Right now it’s all about learning what to expect of myself, forgiving myself for all the “character flaws” I have repeatedly tried to make peace with in my lifetime, and with my new self-awareness, develop better skills for keeping my shit together. So much of what feels jarring is not knowing how to define myself. Paradoxically, it also feels strangely liberating – if I’m not tied down by old perceptions, what might I discover or decide about myself?

Identity is such an amorphous phenomenon. We think of ourselves in ways that may or may not make sense to those around us. How many people have trouble knowing how others see them? All of us? Ways I’ve defined myself no longer seem to apply. It’s odd to think that behaviors you always considered the exception, and therefore of little relevance in how you define yourself, turn out to be the norm. Not the exception, the norm. It’s taken me years to realize that I’m not “sometimes” scattered. The truth is that I’m sometimes NOT scattered. The word “scattered” doesn’t mesh well with what I’ve seen as my strengths. Does that mean I was wrong in my self-assessment? Or does it mean I didn’t see myself accurately? Was it accurate before but not anymore? Have I changed? If I’ve changed, is the old definition still true or am I now completely different? Can the new discoveries be reconciled with the old perceptions? I wonder, sometimes, if even the most obvious things about me are somehow hidden from my self-perception.

Luke: “Wow. So you’re like a serial killer.”
Sylar: “I’m not a serial killer.”
Luke: “But you have a pattern. You go after specific victims. You collect mementos.”
Sylar: “Okay, technically I’m a serial killer! Now that we’ve established that, why shouldn’t I just rip your head open right now?”

I am a new fan of the show Heroes. I’m caught up to the current season now after watching the previous seasons on NetFlix. I am increasingly drawn to the Sylar character. If you don’t watch the show, he’s a power-driven serial killer. The bad guy, right? The more I see of him, the less clear it seems. (In fact, the whole show always has you questioning who’s the bad guy and the good guy – true to life, most are a mix.)

Sylar is a lost soul, desperately searching for who he is and where he belongs. There’s something absorbing about watching that part of him peek through the malevolent, devil-may-care facade in moments of uncertainty or transition. He wants to believe in himself, although he’s well aware that he can’t possibly be “good” because of the things he does and the urges he can’t control. He gets discouraged, he despairs, he becomes convinced he can’t be the person he wants to be, and he gives in to his dark appetites. It requires an enormous amount of energy and will to keep those urges at bay, and he can’t do it unless he can find hope that there is some purpose or value in his existence.

He wants acceptance and love – he wants to be “good enough” – but his wounds and desperate desires cloud his judgment in knowing who to trust.

Mom — Mom, don’t. Don’t, it’s just… maybe I don’t have to be special. That’s okay to just be a normal watchmaker. Can’t you just tell me that’s enough?“- Sylar

Obviously I don’t have a serial-killer-type crisis of conscience. But I feel a lot like Sylar (I’m sure many of us do). Who am I? What defines me? Is it my abilities? My disabilities? Sylar has so many wonderful and terrifying powers. His most significant disability is the hunger that drives him to take more powers. I watch this character and realize that his disability and mine are not so different.

Before the night is over, I’m going to prove to you, one by one, that you’re all monsters, exactly like me.“- Sylar

Any trait or “power” can be focused into productive or destructive activity. I think that’s an easy concept for most people to accept. But sometimes one blinding “disability” can keep you from seeing yourself or your abilities clearly. Sylar can’t see or accept his own intrinsic value because he can’t see past his horrible hunger and what it drives him to do.

Me – not so dramatic , but I can relate. So many of the things I’ve found difficult to accept about myself, things I’ve beaten myself up for or tried to make peace with, things I’ve said and done that I cringe to recall, all the apologies I owe people that I will never see again… I see those things in the frame of ADD now. I know it sounds ridiculous to compare paranormal psychopathy to ADD, but bear with me.

If I can see myself – ability and disability – clearly, I am starting to realize that I don’t do “bad” things because I’m a bad person. I do some upsetting and problematic things because my neurological system works the way it does. Far from being an excuse for bad behavior, it allows me to see what’s going on. It allows me to have hope that I’m not just an eternal fuck-up. It allows me to come out of hiding. I never realized how much I was hiding – I’m an insanely open person. The only way to hide from other people is to hide from myself.

Looking back, I see that with every major shift in my life – a new school, a move, a new job – I determined to be “better,” to not do those things that I wasn’t proud of anymore. No one had to know what I was like before! A fresh clean slate! I can do better this time. Or I secretly hope that enough time with good behavior will make everyone forget past transgressions. Maybe I can make everyone think I am who I want to be, who I know I can be. I don’t have to be the verbal vomiter, the foot-in-mouther, the space cadet, the insensitive clod, the hyperactive cheerleader, the walking encyclopedia, the girl bouncing from one extreme to the other. She wasn’t such a horrible person, but I had so much ambivalence toward her. So many times, I didn’t want to be her. I thought, “I can get away from her because now I know better and no one will know I used to be her.”

What’s that they say? Where ever you go, there you are.

I’ve always believed that I’m a good person. I have a lot of traits I appreciate in myself that bring richness to my life and hopefully others’. What kept me from understanding of my repeat offenses, no matter how many times I tried to change, was understanding of my “disability.” Now I understand this is just the way I’m wired. I have no more or less to contribute than I always did. But now I can forgive myself. I can work on making plans to minimize the problematic aspects of the way my quirky mind works. For example, I can gently accept my tendencies to speak and act without thinking, develop strategies for moderating that, and in moments of painful embarrassment or frustration, give myself permission to forgive myself. I’m not this way because I’m a jerk. I’m this way because of how my synapses fit together. I can’t change that, but I can hope for progress now that I understand better what’s going on… and I can more easily accept that a lapse does not impugn my basic character.

Back to our buddy Sylar.

Sylar is telekinetic. Obviously, any ability can be used for good or ill. He can make his own life easier/more convenient (get his coffee cup without walking across the room). Do dramatic and creative things that are helpful to other people (catch a car falling off a bridge with his mind and gently set it down on the ground). Or do horrible things in response to his own hunger (slice off the top of someone’s head to shuffle around in their brain and steal abilities).

As Sylar’s telekinesis is expressed, he can see it in one of two ways. At best, it’s insignificant but convenient. It doesn’t do anyone else any good, but it’s useful for him. That’s not a bad thing. At worst, it’s a curse. It’s the ability he most often uses to hurt other people and create terror. He sees that he could be a hero should he choose to do so. That’s what so roundly convinces him he’s beyond redemption. He knows that and yet consistently chooses NOT to use his power for good. So he concludes that he must be bad. All the hoping to be better and wishing to be another person won’t make any difference at all. Where ever he goes, there he is.

Some part of the way Sylar’s brain functions dictates that he continually seek to add to his arsenal of abilities. It’s not even so much the powers themselves as the compulsion to obtain them. At what point will he be satisfied with what he has? Never. I suppose that’s the nature of compulsion. Kind of sounds like a disability to me.

So, let’s call his disability evil. That makes sense. It removes responsibility from Sylar himself for his actions and choices. It’s not really his fault. We know he’d be a good guy if he could. He can’t control his compulsions. It’s the way he’s wired. So, ultimately, whether you consider him to be evil at his core or not, he’s still fucked. And everyone he comes into contact with is fucked or potentially fucked. Sad story, but nothing to be done.

Except… well, what about this? As challenging as this disability may be, understanding it may enable him to set up “safety nets” for himself such that he doesn’t slip up quite so often. He doesn’t have to consider himself a devil. He can acknowledge the devil inside him and work to keep it at bay while enjoying and sharing those other marvelous abilities in ways he feels proud of. Ultimately, Sylar is not a psychopath. He actually has quite a lot of capacity for emphathy when he’s able to feel anything past rage and self-loathing. He’s lost hope that he can ever be anything other than a monster.

So, the key is to deny the monster. Bury him. Starve him. Keep the boot of will on him.

Right?

There’s only one issue with this scenario. The compulsion is part of his original inherent ability. All his other abilities would not exist without the first. They are inexorably linked. The use of any ability is essentially related to the ability he is trying to bury. And when it comes right down to it, he still must deal with the monster inside. Sylar’s gifts exist because the “monster gift” exists. His greatest powers would not be available were it not for the “disability.”

ADD seems so much like that monster power (without the blood and terror, natch). It’s easy to vilify it and blame things on it (once you experience the freeing insight that there’s a potential REASON for your sluggishness, distractability, and motiviational inconsistencies), to consider yourself a victim because you just CAN’T do things the way you’d like to. It can be such a struggle, and you come to believe that perhaps you are irredeemable. This is just the way I am. “Just the way I am” – an excuse or a sentence. At no point has “just the way I am” ever felt self-accepting to me.

Here’s what I suspect about Sylar. I suspect that Sylar doesn’t know himself because he doesn’t understand the monster disability. I suspect that there are other ways to feed the monster. Imagine, for instance, if the monster can be fed by sharing powers? After all, that’s what happened when he took Elle’s power. He absorbed it. He didn’t steal it. He didn’t have to. The compulsion to steal may always be with him, but what if it can be satisfied by other means? What if, by understanding what’s going on with this compulsive trait, he is finally able to come into his full power? I can’t help but believe that Sylar is the key to the entire story. In the end, will Sylar’s ability to collect powers be considered a monster or a messiah?

My thoughts are that Sylar’s ability will always represent a double-edged sword.

And so it is with me. Am I pigheaded or tenacious? Am I exuberant or overbearing? Impulsive or spontaneous? Oppositional or independent? Engaging or intrusive? Honest or tactless? What about the abilities that go hand-in-hand with the problematic “disability?” Creativity, empathy, humor, drive? It’s so easy to get into a war with yourself. Lose your balance just a little bit and a quality that was serving you well will turn and bite you in the ass. How can I be so laudable one day and drawing only the stink eye the next? What is WRONG with me?

“Only the mediocre are always at their best.” – Jean Giraudoux

No one can accuse us of being well-rounded, middle-of-the-road or boring. Our style runs from flashes of brilliance, of insight, to those ADD days when all the circuits are jammed and the operator is permanently out to lunch. On those “bad brain” days, it might help to remember that our minds are different, not better or worse , but more uneven and tricky than then minds of other folks. But these so-called normal individuals don’t tend to set the world on fire, while we often have creative bursts of energy that work miracles when we are able to harness and use our gifts. The choice is not ours; we are what we are. But if you could choose, which would it be? For ourselves, we know we would rather struggle with quirky minds than give up our creative powers.

… Give yourself permission to stop worshipping the god of normalcy, of the even-keeled and even-tempered. Celebrate your ability to produce what you can when you can, and try to laugh off the bad days.

The ADDed Dimension, Kate Kelly and Pegg Ramundo, p. 31

Is it okay to be a space case? Sure, why not? It’s actually sometimes far easier to accept then I would have guessed. The times it feels okay are when I understand that it’s okay to be whatever I am. I don’t have to let it be some huge signpost of my character or worth. If I can’t string a thought together some days, so what? I’m not saying it’s always fun, but in ways, I feel like I’m more lighthearted about a lot of stuff than I have ever been. I laugh at myself more. I criticize myself less. I hope I can strengthen these habits and learn to treat myself as I strive to treat others: as a person of inherent worth.

I had a kind of epiphany about it this morning. Are you familiar with Abraham Maslow, the peak experience? It’s, um … A single moment that takes you out of yourself. Makes you feel very tiny or very large. To some extent, one with life or nature or God. Like seeing all the pieces of a puzzle fit together. All this time, I was trying to fight it. Deny it. But there is no shame in having this ability, is there? -Sylar

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