Being incarnate, or something.

Standard

This still isn’t the post I’ve been trying to write, which is more political in nature.  This is about something that’s confusing me in everyday life.

A couple of years ago, I was severely dehydrated, and physically weak, and had to spend quite awhile lying on a couch in a lot of pain.  Somehow, during that time, it clicked that I inhabit this particular body, not any other body, not any other object, and that this particular body needed to be kept alive if I was going to stay alive.  A few years before that, I had been sitting in a place where they gave out free food, and realized that other people’s thoughts could not penetrate my own, that just because I was thinking about something in someone’s presence did not mean I was talking to them about it.

These were major realizations, but they do not seem to stick.  I know them intellectually, but understanding them viscerally is not something that has stayed around.  That, basically, my thoughts and actions and self are contained in this tiny little opaque creature that I can’t even feel or see all of or even find much of the time, and that has a finite lifespan.

Today someone picked up some of my things, and I screamed.  I didn’t mean to scream, it felt like they were invading a part of me.  It felt like “me” is everything I perceive and think about, and then there’s this one little part of me, that can move on my command (sometimes) and that I can feel (sometimes) and that hurts when poked (sometimes) and that reacts to emotions (sometimes).  That part of me scampered into the other room and hid under the blankets.

And I thought at that point about how my things are not part of me, that picking them up and looking at them is not the same as grabbing my arm and inspecting it, and that I know this.  But on some level, I don’t seem to quite get it, because I still react like this.

I tried pounding on my body but it’s not convincing it viscerally that it’s me, and it is becoming sore.

I still react to people walking into my apartment as if they are walking inside of me.

I still forget that when I am thinking about something around somebody, they are not going to usually know what I am thinking about, or consider me to be interacting with them.

And I still forget that in all this vastness in general the only part of it that’s me is the little ape-like creature typing on the computer, and I still have trouble locating various parts of the ape-like creature even if I can locate exactly where a lot of other things are.

When I’m less able to conceptualize (or too distracted), I forget even more things, including at times my intellectual knowledge that all these perceptions are not how things are.  I wonder how to convince my body that I live in it and not anywhere else.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

39 responses »

  1. Try Buddhism, where you will learn:
    1)you really are everything else
    2)everything else doesn’t exist
    3) you don’t exist
    This will make this sort of experience even more, er, intriguing :)

    I can’t say that I’ve ever had any experience such as you describe. The closest I come to it is those moments when I start to focus on something and forget that I exist.

  2. I’m not talking about any of this in the metaphysical sense.  Any more than, when I show no awareness of the passage of time, I am talking about the fact that maybe time doesn’t exist in the form people think it does.

  3. We all inhabit a much larger area than our physical body. Physical personal space is real. Some people need more than others and everybody needs more when they are stressed. When feeling relaxed and comfortable with somebody we let them into that space and call it intimacy.

    Having possessions as an integral part of that total body space is not that unusual and is quite logical really. Many of my autistic pupils come to school with bags of possessions that they really need to have around them at all times.

    It is not just an autistic thing. For most teenagers their mobile phone is a part of them. They never go anywhere without it. I always feel uncomfortable if I have to go anywhere without a pen, sorry, THE pen, my reading glasses and THE note book. I do not scream when someone touches my stuff. But I did get upset when someone broke my special comb. So it affects NTS a little bit as well.

  4. I believe you’re meaning that mind and body experience frequent disconnects. I get that on occasion when I’m sick. I can’t consistently remain aware of myself as a physical person, nor others as other people with whom I have to interact physically, nor even reliably experience time in a linear manner. Sure makes it hell getting things done, even basic stuff like closing my eyes to sleep, sitting up, bathing, toileting, eating … The sensory filtering goes as well; I can only attend to one kind of input at a time. It makes things really difficult.

  5. (in reply to Mike) Do NTs totally lose track of their bodies entirely, or even their identification with their bodies, because of this? (Do they for instance take 20-odd years to figure out that they live in one, and regularly lose touch with it because ‘they’ are in the wall they are looking at as far as they are concerned?) We could be talking about the same thing, but we could also be talking about two things that happen to look similar.

  6. “Do NTs totally lose track of their bodies entirely, or even their identification with their bodies, because of this? (Do they for instance take 20-odd years to figure out that they live in one, and regularly lose touch with it because ‘they’ are in the wall they are looking at as far as they are concerned?) We could be talking about the same thing, but we could also be talking about two things that happen to look similar.”

    I doubt that NT’s experience this, except maybe if they are on LSD… or peyote or something…. In psychology they talk about a time when a baby thinks that it the same as it’s mother, and how it starts to figure out that it’s not it’s mother some time… like 6 mos old. I was never really convinced by the evidence they gave for this in my textbooks, but maybe it’s true and you are in one of the developmental delays. :-)

    There are things I really really (rilly) don’t like to talk about. To me talking about sex with someone, in the most clinical, detached or tasteful way, is tantamount to being intimate with them… which is just – like – NOT going to happen, … I remember looking at college course schedules and some of the psych classes being about sex, and I thought… YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! Besides sex, I think that autistics in general don’t like to put too much info about themselves out there because it feels like other people start to inhabit them or they are fraying at the edges or something. So here I am breaking my rules by saying too much about myself, so I’ll make this anon. :-)

    I don’t like people showing up at my apartment unanounced, they are really not welcome, even if I force myself to be polite and let them in. I don’t think I’ve had an experience like yours though where someone touching your stuff a few feet from you felt like someone touching you or invading you. I bet it’s related to proprioception.

  7. One thing I’m pretty sure of is that I’ve never particularly thought I was my mother. ;-)

    Regarding proprioception, I definitely don’t have the best map of my body internally unless I force things, and sometimes I definitely map to things that aren’t my body, or don’t map to my body. On the other hand, I can do a lot of things that supposedly require very good proprioception. I’m not sure if there’s a simple analogue to this from non-autistic brain workings, or else proprioception is more complicated than people think it is. (I can be, if moving automatically, expert at climbing trees, ping-pong, badminton, ten-finger typing, etc.)

    I don’t know for exactly how long it was that I thought I was having conversations with people but I wasn’t. I thought I’d become incredibly social and in fact, I found out later, most people regarded me as anything from aloof and unsocial to ignoring people to totally unaware of people’s existence. This startled me considerably considering how much effort I was putting into watching and thinking about people and how much I was in fact enjoying myself in the process.

    I have been accused of being out of my body, but was not in the sense that person meant it. (As in, I don’t “astral project”, and I was not up on the ceiling, and turning around and speaking to the ceiling was not going to “bring me back”. Nor did I “gallavant around in the front yard out of my body” the way one neighbor — who was always insisting on trying to teach me black magic, as well — insisted I did. Yep, I sure grew up in California.)

    But when I freeze, often the trouble is not being able to locate my body among all the other sensations and objects around me and so forth. (My body feels like any other external stimulus.) One of my friends who’s good at getting me started again always explains it to staff as something like, “You just need to firmly touch her and remind her where she is.”

    Somehow the thinking that noticing people is the same as interacting with them, and thinking that all sorts of things are body parts that aren’t, seem connected.

  8. This all makes sense to me. I don’t think I’ve actually experienced the exact phenomenon, but I definitely understand what you’re talking about.

    Nobody probably would imagine this, but I’m very protective/proprietary of my stuff – there are certain things that I own that if I were to lose them, I would feel like I had lost a bit of myself; or someone else touches them, I feel invaded.

    (And I suggest that nobody would imagine this about me because I’m very free with information about myself.)

  9. “Do NTs totally lose track of their bodies entirely, or even their identification with their bodies, because of this? (Do they for instance take 20-odd years to figure out that they live in one, and regularly lose touch with it because ‘they’ are in the wall they are looking at as far as they are concerned?) We could be talking about the same thing, but we could also be talking about two things that happen to look similar.”

    No we don’t lose track entirely. I do not know if I am talking about the same phenomenon as you. Just looking for possible connections. Psychologists talk a lot about personal boundaries as if it is a cognitive matter. It sounds like you know the boundaries at a cognitive level but they do not tally with your perceptual and emotional experience of boundaries. Sorry if this sounds inadequate. Some of my boundaries are being stretched here.

  10. It felt like “me” is everything I perceive and think about, and then there’s this one little part of me, that can move on my command (sometimes) and that I can feel (sometimes) and that hurts when poked (sometimes) and that reacts to emotions (sometimes).

    You seem to have described something that I’ve been thinking about recently. When I’m concentrating and don’t have any sort of reminder that other people exist and need to be taken into account, I have a tendency to interpret the room as part of myself. I’m not aware of recieving sensory information from it, but neither am I aware of recieving sensory information from my feet. It’s very jarring when someone eventually interrupts me, and their presence reminds me that “I” inhabit only a few cubic feet of space.

    Does any of that sound familiar?

    Somehow the thinking that noticing people is the same as interacting with them, and thinking that all sorts of things are body parts that aren’t, seem connected.

    For the first one, it seems to be classed as an ‘interaction’ if the other person notices you noticing them. (Which begs the question of whether you’d have to be aware of their noticing that you noticed them in order for it to really be an interaction. Which quickly makes my head hurt, trying to hold all the recursiveness in mind.)

    It seems like the common thread is that you’re not always aware of boundaries and barriers. The barrier between your thoughts and other peoples’ awareness, and the boundary between your body and your environment.

    Hmmm. When you weren’t (aren’t?) aware that most people don’t process being noticed as being in an interaction with someone, were you having difficulty sorting out the body/environment boundary at the same time?

  11. I’m one NT who has definitely not experienced what you’re describing, but I can kind of get an idea.

    Is it about boundaries? In the literal sense, not the pop psychology sense. In most people, it seems, the boundary between what they regard as the self and the other, is the body. This is different from the intellectual idea of where the self is, which varies considerably by culture and belief system (the brain, heart, soul, etc.) But the actual physical sense of the self stops at the edge of the body, at the skin. It seems what you’re describing is a different boundary. What I got from your post is that the part of you that feels like you has very little relation to your body, and tends to be much bigger. Is that right? Or close?

    From that view, I think it would explain the idea that noticing is the same as interacting. Because if there isn’t the same separation between you and not-you, there wouldn’t be the same separation between your thoughts and actions. Or between things you did, and what was happening around you. It’s so persistent for me to have sounds come in the ears, sight come in the eyes, and touch come through the skin, that I’ve always been aware of the physical processes involved. Without that sense, it would take a fair amount of trial and errror to figure out the relationship between perceptions, actions, and thoughts, and it would be difficult to put them together with the same reliability as someone who found it instinctive.

    This is all rather speculative on my part, though, so I’d welcome correction.

  12. The only thing I can kind of relate this to in my own life is during that period right before sleep where there is still some partial consciousness, just enough to make things confusing. Sometimes I think I have moved my body or spoken to someone and realize that I have only thought these things and not physically done them. Of course this is generally momentary, but I imagine that to have this happen for very long periods of time would be disorienting.

    When you said, “It felt like “me” is everything I perceive and think about…” it made me wonder about something my son does and something I’ve been told that many other children also do. My son screams whenever anyone sings a song that he is familiar with. I’ve always attributed it to a sort of possessiveness on his part, almost like he has the idea that the song belongs to him in some way, and if someone else sings it, then he will no longer “have” it, but then I wonder if it might go deeper than that. For a very long time he would also not allow me to read books to him, and even now I have a hard time reading some of his favorites. Of course, I could be misinterpreting all of this, but you have definitely given me food for thought.

  13. Your mentioning interacting with people and thinking they knew your thoughts -how much of that is related to your earlier post about ‘institutional language”? I mean it makes perfect sense to me that if you have learned to “trade thought” intentionally with someone else to think that they could “read your thoughts” without your asking them to. I am becoming more concious of that since reading your post that there are hundreds of ways that people “share their thoughts” without actually talking out loud. And if a person has had to do that for years as a part of survival then it would be difficult to know who knew your language and who didnt. Logically then you could assume that if THIS person “read your thoughts” then EVERYONE can. It took me a long time to realize that the comments I made that my friends understood because we had the same experiences went right over the heads of other people who did not share those same experiences and therefore had no clue what I was thinking or feeling.

  14. The first time I am aware of getting confused that way (which I didn’t find out till long after the fact) was pre-institutional.

    But you inadvertently reminded me of something that definitely contributes to this: I had a psychologist in one institution who claimed to be able to read my thoughts, and later told me he was going to climb into my head and change my thoughts, and that he was never going to leave my head no matter what I did. He also said he was going to kill the person I was internally and replace me with somebody different.

    Combine that kind of stuff with being accustomed to being watched all day, and I suspect you could get someone who’s a little more confused than they even used to be about who could see their thoughts and who couldn’t.  I know that I was out a couple years before I realized that nobody was going to jump out of the bushes and tell me how to walk or something.

  15. It is all covered in Maurice Merleau-Ponty a sort of crossover point between existentialism and Post Modernism. If one is familiar with Marshall McCluhan he comes up with similar notions of extension. Probably some of that in Lewis Mumford and his notions of technics too.

    I have always had this epistemological and ontological problem with where I end and where the world begins, indeed Bishop Berkeley in considering perception informs this philosophy which is indeed grounded in perception and cognition to begin with.

    Literally I was not sure how much of space was me, and how little I might occupy and how the entire world around me was not seperate but inside that littel space in ways I cannot explain in words at all, I found it very frightening at times.

    I suppose I’ll have to go off onto the one about the bicycle in Flann O Briens Third Policeman next :)

  16. a psychologist in one institution who claimed to be able to read my thoughts, and later told me he was going to climb into my head and change my thoughts, and that he was never going to leave my head no matter what I did. He also said he was going to kill the person I was internally and replace me with somebody different.

    Other than giving a new take on the “mental help” scene between Xavier and JeanGrey in X-Men III…

    Where do supposedly normal mortals living outside of science fiction stories GET stuff like that?!

  17. I couldn’t stand that scene in X-Men III, or the eventual outcome of that whole mess (which was — aside from the telekinesis and so forth — roughly the sort of thing he told me would happen if he didn’t do that, but I’m not going to throw spoilers in here).

    I’m told that part of that is not far off from what some forms of therapy aim to accomplish in the first place, and as for the rest I have no clue.

  18. In psychology they talk about a time when a baby thinks that it the same as it’s mother, and how it starts to figure out that it’s not it’s mother some time… like 6 mos old. I was never really convinced by the evidence they gave for this in my textbooks, but maybe it’s true and you are in one of the developmental delays. :-)

    The best I can explain is that there’s a difference between knowing there is a difference between You and Others, and knowing the difference between your body and the rest of the world. I think (although correct me if I am wrong) that part of what Amanda was trying to get at is that awareness of self/identity and awareness of physical body are not the same thing.

    I’ve also had people attempt to explain to us why ^we are, in terms of some sort of fundamental disruption of early identity-forming processes. But I don’t quite buy that either.

  19. I’m told that part of that is not far off from what some forms of therapy aim to accomplish in the first place, and as for the rest I have no clue.

    There’s a part in, I think, “Multiple Personality, Allied Disorders and Hypnosis” by Eugene Bliss, in which he talks about “creating copies of himself” to place into his patients’ heads. I think it may be some sort of Ericksonian hypnotherapy thing. (It was either Bliss or Allison who talked about making copies of themselves in patients’ heads, but neither of them knew what the hell they were doing.)

    …though, we’ve also run across supposedly “healthy, functioning” non-professional people who apparently thought they could get into others’ heads and “install processes,” as though you were a computer or something. Or believed that other people had installed “programs” in their minds, which were causing their current problems. I suspect at least some of them *do* get their ideas from movies, however.

  20. The guy I’m talking about was an Ericksonian hypnotherapist (although he only mentioned that in front of me exactly once in the entire time I knew him), so that’d make sense. And I remember him also saying at some point that most of his patients were either plural or sex offenders. And that he enjoyed getting to work with someone like me instead, because usually people like me were shipped away from him into state institutions or something.

    He also once told me how fun it was trying to force a ‘schizophrenic’ patient of his (who was religious, and found this guy’s instructions incredibly upsetting from the sound of it) to say things like “F— Jesus and give the Virgin Mary a blow job”. He was twisted, to put it mildly.

    When I later wrote to him asking essentially what the hell he had in mind with all that “getting into my head” garbage, he gave me the old line about “You have to understand, we were desperate and didn’t want you institutionalized forever, so anything goes,” etc. that’s often used to justify aversives and so forth. (Come to think of it he also hit me on a regular basis, so…)

  21. The difficulties determining where exactly the moving parts of me are sounds pretty familiar… I have the most trouble with stairs. It’s ok if I can somehow avoid noticing that there are stairs, and just take them automatically, but if I notice them it takes nearly all my attention to figure out where my feet are and where they need to go. After years of falling on stairs in the transition period (“oh look, stairs” -crash-) I have trained myself to stop moving when that happens. It’s a feeling similar to vertigo, when my brain decides to repartition the world.

    On noticing people as interaction, my preferred method of initiating social contact is still by being noticed. Which often does take conscious effort on my part, so I think it’s fair. But as you said, it leads to people thinking all kinds of things about me… I don’t know if I’ve ever thought my noticing and thinking at people really counted as interaction, but I’ve been disabused of the notion so many times that it’s possible.

  22. Thanks shan for that analogy. I’ve read the comments here and other places about people seeming to have problems with knowing where their body is in connection with the physical elements but I couldnt quite grasp it. Since I relate to people on a regular basis who might have that issue it annoyed me even more because here was a concept that is really important and I am just not getting it. I guess most NT’s can relate to it better if you mention things like escalators or those running deals in airports. I know its there but knowing when to put my foot down and timing it so I dont go flat on my face – THAT takes skill ! Its sort of “I know its there but I cant figure out how to get body part A to connect to moving mechanical part B when I have to ALSO focus on body part C holding on to other items” Is that the way it is like with eating or doing just normal activities ? I apologize for making you explain AGAIN – sometimes it takes awhile for the lightbulb to go on.

  23. …though, we’ve also run across supposedly “healthy, functioning” non-professional people who apparently thought they could get into others’ heads and “install processes,” as though you were a computer or something. Or believed that other people had installed “programs” in their minds, which were causing their current problems. I suspect at least some of them *do* get their ideas from movies, however.

    I always want teaching Spanish to be as easy as that scene in the Matrix that goes something like this:
    A: Can you pilot a helicopter?
    B: Not yet.
    [modem noise and downloading noises are heard from B’s head]
    B: Can now.

    Of course if it were, they could just buy the software and I would be out of a job…

  24. Ann- I don’t think it’s really the problem of splitting attention between multiple tasks. That, I can’t do much at all. You know how you can just know where your elbow, or your foot, or whatever is in relation to you? I tend to also know where things and other people are in relation to me. With that kind of certainty, not just by looking at them. So maybe think of when your leg falls asleep – you know where your leg down to about the knee is, but you have no real idea at all where your foot is without looking at it.

    That is the best I can think of as analogy to suddenly losing the world around me as a part of myself. When that happens, if the floor and my feet and the people around me were all part of whatever sense of self I had, suddenly they are all seperate and I’ve no idea where any of them begin/end/are.

    It definitely does affect normal activities, because for instance, I’ve yet to figure out how to walk well when it’s a conscious movement. Walking tends to be a habitual movement, and I can’t reproduce a comfortable gait when I have to consciously keep track of my feet (usually end up watching them most of the time just in case they do something weird). I much prefer not being reminded that I’m seperate from things around me… Like you can totally unconsiously avoid hitting your hands together when they’re both moving, I am usually aware (not quite the word I want, but I can’t think of a better one) of things around me and can totally unconsiously not run into them.

  25. I get this feeling from time to time. I even get feelings like that for places I don’t consider “my own”. It’s just “my area” and it feels like I’m wired into everything or that everything is an extension foldout of me although it’s the part, (like you mention) that one isn’t in control of. (just like various other parts of me though and so it seems like there is not much difference). Over time, I even got an attitude of indifference that might be seen as hyposensitivity. Someone could touch my arm, pick it up, put it on a book etc. I think it was exhaustion and learning not to respond to fear of pain so much as to pain itself although logically, I still would respond to seeing someone try to poke my arm.

  26. So is this one reason that autistics like say Sue Rubin have the need to carry certain objects around? The texture or the hardness of it identifies this is where my hand ends and the spoon or whatever begins ? Its also explains why “researchers” way back when would say that people with MR could feel no pain. If your sensitivity was all messed up (and i am thinking of amputees who experience phantom pain)then it would be hard to connect an injury with whatever happened to cause the injury.Not to mention the fact that they have to focus on putting a foot that has no sensation in the correct spot while at the same time feeling that its doing something else totally unrelated to what they are doing. At least thats been my impression of what I have read.
    I can see now why there are such high incidences of abuse. The person doing the abusing is expecting a certain type of reaction -doesnt get it and so responds with even more abuse. Right ?Wrong ?

  27. I would not presume to know why Sue Rubin carries spoons, that’s for her to figure out.

    I am pretty sure that’s not the reason I carry blocks, though, although I could not give a full explanation of why I do any more than Sue Rubin can for her spoons.

    The “researchers” way back when who said that stuff about us not feeling pain, were more guided by prejudice than anything. They said babies and children do not feel pain too, and non-human animals. I know a woman who was autistic but not regarded as MR at the time, who had a major spinal fusion surgery and only got one day worth of painkillers after because she was a kid and “kids don’t feel pain,” and I know tons of people with worse stories.

    Even though some people really don’t feel pain the same way others do, the statement “They don’t feel pain like we do” is almost always not a reaction truly to the person not appearing to feel pain, but a reaction to cognitively totally blotting out the personhood of the person in question. It’s dehumanization at work, at some of its ugliest and worst.

    And some people’s lack of outward response to pain comes from repeated and systematic conditioning to view all external displays of pain as “bad behavior” until it becomes second nature, the system is replete with stories of people who had incredibly severe things that would land most people in bed and they ended up trying to go to work or whatever anyway, because they were so terrified of punishment, and even if they collapsed, this was treated as willful misbehavior, not pain. Our displays of pain are also systematically erased when they do occur.

    So if some of us do not feel pain in typical ways, that is coincidental to the stereotype, probably not a cause of it, because the stereotype has existed for several other people. I have read some of the old papers where they described “retarded” people as showing “frustration” or “anger” or “anxiety” and other emotional responses when seriously injured, because they were thought to show no pain so all they showed was taken as not-pain but rather emotional. That’s the level of brainwashing some people do to themselves.

    So… yeah, that’s almost undoubtedly not where it came from.  There are so many categories of people thought “not to feel pain,” that undoubtedly some people within some of the categories really don’t, but it is not by looking at those particular exceptions that the stereotypes began, they began with just sheer outright dehumanization.

  28. I probably didn’t explain that right. The analogy to one’s leg falling asleep was the best analogy I could think of, but numbness wasn’t what I was focusing on. More the disconnected feeling. It’s not that I have no sensation in the parts of my body I’ve temporarily lost…

    Well I am unsure how else to explain it really. Having other things included in my sense of self is the more common situation. I am pretty new to thinking of things like this as anything besides some totally weird perceptual hallucination I could never explain to anyone, actually.

    And I certainly couldn’t tell you why anyone carries things around with them, can’t even tell you why I do particularly. I think there’s a pretty large number of reasons.

  29. thanks. now you have taken me down a completely different path of awareness. The idea that to show pain is to have bad behaviour!! That is just so incredible. I’m realizing more and more how much of “reactions” are simply responses to being dehumanized. I would think too that years of being treated like that (having to live with the fight or flight response but not being allowed to do either) would really do something to crash your response system to. Ok translated if someone is attacking you on a regular basis and you cant either fight or run your body has to respond someway and eventually that has to affect you physically. What bothers me is that so far as I know there aren’t many people in the psychology field who are even willing to help people who have been deinstitutionalized(or just reated like dirt anyway) to deal with all this stuff. I mean they give counseling for people who have lived through traumatic experiences why should it be different for those who cant talk ??

  30. ok this may be way off-track because the causes at work are different. And please excuse if i use some words in a wrong way. still trying to understand…

    but i wonder what it would take to convince your body and/or brain of some middle ground between the times when you don’t ‘viscerally realize’ that your space is not part of YOU and the times when you let people do anything to YOU and your space becos you don’t ‘viscerally realize’ that they don’t have the right? I mean could it be done by practicing, somehow?

    i was realizing from the comments in another post about inner life that the problem with inner life is it’s like the TARDIS, you know, it’s bigger inside. becos like your inner thoughts can go in the places of your house that you can’t see, can go in the places that you read about in books, can go and converse with the people whose words you read… there is a connection here but i can’t quite make it…

  31. I think there’s evidence that much of the therapy to do with traumatic experiences actually makes them worse. Certainly, there’s no way I’d go near therapy these days anyway since it’s part of what got me into this mess, and often it just perpetuates this kind of thing.

    There’s a very simple but powerful poem written about the kind of situations you describe, though. The author of the poem, S. Marie (a pseudonym, she wrote a book called CAPTÏV) was writing about child abuse within a family, but this is a very good description of the effects.

    They told me:
    Don’t be ugly,
    Don’t be pretty.
    Don’t be stupid,
    Don’t be smart.
    Don’t be loud,
    Don’t be shy.
    Don’t be here,
    Don’t be there.
    Don’t be wrong,
    Don’t be right.
    Don’t be sad,
    Don’t be glad.
    Don’t be sick,
    Don’t be well.

    Don’t be.

    Within psychiatry the word for the effects of living under that constant level of simultaneous bombardment and helplessness is ‘complex PTSD’, although I have a lot of trouble with psychiatric illness-type metaphors (and I view most psychiatric diagnoses as metaphorical) for awful experiences.

    Interestingly, although institutions are a classic environment for developing this ‘complex PTSD’ thing, psychiatry never mentions them. (You can read more about the standard-psychiatry view of this here.

    I’m going to do a really long quote from an interview I did with a friend of mine on the subject of institutions, and since the interview is super-long I’ll just quote part of it that has to do with how my responses were altered:

    Laura: [The experience of institutionalization] makes me different. I’ve been away from it long enough that I don’t think I currently have any active sort of psych survivor behavior. But I can certainly spot them in other people…

    Amanda: What kind of behavior?

    Laura: Oh gee. I spotted it in you right away. How do I describe it? You were an obvious case of it. You had a kind of submissiveness that is not so much… it is a kind of submissiveness but it’s not submission in any kind of normal way. Especially since you were oftentimes looking for where the rules were, so you could follow the rules. Without necessarily appreciating the fact that there weren’t necessarily any rules for any particular event or… I don’t know how to describe it. You were waiting or looking for the institution around you, as if, it’s like, “Where is it, it’s hiding here somewhere!” This is not necessarily a very constructive behavior out in the real world, because it is particularly passive in many ways, and because it is sort of like looking around for it. I really got a sense that you were looking around all the time for the rules. And terribly terrified that you were violating all the rules. And meanwhile not necessarily getting what actually should be done, because you were busy looking for the rules. It’s a paradox there.

    You had real problems with initiative, and since in the real world initiative is kind of what you actually have to do, the fact that you really had serious problems with initiative, combined with the fact that you were always looking for the rules, made for a really bad combination.

    That’s something I see, but I certainly wouldn’t consider it the only thing I’d look for, if that makes any sense. Another thing, certainly, for you, was that you could not deal with the possibility that you’d done anything wrong without total panic. And that, simply telling you, simply correcting you in any way shape or form, created instant and total and absolute panic and terror and whatnot. And this makes perfect sense to me, because if you violate the rules, if you’ve done something wrong, in an institution, to the point where they’d point anything out at you, that means you’re in deep danger. So you may very well find yourself at the end of life-threatening abuse. And therefore it was very difficult to communicate things to you at times because you couldn’t deal with a correction just as a correction, because to you a correction meant a very dangerous situation indeed. Which isn’t normally what it is in the real world, but it certainly is exactly what it is in institution-land.

    Amanda: And then there were the apologies…

    Laura: Oh yes. The neverending… to properly read the apologies, read them as “Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me! Please! Don’t beat me up, don’t tie me down, don’t torture me!” Which, I obviously had no plans on doing any of the above, but again you were reacting to the situation as if you were still in the psych hospital. And that obviously wasn’t the case, but again that’s a typical PTSD sort of thing. And I certainly understand it very well, because that kind of an experience really makes an imprint on a person for life. You can’t go through that experience of reaching that absolute bottom level of human experience without being seriously affected by it.

    Amanda: As I recall it wasn’t just actions I was afraid of, it was thoughts.

    Laura: Oh yes, of course. I didn’t go through that, but then I didn’t go through brainwashing. You did. I fortunately spent most of my time in places where they kind of throw you in there, lock you up, and kind of forget about you. I think the only time I ever saw doctors at state hospitals was when I was being admitted and when I was being released. So there was nobody there playing warp-your-brain with me.

    Except for one thing: People had occasionally attempted psychotherapy with me outside of those kind of places, and fortunately I was able to get away from it, because I had no special orders to make me go through it. And my experience is that that stuff really twists your mind around. Given a choice between psychotherapy and getting drugged, I would easily pick getting drugged. It’s one thing to have your brain deadened — of course the third choice do neither of the above is my first choice — but, it’s one thing to suppress one’s thought and it’s another thing to get it all twisted up.

    Psychotherapy messes with the brain. It basically tells you up is down and right is left and whatever. And especially when one is experiencing that level of badness, one is very vulnerable. I mean it is precisely the kind of thing that people who try to brainwash other people, the kind of environment they try to generate, because at that point people are very vulnerable, and you’re more likely to get them to do anything. I think it’s not accidental that what’s been happening to prisoners in Iraq, the things that they were doing to break down the prisoners, it makes a lot of sense. Terrorize people and humiliate them and make them feel as vulnerable as possible, and in fact people do tend to become emotionally and mentally vulnerable as well.

    And so psychotherapy in that context can really mess one up. I mean all it takes is a therapist who thinks they know everything about you, they know all about your life, they know what you’re thinking, they know what you should think, they know what you’re experiencing, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And they tell you about what they know, and they tell you what you should know. Whether or not it has anything to do with reality.

    They can really badly warp one to the point where, I never got to that point but I could easily picture it going to a stage where you truly did not know who you were. Just completely turning a person inside out and upside-down. And I think you had that experience. I didn’t, but I can certainly see it happening. And that kind of manufacture of an unperson is… is just… very bad. And I think that’s very much what was done to you. And I merely had enough of it to be aware of what could happen. And I’m very happy that I did not have to put up with much of it, courtesy of, hooray, bad insurance!

    That’s probably a more thorough summary of my mental state right after getting out than anything else would be. There were a lot of things where, I had to learn, or relearn, what was even a possibility, because even conceiving of them as a possibility had been too dangerous before.

    I can even remember Laura making me repeat “I am allowed to think my own thoughts,” and I can in detail remember believing that she was trying to get me killed, and that if I even thought that, I would be. (This was something I’d been told by that really wacked-out Ericksonian hypnotherapist shrink I talked about earlier.) That’s the level of “stuff I am not allowed to do” that I was totally unaware and/or terrified of at the time.

    I don’t even remember how long it took me to figure out that I had a kitchen, not “kitchen privileges”. That was another big one. Rights and ordinary belongings were things I saw as privileges that I was probably not worthy of, when I saw them at all, and quite often I did not even notice that things like rights existed.

    I might even make this into another post, because it touches on something important, and it’s getting long.

    But at any rate, what you get when you get a prolonged state like that, is a person where all of their thoughts and emotions are tangled and bent in really unnatural ways. All cognitive effort goes into maintaining the status of being a nobody, and preferably an unnoticeable nobody, even if these efforts make the person more noticeable.

    What psychiatry doesn’t get into, is that there’s a level on which they can’t touch you even then.

  32. The Brain
    The Brain – is wider than the Sky
    For – put them side by side –
    The one the other will contain
    With ease – and you – beside

    Emily Dickinson 1830-1886

    Just found this quote on this website:
    http://www.mindroom.org/
    Sorry to E.D. if i got the word/type arrangement wrong.
    Know how annoying that is, maybe even for dead poets.

  33. I kind of have the opposite. I often don’t think of my lower body as part of me. My theory is that it’s because I was sexually abused (I rejected that part of my body) but it could be an autistic thing, I suppose.

  34. ballastexistenz,

    you said:

    “I had a psychologist in one institution who claimed to be able to read my thoughts, and later told me he was going to climb into my head and change my thoughts, and that he was never going to leave my head no matter what I did. He also said he was going to kill the person I was internally and replace me with somebody different.”

    As an admittedly NT (Neuro-Typical), it sounds to me like the psychologist you are refering to is in dire need of a straight jacket! What a loon! There is nothing worse than a meglomaniac like that being in charge of the asylum!!!!

    Yeah, like he can enter your head! What a moron. If he can enter your head and replace your thoughts with his then, I am Superman and can fly. The “good doctor” sounds like he might be kin to Charlie Manson.

    I shudder to think that you have had to endure the trauma of being placed under the “care” of creeps like this!

  35. I kind of have the opposite. I often don’t think of my lower body as part of me.

    Ettina, I sort of feel that way, too, but for some different unknown reason, as nothing like that ever happened to me.
    In my case I just sort of ignored certain parts of my body, thinking I would never really get around to using them… I was wrong, cos when I got married I had to learn a lot of stuff that I had ignored before.
    It turned out ok, but I still think of “that…” (instead of “my…” that is part of me).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s