a regular basis noted and commented on a change in me – I was happier, more optimistic, and less self-critical. My self-image and self-esteem had seemed to skyrocket and I was all-of-a-sudden a happier person, all because I was able to change the way I saw the world. Many people seem to come to this realization after finding religion or Jesus or whatever dogmatic routine they prefered, but I found peace simply be changing my mind. And while I believe in God and subscribe to the Christian faith, I found peace through actively seeking change rather than simply praying for it. Of course I prayed, but this time, I didn’t just pray for rain and the gaze at the sky. This time, I asked, then made it happen – I’m sure He helped.