Dealing With Sensitive Spots

“No.  It’s not difficult between two sane, consenting adults.  It rarely is.

Unfortunately, we’re also rarely entirely sane.

Thing is, sanity is a percentage.  We all have weak spots where if you poke us, we melt down.  We all have embarrassing hotspots that we reflexively conceal, whether we should or not.  You can be perfectly sane about 99% of things, but everyone has some crazy spot that triggers them into overreacting.  And everyone has some emotional issue that, when raised, makes them word not so good that communicates are mall workingfail.

And when someone skips across your insane zones – you have them – then you react in bizarre ways, and God forbid your bizarre reactions trample on your partner’s insane zone.  If you’re lucky, eventually you deal with it.  But that doesn’t make it magically “not hard” to do, especially when your monkey-brain wants to bite their face off for leaving toothpaste on the sink again.”

This Should Not Be Hard Between Two Sane, Consenting Adults

I have been thinking about this kind of thing a lot lately. Historically, the “zone” of mine that has perhaps the most history and at times absurd intensity is my sensitivity to flakiness and imbalance in relationships with people (I have written some about this before).

A lot of this sensitivity is on account of a couple of relationships early in my life where flakiness was an issue. More generally, I think the way that my life looks right now is unfortunately conducive to poking at this sensitive spot on a regular basis for reasons that are nobody’s fault. I still can’t physically work a full work week without aggravating repetitive stress symptoms. I am accordingly almost always a lot less busy than most people are. This means I have a lot more time to fill than most people do, which makes me generally more likely to be looking to interact with people more frequently than most.

Essentially, if I and another person are about equally enjoying hanging out with each other, let’s say that means that we each feel like spending time together about once per every 40 hours of free time. Because I have more free time, I will hit that 40 hour threshold faster even given a similar level of interest. Additionally, my having more time means I am also less likely to have uncontrollable schedule things come up that might necessitate my flaking out. This means I am often more likely to feel like initiating more interaction and less likely to flake versus other people without being an inherently more interested or less flaky person.

The sense of imbalance that creates is the Boss Battle Weak Spot of my ability to be levelheaded and rational about things. When it gets hit there are YEARS of frustration and anger behind it the origin stories of which would make this post several times longer. All that accumulated angst gets piled up and directed at completely different people and situations. Knowing about it and navigating around it is a determining factor in a LOT of my social decision-making. Even with all that management, though, there is no way to avoid triggering it entirely.

When that happens, I do my best to communicate about it. While that communication certainly helps and is certainly better than not communicating, it isn’t a cure for the feelings that happen. I am still in the pretty early stages of figuring out how to deal with and process those in a way that makes me feel better. I am also still figuring out how to deal with and process them in ways that do not cause undue distress or hurt to those in the Feelings Splash Zone.

I’m curious if any readers might have experience dealing with the feelings that result from having sensitive spots like this in a way that accomplishes those things? It’s one thing to generally have a sense of a reaction being out of proportion and a wholly different thing to apply that sense and whatever tools are available in a way that actually successfully ameliorates the feeling. Doing scary, haphazard Feelings Science to this is exhausting and, well, scary, and I would much rather just cheat off someone else’s homework.

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Willpower is Overrated

Willpower is a finite resource. I may have different amounts on different days and I may need different amounts on different days. One of the things that has become a philosophy of mine in interacting with the world is “Never accomplish by willpower something you can accomplish by making it easier.”

I am shit at getting myself to the gym. I could try to muster up the determination to go every week or some such, but that tends to not work. What does work is getting myself some cheap weights I can keep in my room.

It’s a lot easier to “get to the gym” when “get to the gym” means “walk five feet to where I put down the weights last time”.

I do this kind of thing as often as possible. I am a messy person, but I come across less messy than I used to, because instead of trying to get myself to be not messy by willpower, I analyzed how my messiness worked and figured out ways to make my messy habits just so happen to be less messy. The main trick was: always have somewhere to toss something that incidentally happens to be where it goes.

I put things down, and I give very little thought to where I put them down and when I’m done working I have no interest in doing any more thinking than absolutely necessary. I have drawers within arm’s reach of my chair for most of the things I might be carrying with me in a given day, because that means I actually put things in them instead of piles.

The last place I lived I noticed I tended to put the containers for the Omega-3 and vitamin D pills I take on the floor next to my chair without thinking about it. Instead of trying to stop myself from doing that, I bought a little container and put it right where I’d been putting them anyway. Suddenly my uncleanly habit was magically, effortlessly cleanly.

I think our culture idolizes the idea of accomplishing things by force of will, often at the expense of accomplishing things by doing what works. Getting things done by force of will is a very romantic idea and all, but it doesn’t work as well as making things easier. At least it never has for me.

Can’t get myself to practice an instrument? I decided to try the harmonica, an instrument I can literally have on my person 24/7, instead of having to find or get to a practice space. Random paper piling up? Now, there’s a tiny scanner that’s on top of my desk that I can scan things into and throw them out. Can’t get myself to go out and buy new food supplies when I run out in time to stave off the inevitable stopgap fast food run? Switch to using mostly supplies I can freeze or that otherwise aren’t very perishable, and buy them in advance of needing them.

For me, willpower is great for getting myself to make that phone call I’ve been dreading, because for that I only need it once. Right then. For ongoing stuff, though, force of will is a shit strategy compared with making the things I want myself to do easy and the things I don’t want myself to do hard.

That’s the one that works. Willpower looks good on paper, but I think there’s a reason people are legendarily bad at New Year’s Resolutions, and I think maybe if we spent less time on “I should really get myself to the gym more often” and more time on things like “Getting Wii Fit instead”, the success rate might be a bit a lot better.

Also, as a person with a lot of physical and pain issues, I think if physical therapists spent less time saying “You really need to be doing these more!” and more time on “How can we make this easier for you to do more?” or “What can you do that is easier to get yourself to do, but accomplishes roughly the same thing?”, their success rate would go up immensely.

written 1/16/2014, posted 1/20/2014

By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

Gosh, Why is Everyone So Easily Offended These Days?

“Everyone is offended by everything these days!”

“This generation is so thin-skinned; people didn’t used to get so angry over nothing.”

“Why is everyone so oversensitive about everything now?”

I keep hearing variations on this over and over and over and over and over again, and there is a lot of thoughtful, complex, intelligent stuff that can be said about it, but for now I’m going to keep it simple.

It isn’t that people today are more sensitive. It isn’t that this generation is thinner-skinned than the last generation. It’s that now, the people you hurt by your words and actions have more spaces and louder megaphones with which to tell you what the effects of your actions are. People haven’t suddenly become more sensitive, they have suddenly become able to let you know what has always been true. It isn’t that these issues weren’t issues before, it’s that until recently, you could remain unaware of these issues by the simple expediency of not deliberately seeking out the thoughts and words of the people who experience them.

That is why when you hear people call out comedians contributing to rape culture or biologists being incredibly racist or video games being incredibly misogynistic or people in general not respecting trans identities or pronouns, just to name a few, it isn’t the world that has changed, it is the amount of knowledge you have about it that has changed. If you think it’s the world that has changed, then you are a first-class example of how easy it used to be to remain completely ignorant about these issues.

Regardless of what your opinion is on whether or not people are “too easily offended” or somesuch, it isn’t different now than before. You didn’t know people had issues with these things before, and now, because so many of them have voices and platforms to talk about them that they didn’t used to, maintaining that ignorance isn’t as easy as it used to be.

It’s not them that are different, it’s you. These issues have always existed, and the only thing that’s different now is that you know about them.


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By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

“The Friend Zone”, and Other Superstitious Beliefs

I remember reading a long time ago that superstitious beliefs are most prone to develop in situations, cultures, professions, etc., where there is a lot of dangerous and unpredictable risk. A high incidence of superstitious rituals and beliefs among sailors, for example, was attributed to this phenomenon because of the high level of unpredictability and risk associated with their jobs.

It struck me yesterday that this serves as a pretty decent model for why people hold so many different absurd beliefs about dating. Concepts like the friend zone or the three day rule are good examples of this. The friend zone is essentially a superstitious belief, and the three day rule is essentially a superstitious ritual–it is a prescribed type of action believed to bring about a particular result without evidence outside the anecdotal.

Dating is, let’s face it, pretty unpredictable, And is an activity that for most people is high-risk emotionally in that peoples’ dating lives can have a pretty significant impact on their emotional state and self-esteem. One might posit, therefore, that it is one of those situations of high risk and low predictability that are particularly conducive to superstition. Maybe that is the reason why whole books have been written to debunk the ever-growing list of superstitious beliefs that have popped up around them. One circumstance’s 13th floor is another’s collar-touching is another’s three day rule.

Food for thought.

Feels Good

Moving into a new place is always more work than I expect it to be. This move has taken me a couple of weeks to get even close to finishing setting up my new room. I have made enough progress, though, that I have started to arrange the room in roughly the way I think it will be configured when I’m done.

I haven’t been getting a lot of exercise these past two weeks, with the exception of occasionally moving things around. Today I decided to try to get my Wii set up so that I can use Wii Fit. I have generally found that getting myself to do the things I want to be doing regularly is less a matter of willpower and more a matter of arranging my life and surroundings in such a way is that it requires the least amount of work and willpower possible. With Wii Fit, I can get exercise without even leaving my room, which makes it a lot more likely I will do it regularly.

I have mostly finished setting up the system now, and something just struck me: this is the first time in a really, really long time that I have set up something just for the purpose of exercising. That is, over the last decade or so, every time I started using something like a stationary bike or some weights or Wii Fit or a mini trampoline or DDR or a reflex bag or rollerblades, or started doing something like going to a gym or taking yoga classes or taking tai chi classes or swimming or juggling or practicing poi–every time I did one of those things was an attempt to find something, anything, that would either help or at the very least not further aggravate something that was going wrong with me physically.

This is the first time I can remember doing something like this without that being the driving force behind it. In about a decade.

written 1/4/2015, posted 1/7/2015

By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other

Decision-Paralysis-Motivated Withdrawal from Social Media

I have started thinking about withdrawing somewhat from social media for a bit. Not from blogging, necessarily, but from Facebook and Twitter, at least. I have been in the process of moving into my new place, recently, and there have been a lot of decisions to make about arranging things and buying things I need and selling things so that I have money to buy those things.

I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress and decision fatigue, and I have realized recently that social media seems to exacerbate the problem. Reading through Facebook and Twitter is a many-decisions-per-minute operation. Liking things, not liking things, sharing things, not sharing things, commenting on things, not commenting on things.

These types of decisions can, at times, be particularly taxing for me because of their arbitrariness. I am not at all good at making arbitrary decisions. In some ways I’m a lot better at making big life decisions for which the reasons are equally big than small, meaningless decisions for which there are no particular reasons to choose one thing over another. Arbitrariness paralyzes me. I may have another post coming about the idea that this may be a big part of the reason why I get social anxiety–the arbitrariness of the decision-making that being social requires.

Social media decisions are, in a way, the worst of all possible worlds, because not only are they essentially arbitrary decisions–a lot of them are decisions about sharing or not sharing things that are going on in the world that I think are really important. Not only do I have no hard and fast means by which to make the decisions, but I feel morally compelled to make absolutely sure that some of the decisions that I make are the right ones.

Long story short, I think it’s important for me, right now, to try to do some minimizing of the number of decisions I need to make any given day, and I think social media may be the source of the vast, overwhelming majority of those decisions.

By ResearchToBeDone Posted in other