Thursday, 30 June 2016

Go Towards

The other night, after she burst into a hard-to-explain screaming tantrum, I ended up sequestering my four-year-old in her room. For reasons I won't go into at great length, I don't leave her in there by herself but rather join her in her room on occasions like this and listen to her screaming and take the occasional punch or kick.

She wanted out of the room, she wanted to go see her other parent. That wasn't going to happen because the whole reason that I stepped in was that she her level of screaming had become temporarily intolerable to said parent. So I stood in front of the door, being pushed and kicked, thinking about whether there was anything I could do to deescalate this.

After things calmed down a bit and she was sitting on my lap talking to me about what happened, she still occasionally turned her body towards the door to her room in a half-hearted lunge. At this moment it occurred to me what she was doing. She wanted a thing, so she was moving her body in a straight line towards that thing.

To get out of the room she needed to do a few things. She needed to stop hitting and kicking. She needed to stop screaming. She needed to talk to me about what happened and how she ended up so upset. But she didn't want to do those things, she wanted to move physically closer to the thing she wanted until she was upon it. All that other thinking and planning stuff was running contrary to the most basic common sense: Go Towards.

There's a game that they played with monkeys where they show monkeys two numbers and have them pick one. They then got a number of candies equal to the other number. Monkeys are smart enough to figure this out. But when you present them with two plates of actual candy and the game works the same way, they just keep picking the bigger plate and getting the smaller one. With abstract thinking they can set aside their impulse for more, but when real candy is actually in front of them it's just too much to handle.

Something that often amazes me about people is that everyone has encountered numerous conflicts that were caused by misunderstandings, but when we get upset at someone, we don't immediately think "I should check if this is a misunderstanding." Shouldn't we have been conditioned to think that by our experiences by the time we are adults?

It takes effort to consider an alternative to the shortest distance between you and the thing your emotions are urging you towards. Emotions are decisions you have already made and require second guessing.

All of this came to mind while reading a couple of consecutive posts on Bright Cape about not overreacting to violent deaths: Everything is Fine, Precise Demands. In particular, the comment on the second one about how maybe that's a much harder thing to do than the posts imply.

In my multi-year quest to figure out what it is about me that makes me different from other people, Sky is a useful resource because whatever it is about me, it's probably about him too. That's not to say we're altogether similar, you'll notice a lot less posts on his blog about being depressed. But just like one person with autism might be depressed and another will not, having a similar neurological structure doesn't manages to say a lot about someone while leaving a whole bunch unsaid.

So when I describe "hearing voices" and Sky describes having two personalities, I see a big parallel there. Neither of us integrate emotions with rational thought. We are able to say, "Now now, emotions, you go over there and let us think." Well, we can do that at least as well as a person can tell a young child to leave them alone while they work. That is, it's not that it works every time, but it's that we having the emotions segregated form the rationality in the first place.

I'm not sure non-integrated emotions is an essential description of their difference, or if it is just a symptom that occurs from it. What I am fairly sure of is that the way my mind-architecture is set up makes it very easy for me to sideline the Going Towards impulses in favour of reasoned decisions. The big question for me is whether this is such an extreme difference that is constitutes a different kind of relationship with emotions rather than a different place on the spectrum, and whether I have any idea what it is like for a normie to try to behave based on conscious thought when they are experiencing powerful emotions.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with the idea that we have some things in common that relate to emotional/rational splits. You get the division I have in that way far better than nearly anyone. We aren't the same... but I can see where you are from where I am, and I don't think the average person can do that at all.

    I don't have the same depression issues that you do, certainly. I had it pretty bad in the past at times, but these days I am operating pretty well. Not to say all is perfect, but my brain is in good shape, really.

    When I read your angry posts, like the ones about how you don't believe in presumption of innocence, I actually see where you are coming from. I suspect most people are just totally baffled, or perhaps angry, but I think I can see what is going on in your head, which is often quite a different thing from what a literal reading of the words would indicate.

    We both present these hyper rational, detatched personas to the world most of the time, but we have swirling emotions sequestered away. Those emotions manifest themselves really differently though, for sure.