28 May, 2015

Therapy Blog, volume one...

There are many Facebook trends I dislike, and (usually to always) refuse to take part in:

  • the modern-day chain letter that says "share this with sixteen friends in the next seven seconds or your CPU will implode";
  •  the bait and switch post (a version of which is going around again); 
  • the passive-aggressive status update aimed at one specific person that nevertheless makes everybody uncomfortable;
  •  cruelty to animals and children packaged up "to raise awareness"; 
  • the branded posts that force you to like and share something in order to actually watch it, rather than the other way around;
  • the pointless posts that ask assign your birth date/the colour of your underwear/the first initial of your last name a silly word and yield a sillier phrase (the colour of your underwear plus the last thing you ate is your star ship name. Camo Cheerio, hahaha);
  • The dumb amateur psychology/personality tests that sometimes give interesting results but just as often completely misread you
And yes, in order to know about that last point, I've taken more than a few of those tests. I just haven't shared many of the results.

This one I took, and shared, because the conclusion was more than a little unsettling.

Look, I've always known I am an emotional thinker. I'm intuitive, empathic and (often overly) sensitive to slights both real and imagined. If you've ever been at a point in your life where one of your pastimes was slight collecting,  you can flip a mental switch and see them everywhere. That switch is a bitch to turn off.

"I'd like you to do an inkblot test. There are no right or wrong answers, but what you see in these random splotches of ink will tell me a lot about how you think. Just say the first thing that you think of when I show you these images. Ready?"
"That's a penis."
"Those are a couple of boobies with protruding nipples."
"That's an orgy: there are five people having various kinds of passionate sex."
"Okay, I've seen enough. Sir, you have a filthy, filthy mind."
"Me? I have a filthy mind? You're  the one showing me all these perverted pictures!"

I recognized in Eva, and right quickly, a rational streak. Maybe "streak" is the wrong word: if rational were a colour, Eva would wear several coats of it. This doesn't mean she is cold or emotionless: far from it. But her emotions are usually rational emotions, in proportion to whatever the situation is, and she's able to own, categorize, process and deal with stray emotions, even powerful ones, in a way I frankly envy. (Part of what makes her ongoing medical issues so frightening is that she is suddenly much more emotional than she has been in the past: more like me than her. Two mes in the same room can be a tad volatile.)

One of about a thousand reasons I chose Eva to marry is because her rationalism complements my emotionalism very well. I figured she'd be very good at reining me in, and so she has proven to be. In turn, I believe I've taught her something about affection.

If you asked me sixteen years ago how our personalities would mesh by now, I'd have told you we'd grow to be more similar to each other. It only stands to, uh, reason.


Ken: 92% emotional
Eva 86% rational

I had a (surprise) emotional reaction to my score. It struck me as rather imbalanced. Emotions are fine things, don't get me wrong, and they have usually served me reasonably well in life, but to base all but a measly eight percent of my thinking on emotions is...kind of scary.

Yes, I know this test is far from scientific. But I'd be willing to lay money on a scientific test returning a similar score. Especially over the last year or so. My emotions -- all of them -- have been stronger, more irrational, and harder to contain.

I am well shut of the demons which plagued me last summer, which is a good thing, believe me. But I'm not where I should be...need to be...and  that bothers me, because it's like you can't get there from here. I'll devise some rational plan and it'll be swept away by the next emotion I feel. Ever tried building sand castles at high tide?

I think the hallmark of an emotional thinker is that he believes his emotions to be rational, perhaps especially when they aren't. I'm self-reflective enough to suffer no such illusions. I recognize when insecurity, or indignation, inadequacy or infantilism is irrational, and that's just the I's. Maybe that's the problem: I'm too caught up in I, I, I.

Except so many people tell me to pay more attention to my own issues rather than always concentrating on other people's. That's been said to me my whole life long, evidently because people don't "get" that making others feel better about themselves is the only way I ever learned to feel good about myself. Also, I'd rather not turn a spotlight on myself, not when everyone else is dealing with much worse. Just writing these last few paragraphs has been very difficult. Uncharacteristically, I've had to stop and start, back up and revise, and then look at each sentence and say do I really want to write that?

I have a friend whose carrying capacity for crisis is awe inspiring. You know how some people are drama queens? In her case the drama is reality: every day brings with it a fresh emergency, and more than a few of them would crush lesser people. I vented to her the other day about these damned night shifts making me feel removed from the world. She responded (very rationally) that I only become removed if I allow myself to be removed.

I want to write a long, long entry on all the ways this is wrong. Normal people sleep at night, with all that entails. The world's schedule, either professional or personal, is heavily biased against night shift workers. Even the weather interferes: the bedroom is unliveable without air conditioning at noon when I'm in it.

Whine, whine, whine. First world problems all the way. I'm far from the only person working nights--there are about twenty others at my store alone (though most of them seem to survive on three hours of sleep a day). I actually see more of Eva on this schedule than I did when she was on afternoons and I was on days. My social life hasn't suffered markedly because until recently I didn't have one and people have been extremely accommodating. (It turns out some friends of mine don't mind getting together for breakfast. Or hanging out on a Tuesday evening. Eva put up some black construction paper to block out the sun and the bedroom is actually comfortable at noon. Adapt and deal, Ken. Adapt and deal. This isn't rocket surgery. Any other problems I have are my problems, not problems that were thrust upon me, and I have the unmitigated gall to whine about this shit? Let alone to somebody who would cheerfully commit murder to face the "problems" I face? Let alone when Eva, the wife of my life and companion of my journey, is having her own issues that dwarf these?

How attractive.

My friend is right. There's a quiet voice, a rational voice inside me that's stuck at about eight percent volume, that knows damn well how stupid all this is. I'm feeling insecure when I shouldn't, indignant when I have no right to be, inadequate when I'm by any measure blessed with more love in my life than I deserve. Now if I can just tape myself saying this for the next wave of emotion that's due in about half an hour...and amplify the volume. That'd be entertaining as hell to watch. It'd end with me sputtering 'b-b-b-b-but..." and shamed into silence by the implacable voice of reason.

My strategy for coping with these waves so far has been to ignore them in the hopes they'll go away. They're not reasonable, they're not worthy emotions, do I really need to bother Eva with this (again);, there's no need to feel this way, "turn it off". Which has this odd side effect of turning off everything: all my emotions, happy and otherwise, my perceptions, even my memories. I tend to be an unthinking, unfeeling robot. And because that's so very removed from my natural state...there is seepage, and eventually an explosion of pent-up emotion that demands release out of all proportion to anything currently going on.

Not flattering. But true.

Writing this blog has been like pushing a rock uphill. I feel kind of drained right now. I'll save the actual therapy plan for a future blog. Mostly because I, uh, don't have one yet.

But I'm working on it. Emotionally AND rationally.

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