we’ve been playing by the wrong rules, all along

I had the thought today that it’s like we’re all playing a Game, but it’s a mystery Game. There are rules, but we lost the book. We all have to figure them out on our own.

We do the best we can with what we are taught by our parents; in schools; by religious leaders; other public figures; and our friends, or learned from books, music, other media. Now, the internet.

I think one way of describing my current worldview could potentially be to say that I am suggesting to all of us that we have been assuming it’s the wrong kind of game, all along.

We are playing a cooperative game as though it’s competitive.

Of course we keep messing things up, individually and communally.


When my brainbox perceives evidence that I’ve made a good move, I am rewarded with the feel-goods.

Said brainbox is really, really bad at doing that without guidance, however.

For a period of time, back in college, I was consciously pursuing the goal of making other people happy.

That was limited in scope and therefore ultimately worked against the goal itself.

Because no one benefits as much as they could be (and maybe even are caused more harm overall) from the kinds of relationships wherein there is Teacher and Student. There are always both.

When I am not being accurate about the cost/benefit analysis in my behaviors, I do things like give beyond my resource ability in the name of Sacrifice, for someone else’s good.

Honestly, when I was able to look clearly at myself and my own actions, I had to accept that when I Sacrificed, when I gave beyond my means (emotionally, time-wise, money/thing-wise, what have you), I unfailingly… Failed.

I would eventually hit some mental wall, some obstacle, and my emotional reserves would be so drained that I had no resiliency. I would snap, and frequently just stop talking to the person I was trying to help for quite some time.

In so doing, I think in many cases I did more harm than good.

When I realized that I was not only not reaching my goals, but actively working against them, I had to accept that..

…it felt good to be a martyr. It felt good to be seen as strong and sacrificial and selfless.

It was, in fact, utterly selfish, in the negative kind of way.

That kind of strength has no foundation. It is the strength of iron, brittle and prone to shattering.

Real strength, I feel like, is more the living strength of trees. Resilient. Bends, instead of breaks.

In the game I’m playing now, I am still rewarded when my brain sends signals that I’m doing something right.

So with my cats, Sisi and Pico, for example; I get points when they purr (and also seem to be doing it out of happiness and contentment and not fear); when they are affectionate with me and other living beings; when they are open to new experiences and seem to want to play more than hide; when they aren’t scared so often.

To gain these points, however, the hierarchy of needs must be met.

Shelter. Safety.

With kittens as young as Sisi, that must come from a parental figure because they are simply not coordinated enough, are too small and without enough motor function control, to keep themselves safe and, I think, genetically – babies are programmed to know that.

Food and sleep.

I know these things are necessary, but what I think will help them sleep or eat or feel safe is based off of one weird human’s experience of the world, and is frequently incorrect. Even when I think I’ve figured out Cats, along comes another that is weird in a different way than the ones I’ve met before.


And individual Cats change over time. Pico at first wouldn’t sleep when I left him alone in the guest house. I’d find him sitting by the door, clearly tired and anxious and grumpy.

It helped when I started letting him outside when he wanted to go, but it was still Not Good overall.

Now that he’s not so scared I won’t be coming back, I can close the door and I’ll come back to find him yawning, blinking, stretching, and purring.

And now I have started just leaving the door open for him, because he likes it better in here. Now, he knows it’s not so bad in here after all, but he doesn’t speak English and probably wouldn’t have taken my word for that anyway even if he did.

Sisi – I thought the quiet darkness of the bathroom would help her sleep, but that was one of those wrong choices that come with a pretty high damage cost in this Game (I left her alone for an hour or so to go pick up supplies after I first brought her home – talked about it in another post that I have yet to transcribe to the blog!)


This game, though…. It’s so complex. So many opportunities to both gain and lose points…

Any point loss after which my character is still alive, may offer a lesson I can use in the future to prevent dying. To prevent others in my care from dying.

And, because death is a thing but doesn’t happen nearly as frequently as the kinds of small deaths that are hurt feelings, the withering of something inside that was just beginning to flower, or a hardening of an already begun path into loneliness, isolation, anger, or violence – every time I make a Wrong move and actually learn a little more about some of the rules governing this game, I prevent unknowable instances of repeating the same errors in the future. What seemed like a loss in the short term, actually becomes a gain over time in prevented losses.


And then, when I start to try to share my notes on this game with others, or make an efforts to just show random people I interact with in whatever way that I’m in co-op mode along with them, even if just for the moment…

It becomes so, even if just for the moment.

When I try to help turn Sisi and Pico’s fear into a game, into something they can play with, I think it makes everything less scary.

And when I turn my ability to do so itself into a game – wherein if I haven’t scored any points yet that means I haven’t been creative enough about utilizing my brain, information available online, or the resources at hand within my environment – I take back my own agency. Problems become merely as-yet unsolved, instead of unsolvable.

Games within games within games.

I will write some about why I think that works, within the context of neuroplasticity, in another channel(/post).

But in the meantime:

Anyone want to share something they turned into a game and how successful (or not!) it was??


I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

Leave a Reply