A few weeks ago, I came across a reference to a book called The Dice Man, written by Luke Rhinehart. It was published in the 1970s, deemed “a cult classic,” and banned in some places, although I don’t know why. Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) endorsed it; some compared it to Catch-22. So why haven’t I heard about it until now?
The protagonist, also named Luke Rhinehart, is a psychiatrist disillusioned with—as far as I can tell from reading about the book—just about everything, but especially about the fact that he has a self he feels compelled to be true to. He decides to liberate himself by letting chance determine his actions from that point forward, rather than by remaining true to character, so to speak.
Fortuitously, he finds a single die on the floor at that very moment, and he resolves to henceforth let the die determine his course of action.
While I have no intention of reading the 500+ page book, the premise intrigues me. Personality typing systems such as the Enneagram and the MBTI are based on defining and explaining us by our temperaments. Our temperaments, experiences, and genes combine to form our selves. Generally, we tend to behave like ourselves, but sometimes we notice we are not ourselves or other people comment that we were not ourselves last night or last week or earlier this morning. When it comes to personality, consistency is very highly prized.
Yet, like the protagonist in Rhinehart’s book, we recognize how hobbled we can be by that very quality of consistency. One of the most useful facets of the Enneagram is that it shows us our fixations and the folly of remaining stuck in them. Simply studying the Enneagram and becoming more self-aware—developing the so-called observer self—can be quite liberating. But I’m always on the lookout for specific tools to use in this process of waking up and for ways to alter my habitual responses.
I’m not advocating taking the Dice Man’s path and letting a roll of a die determine your every course of action. But playing with dice has the possibility of loosening our fixations just a little by introducing a bit of randomness into our often very tightly structured lives or by forcing us to conceive of other possibilities.
For example, if you have a difficult situation to deal with or an actual choice to make, write down six possibilities and number them. It might be easy to think of six ways of dealing with the situation or six options in terms of your choice, but chances are it won’t be easy. Maybe you’ll come up with one or two or even three before you get stuck. So just having to come up with enough possibilities to flesh out the list means you’ll have to stretch a little, and doing that may give you an insight you didn’t have before. Consider what the other two types in your Triad might put on the list or what choice the type you least understand might make.
Then roll a die and see where chance takes you. By that I don’t mean you must follow through with item number four on the list if the die comes up a four. But at least take some time to fully imagine doing it. Journal write about it, daydream about it, get into it a little. Especially if it goes against your character. Role play.
You can use the dice for less significant decisions, too. A few things that have come to mind for me include:
Which DVD am I going to watch?
Which chore on my list am I going to do next?
Where am I going to walk today?
What am I going to fix for dinner or where am I going to go out to eat?
I don’t expect that wherever I decide to walk or whatever I end up watching or doing next or eating on a particular day will significantly impact my 8w7 fixation all by itself or make me a different person. But maybe including the element of randomness or chance in my choices will shake things up over time.
So I bought a packet of dice and have one on the dining table next to a stack of index cards. I’ll let you know how the experiment goes.
Related post: Changes in Attitudes … Changes in Latitudes