Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reflection: The Illusion of Privacy

There are parties downstairs at my apartment building a couple times a year. We munch, we chat. Someone that I have spoken to at those occasional gatherings -- and said hello to on the elevator now and then over the years -- said a curious thing. He said he has wanted to talk to me at times, but I seem like a private person.

Private? That is very much not how I see myself (and it is probably not how people see me who communicate with me mostly online). It tends to floor me when people say that. I think the misconception stems from people mistaking indifference for resistance. I am not more resistant to people getting in my face; I am simply more indifferent... to those who don't.

Once again, it's underwhelment masking as overwhelment. I am drawn (when I'm drawn) to people who are more intense than the norm, more emotional, more over-the-top, and often more needy. Interaction has to simply sizzle. Normal interactions tend to pass below the threshhold needed to... to stir up anything at all in me beyond the intellectual awareness that, hey, there's another human in the vicinity. The irony is if that person had been more in my face, they might have broken through that false veneer of privacy. Some people have created strong bonds that way. The illusion of privacy is more apt to vanish if you're the kind of person who (marvelous in my eyes!) can't contain your energy within your own borders.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reflection: Different Ways of Experiencing

I think a lot of people, at this point, have at least heard of the brain chemical dopamine. Among the many things it does... Well, I've heard it described in this way: It makes things pop out from the background and seem relevant. It intensifies them. (The picture on the right, which had quite a lot of local contrast added, is intended to represent higher dopamine perception.)

Me, I perceive things more like the picture on the left. I know -- I mean, I can tell -- I don't have normal dopamine processing. As an example... The ayuderdic herb, mucuna pruriens, is one of the only things that naturally contains the most direct precursor of dopamine. It has legitimate medical uses. Some people, if they weren't used to it, would find that it made them more than usually cheerful or confident. Some would find that it sent them right over the edge into anxiety, agitation, mania -- like caffeine, but likely worse. (Some of the disorders that frequently show dopamine overactivity: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety.) My reaction to mucuna pruriens is that is calming and sometimes sleep-inducing. I consider it a preventative measure when it comes to bad dreams.

Sometimes coffee brings me down, too. Going to sleep on stimulants is not an uncommon reaction... for a person with ADHD. I don't have ADHD, but there are common threads. There's a theory that people with ADHD procrastinate so that they can add excitement to a task, so they can stir up enough stimulants in their brain that they are actually able to do the task. Me, I don't do that. It's when it comes to human relationship, very specifically, that I behave as an underwhelmed person. I have consistently, across most of my life, been attracted to people who are far, far more emotional than the norm, who are simply over the top. I have consistently been attracted to situations -- human situations -- where the stakes were high. My emotions are aroused. My bonding impulses come more strongly into play. Low stakes human situations fail to motivate me to the point where... where I can function.

I think it would fly in the face of logic, for a lot of people, that my reactions to certain substances would be characteristic of the underwhelmed as opposed to the overwhelmed. And yet it seems so obvious to me. I am the polar opposite of the hyperaroused person... when it comes to just strolling around. (Though yes, I do respond in intense, 0 to 90 ways to a very few things -- the same ones, predictably, year in, year out... Hey, do you think the light in the corner stands out maybe even a little more on the picture on the left, where there is so little contrast. maybe that's why I calm a little on stimulants. More of the world starts popping out a little and commanding my interest.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reflection: The Fear Response(less)

We were at the bus stop by the main drag of the U-District when the 43 came up the road, wearing the wrong sign, like it was going toward Wallingford. A woman seemed to get very excited; at first I thought she was frustrated because she thought she was on the wrong side of the street. "It's going toward..." I said.

She called me the B-word several times. "That's what you are!" she shouted... or maybe she didn't quite shout, but she said it loudly. People around us heard. I'm not sure what all she said. Her face was pretty near mine.

Most people, I imagine, would not have felt actual fear in that situation. Yet I think there would have been some physiological response, some quickening of the pulse, some startle response somwhere. I was aware, once again, how in me there was... just nothing.

Humans are designed to have a fear response that precedes conscious thought. This is how nameless fear -- that I'm afraid, but I don't know why sensation -- begins. It's strongest in the trauma-disordered, but it's in most of us to some extent. I'm hard pressed to think of a time -- even one time in my life -- when I felt nameless fear. The conscious awareness of exactly what afraid of tends to precede any physiological response.

I've read it: Neurologically, attraction (and I mean the word in a broad sense!) is a close cousin of fear; they're both changes in arousal levels, and they often involve the very same chemicals. We're supposed to undergo these subtle little changes in our arousal levels. They're supposed to be highest in response to novel situations. In novel social situations, my arousal levels don't change. They are so low that... I would say they'd make folks' heads swim, except that folks don't see the situation for what it is.

I don't experience nameless fear, but there have been times I have been irresistibly drawn to those who do. There have been times someone has behaved inexplicably toward me and instead of standing there impervious, like I did with the woman at the bus stop, I have experienced emotion at the level... the level that I love, love, love to experience emotion. And then I have wanted to dance that person off on a white horse.

I do experience intense fear. Mostly it's aroused by the fear of losing those who manage to evoke strong emotion in me.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Evening Nigh's Year in Reflection 2

And so we have moved into January, I commented to the summer basil. Many people would, I imagine, say that it is the basil plant's presence here in January that seemed most improbable. It appears I have not an annual but a (very) tender perennial. The tender perennial would take some work to maintain through winter even if it had not had an encounter with the Crips... I mean the thrips. Oh, but I decided to care for a basil plant, and a basil plant is just not the sort of thing to object to being cared for. And so here we are: Scraggly and speckled, we make new green leaves.

Ad so this is the second annual... well, not Year in Review, but Year in Reflection. Some of my favorite soapbox posts this past year have been, once again, on the subject of attachment: A Loss of Pliability, A Glimpse of Heaven, and The Kitty Carryall Metaphor -- a piece that feels like more than a year ago. This very related one one goes back to a time early last year when I was attacked and had my purse stolen: Situational Strengths There are others that wear that favorite label "Soapbox Post". Though...

It has sometimes been a struggle to write regularly on this blog in recent months. There is a three-fold reason: There have been weeks that I have freelanced 70 or 80 hours a week. I have done well with the writing, but there is a separate project that... well, I did not even get paid for. I learned, if I didn't know already, that I have trouble tracking information across the columns and rows of a spreadsheet -- which maybe relates to Mirror Writing. I'm getting more efficient at the writing thing, and working on pulling all my other writing activities back in -- though tiredess has a flu-like pain spreading once more into the shoulders and fingers.)

There are times I have wondered if there was anyone out there reading. (Or should I say who is out there reading?) And there are times, conversely, the blog posts have gotten channeled back into letters. This blog grew out of Letters to... (Who was it years ago who said he preferred the letters over the stories, to publish the letters?) Conversation on a Bus came straight out of a old letter. And the writing, the 'soapbox posts' and other things, can still be siphoned off into letters. (It Was Then That the Fox Appeared)

But this blog is in my resolutions. I'm contemplation re-enrolling it in day camp. (It did a Creative Every Day Challenge last year, with weekly sharing sessions and show and tell, but it didn't attend real often.)