The Wilsons, pt. 1: A Survey of Typology

When I moved to Atlanta, I was immediately assigned a personality and social role by the friend group into which I assimilated–the Wilson. At first I balked at this, as it is chiefly a supporting role, and I have ever considered myself a leading lady in the unique story that is me. But, as I became familiar with the Wilson role, I grew to understand and appreciate the ways in which the definition was apt. I explain myself and my social function in terms of this paradigm, and thus reaffirm to myself that it is a worthy and well-fitting role. As you are likely unfamiliar with the Wilsons, I thought I would begin with a survey of its most famous examples.

Wilsons are, essentially, a type of sidekick. The title of Wilson is drawn from the TV show House, in which the apathetic and disinterested Dr. House can be said to have one friend–the caring and engaged Dr. Wilson. Wilson provides a more human grounding to House’s worldview, in which a person is the sum of its parts, humanity the sum of the persons. It is worth noting that the people who mapped this relationship for my social group have something of an interest in Myers-Briggs personality tests. I accept their assessment, that House is an ENTJ, while Wilson is likely an ISFJ. Thus the title of “Wilson” came to be associated strongly with that same type (although with some room for movement, to be discussed later).

Wilsons are generally intelligent, compassionate, fastidious,…and loyal. Loyalty is the key trait, as it pushes them to attach themselves to a leader, a House–a protagonist, if you will. But the Wilson’s storyline is not a function of the House’s–rather, the Wilson finds a comfortable grounding in supporting a main character. The House’s storyline is home base.

The first Wilson I would point to is also my favorite: Samwise Gamgee. Sam’s loyalty to Frodo is obvious. What makes him a Wilson, however, is the manifestation of his intense followship. Despite the world-saving nature of the hobbits’ quest, Sam’s first concern is always for Frodo’s well-being. He takes care of Frodo in the wild, as he did in the Shire. He is eager to stand up for Frodo to those who would create problems for them. And, although he cannot truly bear the burden of the ring, he carries his friend in the final moments of their journey. Wilson!

The next Wilson is the ever-harried Dr. Watson. For our purposes, the most exemplary incarnation of Watson appears in the BBC TV series Sherlock. One function of the Wilson role is that he will take whatever crap his person dishes, and no one dishes quite like Sherlock. Time and again, Sherlock tests Watson’s loyalty, putting him through untenable emotional trials. But Watson always comes out on the side of Sherlock, proving his Wilson through-and-through. Wilson!

Female Wilsons are more rare in pop culture (something to do, I think, with the popularity of the modern bromance), but there is one to whom I would like to point: Meg, from The Phantom of the Opera [WATCH THIS ONE ONLY, on Netflix]. I first began to see her as a Wilson because my best friend is a singer who loves the show. Carmen’s dream, is, of course, to be Christine, and it is not unwarranted. As a less able vocalist, I love Meg’s lines–much power, little tone. But Meg has other classic Wilson personality traits as well. Although her primary role is to support and laud Christine, she takes almost more readily to her secondary role of inciting panic. Meg cannot keep calm. Neither can most ISFJs. In crisis, Wilsons lose their minds. Go, Meg. Wilson!

I said Wilsons are sidekicks, and I stand by that (despite debate in certain academic circles). However, the Protagonist Wilson is not unheard of in cultural memes. A good example of this is a Wilson who begins in a supporting role and transitions to main character: Samwell Tarly, from A Song of Ice and Fire. I am not current on Game of Thrones (the show), but I am fairly certain that I am continuing without spoilers. In the books, Sam begins as a loyal acolyte of Jon Snow, who protects him from the harshness of The Night’s Watch. However, as the books progress (and main characters die off), he gains an independent storyline, including his own chapters. He retains his Wilson status, however, in personality, temperament, and decision-making process.

The Wilson is not a simple type. One size does not fit all. Not all Wilsons are even the same personality type. But the role does exist, and it is easy to spot once you are familiar with the paradigm.

Got it? Good. You are ready for next week’s post.


Please Don’t Stop Reading My Blog Just Because I Love Jesus

Rouen Cathedral, The Portal (In Sun)
One of my favorite Monets, this painting captures beautifully a subject which I’ve always found spiritually inspiring: cathedrals.

There is one topic which I have thus far avoided. I’m not sure why, although I have a guess: I think I wanted people to read and relate to my blog. And I don’t think that posting on this particular topic will make people unable to relate; I only fear that they will stop reading and never know that this aspect of my life does not hinder my ability to communicate with people who feel differently. Unfortunately, I cannot continue to write about my ManifAustin journey without talking about one of the principal driving forces in my life: my faith.

A little background: I grew up in the United Methodist Church, where people are allowed to believe in God from their earliest memory, where a relationship with God can be a tradition in which one is raised, rather than a conversion that occurs with public profession and fireworks. Now, I believe that my faith is no less real for having been instilled in me from youth, but plenty of people have told me that such is the case, that I needed to come to Jesus in a Don-Draper-convinces-the-lipstick-guys sort of way.

I’m going to fast-forward through all of that because it no longer informs my walk. I struggled in an ultra-conservative Christian high school and an ultra-liberal household. The Church became for me a place where bad people perverted the goodness of the faith which they professed. In college, God blessed me with a roommate and best friend who shined with love that came from God, and who still struggled with a humanity that she was willing to expose, and my faith in good Christians was restored. The winter after I graduated, my reality was broken, and I was lost. I was confused as to why the good and loving God in whom I believed wasn’t protecting me. And for another year, my faith was challenged as my life cycled–every time I had, calamity struck. And every time I was empty, there was a near-miraculous provision.

The story that my life is now, however, really starts toward the end of 2011, when I poured out to a new friend and model Christ-follower that I was ready to walk away from God and no longer be a Christian. It was too hard, too painful, too stressful. My faith was a burden. And she said absolutely nothing comforting. I don’t even remember that she said much of anything. She just looked at me without sympathy. And that turned out to be a turning point in my life. For I realized, in the face of that coolness, in the unyielding logic of one of the most rational people I have ever known, that what I was saying was ridiculous. I could no more stop believing in the existence of God than I could reject the existence of the parents who put me on this Earth.

Joan of Arc
This painting is an especial favorite of mine. It is an exemplary work by Bastien-Lepage depicting a religious scene in a detailed natural setting.

2012 was an extremely important year for me, but I’m also going to fast-forward through it. I began to pray during Lent. Through prayer, God gave me the strength to walk away from a friendship that I recognized as destructive. At Easter, I realized that I needed to go to church regularly. In #Fla2012, my decision to live in prayer was bolstered by the affirmation of my best friend’s dad. I began to see the ups and downs of my life more clearly and to trust when I was in the valleys that the peaks would come. I began to see the ways in which I had been given everything when I deserved nothing. My whole outlook changed. I came to see that I was being forged for a life that would be fraught but profound. And I began to see that I had (with all my qualities and flaws) been designed with grace to meet the challenges and to serve a purpose.

Then my best friend moved to Oxford. And I was truly apart from her for the first time in 6 years (pretty much exactly). And I thought I would break. But I didn’t. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever felt so loved. Every email she took the time to write (and she is busy) reaffirmed that she loved me deeply, that she would always love me deeply. She loves me as a co-member of God’s fellowship and as a blessed sister (well, also as a friend in the non-faith-based sense, but that was harder to hold on to with her so far away). She loves me because God loves me. And that love (which I return) is unbreakable. The fights we had had, as friends, as sinners, and as humans, mean nothing in the face of the fact that we are united by the love of Christ; and our friendship will never be broken by any of that earthly nonsense. And in 2012, as I prepared for her departure, we had not one fight. All was love.

This is the present in which I live in Austin. I am apart from friends who are closer than family, for the first time in 6 and a half years. My spiritual guides are all far away. And yet my faith has been the unexpected foundation of my new life. At Servant Church, I have been instantly loved in this same way, as a blessed creation of God. My mentor told me I am “ripe for growth” and encouraged me to begin a journey that involves all this forgives stuff and other self-improvement measures to put me on the road to being a whole daughter of The Lord. And this church has been the cornerstone of my social life, which hasn’t been easy for me to build, given the one I left behind.

And They Still Say That Fish Is Expensive!
By Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida, this painting (with its title) serves to remind me of how much I have and how much I owe. It is a sort of cross above my bed, reminding me more of Christ’s work than his sacrifice.

So that’s the story of my faith.  It’s a large part of my life, but it’s not necessarily a large part of my writing.  So I hope that those of you who do not share my beliefs will both accept this as a context of my postings and keep coming back for writing that makes a conscientious effort to be relatable to people coming from a variety of backgrounds.  And I hope you’ll bear with me for the occasional posting about faith-based issues.  Because these are a part of who I am.  And that’s what ManifAustin is all about.


Disclaimer: Some of my posts may be self-indulgent musings about myself.  This is one of those posts.  I have, however, been recently asked what it looks like inside my head; so I feel that there is indeed a market for such self-reflection.  But I won’t be offended if you don’t read it.

Recently I was asked how ADHD affects my thinking, and I found myself seeking a definitive metaphor.  One that works for visualization (although not necessarily from an astrophysics perspective) is the comparison of my brain to space.  When I am unmedicated, my thoughts exist in free suspension outside of my conscious mind.  They are concepts not yet verbalized, and I often have to pause to search for the correct star before I can bring it to a more cognitively-concrete plane.  My ADHD medication brings these thoughts into an orbit (or perhaps a constellation): they are labeled, known, and easily accessible.  They are easy to find and articulate and understand.

I’ve always described my brain as having four channels, which I have now decided to categorize: immediate, reactionary, filler, and obsessive.  Immediate is the thing which is in front of me, the thing on which I have to concentrate, the thing which I work to process.  It can be the text of a book, the images on a screen, the words someone is saying to me, or the problem which I am solving.  Reactionary is my response to these things–my own thoughts about what I read, hear, see, or do.  I generally confine emotional responses to this channel.  Filler is what takes up the unfocused space.  It includes the subconscious and unarticulated thoughts–the way I feel about things or the nebulous ideas I have not processed.  Finally, the obsessive channel is a fixation–it can be a name, quote, or song lyric repeated over and over.  It can be an attachment or an image from my latest obsession.  It can be an experience.  But no matter the source, it is most likely to be a snippet repeated over and over.

Sudden Realization: When I talk or write, all of the channels seem to disappear.  I think it possible that this is the result of a unity of the components of my mind.  I will now delve into hypothetical territory.  Immediate: the words coming out of my mouth or my pen (or my fingers) flow freely and come from a place of absolute focus.  Reactionary: this part contributes to those words through the provision of details, history, organization, and direction.  Filler: the larger story and structure that I am assembling take up this space.  Obsessive: writing/talking just clears this stuff out–don’t the other three channels seem to be doing enough?

I don’t know what to do with this information or what it all means.  But I thought at least some of you would like to know what I mean when I talk about being crazy.  And if anyone who reads this has ever experienced such things, please know that you are not alone.

One last note: Often, when reviewing conversations, I remember what I have said better than what the other person has said.  I remember my words, but I remember my reaction to their words.  I have just decided that this is not just an egocentric response.  And I am not a poor listener.  I just retain my words through that channel-unity of output, whereas I retain your words as the emotional/impression’d response of the reactionary channel.  Sorry about that–maybe I can work on it.  😀