My own journey (part 2) – rebuilding myself

In my previous post, I wrote about some of the tensions during my teenage years up to a two-told resolution through “emotional healing and future orientation.” In this post I want to go in-depth into a process, that mainly took place between age 20 and 22.

To rebuild myself

Spending time with myself and gradually finding peace with the past, I recognized that, rather than something being wrong with me as my parents had suggested and I gradually came to believe, I was lacking what would be “right” with and about myself. An internal structure that could help me to engage my life force in a constructive way. I needed role-models, insight and I made that my existential priority.

During this time, I didn’t have too many external means, decided to stay poor to temporarily reduce external dependency. What I did however have much were books. I literally mass consumed anything I could get my hands on. European and American classics, lectures, books on all kinds of topics, fiction and non-fiction alike. Read more than a hundred books, many of them classics.

(Western) classical literature, by writers such as Dostoevsky, offers a depth of psychological insight. Besides an often ingenious plot that draws the reader forward in expectation, the characters feel like they are created as the distillation of elements of human psychology portrayed with a clarity rarely observed in the mixed events of everyday life. Also in real life, I participate as an actor (though at times a clumsy one), whereas here I could be an observer to a characters actions and how they played out in the turn of the story, at least within the confines of the authors imagination. Thus, I was gathering patterns of aspects of human behavior and cognition, that would still often show up in other people, though often less pronounced.

English as my …

Most of my reading at the time was in English. I had gotten really engaged in English classes in school, not afraid to ask for vocabulary I didn’t understand. Around 10th grade, I started listening to Harry Potter and the order of the phoenix as audiobook. I needed my full concentration at that time, just lying down and listening. Since then I have listened to more than 10000 hours of books, lectures etc, mostly in English, some in Chinese.

English had always played an important role in my emotional life. Even while still in Church, I enjoyed the emotional expression in some of the youth songs. I felt much more positive while using this language. One of the reasons I explain as follows:

Many languages (especially of similar roots) share similar enough concepts and definitions for particular words. A dog is conceptually the same as german “Hund” or even Chinese gou3 狗. There definiton refers to the same animal, but do they carry exactly the same meaning? When a person grows up in a certain region or country he gets used to how dogs are in that environment, whether small and cuddled or tall and aggressive and especially in his own experience. All this influences an emotional connotation.

Many of my childhood experience had a sense of christian impotence, a lack of understanding and hence often unconsciously motivated action. While I certainly had elements that I loved as a child (Legos, audioplays, physical interaction), much of the more conscious aspects of translating desire into action were still unorganized, or badly articulated. . At least that is one way of describing them in hindsight. My parents had often be surprised by my gift, talent and desire to articulate, that didn’t mean that their home was a place where I could naturally develop this gift. On the contrary, except for a few older people who liked to talk with me and a few friends, I couldn’t always make use of this capacity. Instead I had been shy and awkward in school, at least before my conscious transformation.

My inner transformation went hand in hand with an increased engagement and passion for English. I think one of the reasons was that it allowed to redefine the experiences associated with every word. To this day, the moments when, for my own writing, I feel a desire to use my mother tongue are rare.

One great benefit to the English language was that it opened me to an American and global sphere of thinking. Over the past decades and maybe centuries, there have been many original thinkers in the states and I really appreciate intellectual openness and curiosity that lead to creativity, compared to a more conservative European heritage.


During my whole conscious development I wished and had been looking (probably still very passive and un-articulated) for people to be able to understand me and hence give me guidance during my development.

My own father had done many well meant things throughout my childhood, from rough-and-tumble play, building toys from wood, playing Legos together or for some exclusive son-and-father excursion before the first day of school. However, the more conscious I grew, especially during my early teenage years, the more I was looking for conscious guidance. A person to listen to and understand, to let me articulate and challenge me in a meaningful way. This wasn’t something he was comfortable doing, at all. My father, as pastor, took me to his bible education course, where I was often misbehaving to get attention. He later on attended the youth group organizer team that I had been part of. However, we never had much to talk about, it seemed like he didn’t even know anything about my younger self being a constant outsider and victim of bullying at that time in school, because in front of him I was usually less controlled, under the freedom of familiarity, and would let go of control. Communication never developed and the only thing I would hear, coming home from schooldays, was “quiet, your mother is sleeping. The food is on the table.”, no “hello”, no communication about how I felt. At that time I was just a disturbance to his comfort and order.

In hindsight, maybe there was only so much he could give. Many of the issues I had to face, he hadn’t solved for himself either, after all, his father had been a youth in war, and later on not been present with his son either. 

Finding support

When I was seeking healing through forgiveness of the past and looking forward to understand, I reached out a few times, asking him to read books together (such as 7 habits of highly effective people, but I don’t remember exactly), in an effort to seek reconciliation and clarification, but he didn’t respond much.

Luckily I had gotten help from other sources. My friend and neighbor (about 16 years older than myself) had been extremely encouraging throughout my youth. I learned so much from him.

Back to my time of transformation. I read the book “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover” and meditated on its themes and ideas, one of which emphasized the need to see and be seen (by the king archetype), so I consciously sought out other men. One was a church elder, a semi-retired manager, who also let me fly a plane for a few moments. Over a number of weeks I meet with him to discuss aspects of my life, choices and values. 

English as father tongue

Ultimately however, most of the guidance, understanding, insight and aspiration, I found, came from books. Most often in English translations. Authors such as Ayn Rand (“The fountainhead”), Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Stephen R. Covey (“The 7 habits of highly effective people”), M. Scott Peck (“The road less traveled”) and countless works on psychology. Even a translation of the Chinese classic “The book of virtue and the way”(Daodejing/Taoteking) proofed highly instructional on my journey of self-discovery. Even though I lived an unremarkable and withdrawn life on the outside at that time, my inner world gained much wisdom and richness.

All the values and possibilities I had seen, all the understanding I gained as a consequence gave me the courage and inspiration to more forward. This is why I call English my father tongue, because this is where I found orientation and value. This, by the way is what I consider one of the greatest functions of the humanities.





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