Hey. What’s up team it’s Sherman here from Geek Psychology.
So I was playing Dungeons and Dragons the other day and I got to thinking about how it relates to life – as I like to do – so I decided I wanted to share some insights with you. I say “some insights”, but it’s really just one insight wrapped in a bunch of others.
So let’s talk about something called an “emergent”. Everything emerges out of many factors, many things, working together. You don’t just wake up one day rich, successful, with a girlfriend or boyfriend, or completely ripped. It’s not a switch that just happened to turn on and there’s no magic key that just unlocks it… sorry. Your success, your failure even, comes from many different pieces.
So using that idea of an emergent, let’s expand on it.
Imagine this: You walk into your friend’s house. He and a bunch of friends are playing a game on this nice, big, wooden table. Like… there are pieces all spread out. Tons on dice. Little minis and figures. But you don’t know how to play… you don’t even know what they’re doing necessarily… They’re apparently fighting things. Dice get rolled. Bad things happen, good things happen. People get exited. Others get a little salty. Even if you were to join the game at this level, you don’t know what the characters do or even the goal of the whole game.
I feel like this is how most people live. It’s just random, uncontrollable events that impact them. People constantly say “he made me mad”, but really, the person that’s mad is the only that has the ability to make themselves mad. If you’re happy, you’re generating happiness. Same with sadness, confidence, and motivation. Some people just go through life as an impartial observer… like an NPC. I was one of these people, so I do remember it. And still, every once in a while I go back to this mode and have to snap myself out of it. It’s so easy to not take responsibility for how things are though.
But eventually, you start to learn how to play. You learned the rules of the game and what your character is good at… and what it struggles with. You’re going on quests, using your strengths. Defeating enemies, dragons… maybe even making some mistakes. One time I uh… I had my character leave it up to the fate of a coin flip whether poor Ooley would live or die for abandoning the group. He died. But I felt bad about it! And I learned from it! And so did Karaz.
This is what happens when you start learning about personality type and personal growth in general. You’re not a spectator anymore. You’re not just watching as the game plays itself. And even if you do leave some things up to fate, you do it with intention – that’s still a choice. But you wouldn’t have been able to play if you’d never seen the game. You wouldn’t be able to think about your deep, intrinsic motivations if you never lived. I know that sounds silly, but it’s the first nested layer of this dungeon of emergence. For me, this is where cognitive functions come in – especially using the RPG model to understand the psyche. Each mental process has a character class or archetype connected to it. So you can see yourself as “playing” a character and having 3 others in your mental questing party. These characters have different skill-sets to help you organize the world and focus your attention on certain aspects of life.
So you’re on some quests to unlock the epic treasures guarded by the dragons of the world. You’re fighting hard. You win some battles, you completely wipe on some others. Maybe you’re just not strong enough yet. Maybe the quests are still a bit too high leveled. But you look over at your DM behind his panel. He’s surrounded by minis, dice, papers (or a laptop like mine). He’s laughing…
And then you zoom out and see that he created this whole world. He’s laughing because he’s loving the experience of watching how you all play out the scenarios he’s created. Sure, the characters make their own choices, but the world is painted by the DM and built upon his ideas. The dialogue, the story arcs, the little intricacies that pull you towards your next actions. The DM isn’t the character or any of the characters. He can guide them. He can create the quests. He can kill the characters. If the characters die, it’s because things are not structured well enough for them to succeed or they’re not using their talents correctly… or maybe they’ve made some really bad choices and have to right some wrongs.
Then you get that realization that you, like the DM, control your mind. You control your brain, your emotions, your actions. You don’t have a personality type, you identify with it. This emergent came out because you played the game for a while. You saw what happened and eventually broke free of the chains that were keeping you stuck in the “player character” mindset. You have way more influence over your life than you think. Whenever there’s a problem, you can now step back and see it from the DM’s perspective. Maybe the quest you made was a bit too much, or a bit too easy. I’d argue that easy quests are just as bad, or worse, than difficult ones. We gain nothing by plowing through minions to get an under-leveled item. Where’s the heroic nature in being comfortable?
So by playing as the DM for a while, you learn some new techniques to keep things interesting. You balance the difficulty and the reward. You expand the territory, the story, the world. You have the freedom to create whatever kind of adventure you want. What a great feeling, right? You can encourage movement from zone to zone, helping the players level up, just like you can do with more awareness of your cognitive functions and your vices, virtues, defensive mechanisms, childhood wounds, and fixations. The DM mindset is like the “true self” which combines the characters (ego) and everything else that isn’t (shadow). You don’t identify with anything, or anyone, as being “you” when you’re the DM. You have the freedom to transform yourself from un-embodied characters that just populate the world, to characters with thoughts, motivations, and actions. Then you can zoom out to creator level and design the world.
So that’s where my mind went. I actually noticed 5 more levels within and past this, but I guess I’ll leave that up to you to explore. I’ll put my notes on them in the Patron section, but I think that keeping these 3 levels – observer, player, and Dungeon Master – in mind will give you some real power over your life. There’s always another level you can go up, but you don’t know about it until the insight emerges out of everything else that’s happening.
Keep up the lifelong questing. GLHF.