Emotional flooding

Whenever I hear about these incidents, I think of the best life advice I ever got, from my older brother: “Don’t freak out.” He was giving me a parenting tip, but really, it applies to everything in life. Freaking out—“emotional flooding,” in social-science jargon—never seems to make matters better, and we nearly always regret it. The fact that freak-outs may be happening with particular frequency right now is an opportunity to understand the phenomenon in ourselves and learn to manage our emotions better. If we do, we will be equipped with a skill that helps us be better friends, parents, spouses, and professionals, even when the pandemic is nothing but a distant memory.

~ Arthur C. Brooks from, https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/04/how-to-manage-emotions-and-reactions/629692/

I truly hope you’ve not experienced flooded emotions, recently or otherwise. For me, this is a big part of how my atypical brain works. I don’t have an emotional range. I have two settings labeled zero and eleven. Eleven means I love sappy movies, can get really engaged in helping people, and much more. But, I had to learn how to disengage when my emotions flare; I had to become a master at pausing while deciding what I want to happen.

But having a level–zero non-response to most everything means I can function very well under duress. For example, if the roof of the house is mid-repair, it’s been raining hard for hours, the ceiling is leaking in various places, and then the hard-wired fire alarm shorts out (ie, goes off) when water gets into a sensor, the deafening, in–house klaxon sounds, my cellphone rings as the monitoring company reports there’s a fire… Well, level-zero means I can repeatedly work the keypad to disable the fire alarm, even though it goes off again in a few seconds, give the person on my cellphone my alarm code to avert the fire department’s being dispatched, and then quickly work to physically disable the alarm system (even though it’s intentionally tamper– and disable–resistant.) All without my heart–rate rising; while actually feeling bored by it all.

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Our sense of what’s possible

The people we’re surrounded by limit or expand our sense of what is possible.

~ Brett McKay from, https://www.artofmanliness.com/people/relationships/sunday-firesides-relationships-over-willpower/

That’s a perfect turn of phrase from McKay. I love to find myself exposed to new people; those moments where I think, “that’s interesting!” are like single-serving sized friends (with hat tip to Chuck Palahniuk).

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Who’s in charge?

But then [Seneca] gives the real reason: “The body should be treated more rigorously that it may not be disobedient to the mind.” I think about that every morning just before I crank the knob. Who is in charge? The courageous side of me or the cowardly side? The side that doesn’t flinch at discomfort or the side that desires to always be comfortable? The side that does the hard thing or the side that takes the easy way?

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/do-something-that-scares-you-every-day/

This made me think. Usually, I share others’ writing because I thought highly of it. In this case, I’m hesitant to say this, however: I’ve never thought my body was in charge.

Certainly(!) I have reflexes and bodily functions or urges which my mind has no control over. Certainly flinching (under cold water for example) is something you can learn to reduce. I’ve always thought of my mind as the one who’s not always the best captain of the ship. I don’t need to train to put my mind in charge of my body.

Recently I hurt my back. The story begins with my doing some truly pathetic, free-weight exercises to strengthen my back. I over did it. Then I ate poorly and wound up bloated and a few pounds heavier. Then I went rock climbing and worked on a problem (a challenging combination of moves and skills, in an easy to access location rather than 2 hours up some mountain, so one can spend time with it) that involved maximum–strength pulling with my arms while pushing with my legs. Boink! Ow, my back. I managed to calmly pack my 20 pounds of things into my pack, walk back to the car and drive myself 3 hours home. There were a myriad of things that could have set me off in the moment, on the drive, and in the coming days: acute pain, inability to sleep well, the inability to reach my feet or wipe my butt, the fact that I did it all to myself while trying to improve my body, drivers on the highways and people who tried to talk to me, the overall setback, … so many things. But instead, I was reasonable with everyone. I did what I could do, rested and recovered. A week later—just as I knew I would be—I’m back to where I was before I picked up the free-weights. Ready to try again at improving myself (and planning an even more gradual start.)

So I’m inclined to say: My mind is clearly in charge, even under duress.

What I was thinking about, in that first sentence here, was if I have trained to put my mind in charge, that means there’s room for more training.

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Novelty

I get the feeling that a lot of us are afraid of repeating ourselves – as if doing so demonstrates a lack of originality or a “less than” memory.

~ Jon Yuen from, https://www.yuenjon.com/articles/2020/6/5/reminders

Clearly (based on all these blog posts) I’m not afraid of repeating myself, and it feels in each moment as if I’m repeating myself. I see the same patterns in what interests me, and I think the same trains of thoughts. When I zoom farther out however, I see long, slow trends. The problem for me with repetition is that I find the salience of things tapers away towards zero. I’m [knowingly] within a few feet of a snake so rarely that my brain effortlessly applies maximum attention; but the number on the scale, not so much. What works for me is when the repetition is uncertain. I know I’ll read one of my quotes tomorrow, but it’ll be a random one—and I’ll remember it instantly as soon as I start reading it. Repetition repetition on to something else then… surprise! …more repetition!

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The more you say

The more you say, the more likely you are to blow past opportunities, ignore feedback, and cause yourself suffering. The inexperienced and fearful talk to reassure themselves. The ability to listen, to deliberately keep out of a conversation and subsist without its validity is rare. Silence is a way to build strength and self-sufficiency.

~ Ryan Holiday

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Ignorance

A precondition of becoming knowledgeable may be a resignation to, and accommodation with, the extent of one’s ignorance, an accommodation which requires a sense that this ignorance need not be permanent, or indeed need not be taken personally, as a reflection of one’s inherent capacities.

~ Alain De Botton

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