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Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Anime Mind Part 2: In Practice

 I'm pleased to say that I have practiced what I preached from my previous article of The Anime Mind!
Allow me to elaborate for you dear readers!

 In the past week since the publishing of the aforementioned article, I had a pretty awesome experience of kick ass learning, training, and general success! You'll remember how I went on last article about remembering Captain Kyoraku's zanpakutou inside and out but I had to google even simple physics equations in order to produce them for you. I postulated that my dedication to and absorption within anime and my lack thereof with school work probably accounted for the steep contrast in mental performance between these two fields of human interest, and that if we could only dedicate our passion into the area that is wanting of it we could boost our performance in life exponentially. I can proudly report enjoying some successes right off the bat!

 At this time as I write this article I am taking Experimental Psychology 331 at UMBC in the state of Maryland for those of you not familiar with the area. The class is largely about statistics and collecting data. There are algebraic equations and terms to learn that aren't necessarily familiar to the public and it's starting to get difficult for a good portion of us. Anyway, while working on a lab with a statistical computer program a fellow student fell behind due to computer errors and became quite flustered. But I endured because I reminded myself, "This is my life and these are the things I must deal with in this life. The adventure and romance will happen as a function of my passion and honest living!" It wasn't under my strict control even, my mind simply responded to my will, and it automatically kicked into high gear to serve my demands!


 Okay I make it sound too easy but really, when you make a real and firm decision in your heart every fiber of your being in the mind, body, and spirit will naturally respond to your commands and it becomes natural for you to do the work and make it happen. This is how I have begun mastering statistics, starting with graphed data distributions and using z-scores! I don't expect you to understand if you don't work with stats, but just observe what I'm going to throw down here as a demonstration, if you would. :)

(Disclaimer: Really don't try to comprehend this if you don't know stats, just read to appreciate the complexity!)

 On a graph showing the distribution of a set of statistical data, using the mean as the central tendency of interest one can see how each piece of data falls and where it stands in relation to the rest of the data. However, there is a standardized way of establishing, in simpler terms how each piece of data compares not only to the rest of the data within its own distribution, but also how it compares to pieces of data in other data set distributions by revealing the relative significance of each score within it's own data set. This is done by taking the mean, the standard deviation, and the data piece otherwise called a "score" in order to determine what is called a z-score which tells you how many standard deviations above or below the mean(average) that particular score is. By using z-scores one can determine the true significance of a score by giving you a standard score that can be applied to all data set distributions which shows you exactly how much a given score deviates from the mean(average) score within its own distribution. The basic equation for z-scores is as follows:

 X= M + z(sd)

 Did you get all that gibberish? If you did I congratulate you! If not I will proudly boast to you now that I typed all of that out from memory as I learned it within the past seven days! To be clear: I did not need google!(Or any other help for that matter!) In fact within this past week I was tutoring a fellow student and helped her get top marks on her assignments! I'll tell you with pride I had a happy and high functioning week since writing the first Anime Mind article and boy am I pleased with it all!

 Now this blog and in turn this article is still supposed to technically be about anime and I just went off about some figgin' statistics! What am I thinking!? Well...I'm thinking of the Anime mind! So here's a good anime/life tie in: Let's take Sae Nakata from Amagami SS/SS Plus. She actually serves as a great parallel to the life improvement strategy that I'm ultimately trying to get at. Sae is a perfect example because she starts out completely hopeless. I mean she's got no hope, nada, zero, she can't talk to strangers, can't carry a tray of food, and she's afraid of puppy dogs whose teeth haven't even grown in. If you haven't seen it don't worry, I'll explain the relevant points and if you want you can see it on episodes 9-12 on anime freak starting with this link. -> Sae Nakata Episode 9 Her Amagami SS Plus arc is episodes 9 and 10 starting at this link ->
Sae Nakata PLUS Episodes

 Anyway let's focus more on the hopelessness. The plot of the story is that Sae needs to stop being so hopeless and...okay let's have some new words to use shall we? Sae needs a bright future, she's got potential and Junichi's got to help her bring it out. He does this by officially becoming her instructor to help her get a part time job as a waitress. The problem is that she "IS SHY" and she "IS CLUMSY"...someone like her "CAN'T" be a waitress. But Junichi starts training her hard anyway, but how to you change someone? How do you bring competence out of an incompetent weakling?

 And herein lies my answer, the answer that holds true in real life and is reflected in Sae's struggle: Personality...does...not...really...exist. Well, at least not the way you think it does. You see personality is really nothing more than a theoretical construct used to reference and describe patterns of typical behavior that a person exhibits. But the word "personality" offers no explanation for behavior, it implies that a person simply possesses inherent unchanging qualities but offers no source from which a persons thoughts and behaviors originated. Take timidity for example. What is a timid person? Is there a chemical in the brain, or some neurological program in the brain that we can refer to as a persons timidity? No, there aren't any such things. Oh sure, we can draw conclusions of correlation between brain activity and a persons thoughts and behaviors but thus far "they" have yet to find the tangible entity know simply as "Timidity". Ultimately, for all the brain science we've done such personality traits remain as mere abstract concepts.

                                                                 (Is this Timidity?)

 So what does all of this really mean? What's my point? My point is that regardless of a persons predispositions to certain "personalities" if personality is not a solid and tangible entity then it is NOT absolute and can therefore be manipulated, changed, and improved! But I'm sure some readers right now are struggling with this, "I am who I am Derek! You said that yourself!" or "But the people I'm close to in life have always stayed the same! Maintaining their crappiest behavior no matter how I plead with them to change!"

 These are valid points...people don't seem to change too much in life do they? And yet, despite human stubbornness here I am asserting the potential for humans to change and improve. I can explain this with my own personal, Theory of Personality. When people are born, they do have certain predispositions. More testosterone seems to make you more prone to aggression. If you're raised in an enriching environment you may retain and build more neural pathways and therefore have better intelligence and things like this. But this is not personality. These things are physical properties that endow you with potentialities, strengths, and weaknesses, but they do not make you who you are. Your "personality" is really an assemblage of behaviors and thoughts that you have learned to adopt as daily habits of living.

 Since I'm using Sae Nakata as my go to example I'll stick with timidity as my subject of dissection. I myself was timid as a child much like Sae, and my self-esteem was pleasantly stroked when this girl, who's shyness I could relate to was described as having an over-protective father. Much the same way I have an over-protective mother! Now with my experience, backed by Psychological research of course: "Parenting Style May Foster Anxiety." I will give some analysis and interpretations.

 You see if a child is overly-protected, they may never learn the basic skills of social interaction and persistence in the face of adversity. While you may feel that you're protecting them, you're possibly actually stunting their growth and making life harder for them over the long haul. People aren't "timid" per Se, rather people learn to be fearful and cautious around others due to their earlier experiences! It's the same with other traits, hard working people aren't really "determined" individuals. They merely learned to constantly work and persist at things in order to achieve goals through earlier experiences. Humans are not robots, we are learners and we can learn an unlearn a hell of a lot!

 This is what Junichi helped Sae to achieve, through an experiential process. (I actually have issues with the education system because I believe the natural way people learn is through experience rather that classroom instruction, but that's another can of worms entirely.) Junichi got Sae to start by just belting out a greeting in a commanding voice! That's all he started with. Teaching her a basic skill of annunciating from the stomach to the tongue. He had her yell in the wind, he had her talk to a vending machine, then he had her pretend the lunch ladies were vending machines so that she could talk to them without freaking out! This is what Psychologists call exposure. It's a technique usually used to help people overcome phobias.

                                                         (Above: NOT a mistranslation...)

 What you do, is you gradually ease someone into an experience that makes them uncomfortable or downright terrified, and over time they learn to adapt and change to live with the new activities and experiences! When Sae gets her job she thanks Junichi, saying that she did it because of the new things he had her experience, and she is absolutely right. It's true that you can't change just on willpower or desired results, but new experiences are all about change and growth! So the key is to let your real world tasks and challenges to absorb you, the same way anime absorbs you. When I had a classmate/friend counting on me for her grade, it was no longer a question of: "All this stupid work I shouldn't be forced to do!" Rather, it was a matter of: "Alright let's kick some ass and show those Teaching Assistants who's boss around here!"

                                                           (Above: A "shy girl" in transformation!)

 When Sae and myself stopped thinking about the work, and started focusing on and experiencing the way our lives were moving on an exciting and promising path, we lost ourselves in the adventure and in doing so we found passion and an honest way to live. This is because we were never really "timid people" we just learned to be very cautious about people, but when we were able to experience new things that encouraged us to try new ways of living and working we "changed", which essentially means we learned to do better.

 So what's my advice? Just take a step in any direction that looks appealing. Want to have a better life? Just try new things, any new things and keep trying little bit by little bit, ask someone for help even. Don't try to turn the world upside down, because that will just happen on its own. You just focus on taking one step then another. The funny thing is that you won't really notice when it starts to work. You'll just get sucked into something, you'll forget you ever had a problem to contend with and when you walk away you'll think, "Damn...that's more like it.". As for what thing you should start working on, that's really not up to me. I for one need to get into my school work so I can finally graduate(I'm on year number 5...) but you need to decide what's important to you to improve and enjoy. It's okay if it's arbitrary, even though I believe in a GOD I still think life is more than a bit arbitrary in it's design. Just pick something, anything, if you have something come to mind without putting too much thought into it, it's likely a sign from your subconscious that you are interested in doing that thing, however embarrassing or silly your "logical" mind might think it is. But we're not using that mind, we're using the "Anime Mind" the mind that can flow without interruption and take you anywhere.

 My classmate said I reminded her of her son who is really shy, who she wanted to encourage to be more assertive. You can bet your bottom dollar I'm rooting for him all the way!

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