Involuntary non-movements.


The following was my contribution to a private discussion about the way our own neurological oddities made us think about reality, consciousness, perception, etc.  (My first paragraph came about mostly because someone used the word “phenomonology”, which I have only once heard before.) There’s much more I could add to such a discussion, but the following are the words that actually left my fingers. 

I remember once managing to describe to a condescending professional a little of what my experience of the world was like. He told me that he had “once been interested in phenomenology” but later found out it was meaningless. Which I found rather insulting, the idea that the way he experienced the world was likely something he considered meaningful (at least he seemed to for all that he always seemed to talk about it) but the way I did was meaningless. (He also seemed of the belief that it’s only ‘phenomenology’ if it’s a ‘defective’ person’s experience, not his, which he called among other things ‘wisdom’ and tried to mold me into.) Personally I’ve always found different people’s experiences interesting rather than pointless. 

I’ve often found that coming at language/thought/movement/perception/etc. from “below” rather than “above” (not value judgements in either direction, just ways I conceive of such things) gives me a perspective on these things that seems unusual. I’d never thought of it as philosophy (because the academic discipline of philosophy has mostly proven too abstract for me to penetrate deeply), but it certainly makes me think about reality and perception thereof. 

One of the weird things of the moment for me comes from a new level of motor oddity where what used to be unintentional movements (“stimming”, “ticcing”, and the like) that took place in outwardly observable parts of my body, now more than half the time take place only in my head. I can feel them trying to happen (in a way that feels like someone else thinking a thought for me, except the thought is a pre-movement intention rather than my usual thoughts; pre-movement intention as in comparable to what happens to me when I consciously try to move but it doesn’t find its way to my body). This can even take the form of an entire screaming, head-banging, thrashing meltdown, taking place entirely in that pre-movement realm where only I can feel it, while my body just goes inert. (No, not all my appearance to have gained self-control is my doing.) Involuntary or semi-voluntary movements and lack of (or difficulty with) voluntary movement have always been part of my life, but it is very weird to experience involuntary non-movements as it were. It makes me wonder about such strange intersections of what are already in-between areas of consciousness. 


About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Developmentally disabled, physically and cognitively disabled. 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 in 2014 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.

8 responses »

  1. I realize this is not the same…but I do understand what you mean by involuntary non-movements. I don’t know if I am on the spectrum though I do think it’s quite obvious I fit the “broad autistic phenotype,” but I have a few self-harming bad habits (though on occasion I’ve wondered if it was more like a stim). And there have been times when, as I am drifting off to sleep and going still, I can “feel” myself involuntarily engage in said habits, even though I am not physically carrying out the motion. Sometimes it’s upsetting to me, because I don’t want to be doing this thing, and even in my head I can’t seem to stop.

    Oh…and I don’t understand how it is that doctor wouldn’t be interested in others’ experiences. I may be wrong, but I think it speaks to a certain lack of humility for him not to accept that others’ experiences are worth something.

  2. I think I can relate to that. I have tics and part of those tics is that I am aware of the sensation of moving and that sometimes that sensation happens a split second before I actually do move. Anyway, when I was placed on medication to control my tics they helped control the actual expression of the tics but they didn’t remove the feeling that I was “ticcing inside.”

    It was a wholly unpleasant experience.

    Physiologically speaking this phenomenon isn’t that hard to explain. What happens when you execute a complex task is that your brain first prototypes the movement by activating motor circuitry in advance of the actual movement and then disinhibiting said circuits which allows them to execute their function.

    Anyway, hearing that you have tics too I’m going to have to do some research on autism and tics. My tics have always been treated as a completely separate issue which might be because the neurologist who handles my movement issues believes that because I can communicate verbally I’m not autistic. To the research!

  3. Hmmmn.

    I don’t know anything about the subject, but what you are describing sounds like it could be related to “phantom limb” sensations that amputees experience.

  4. The Untoward Lady: That actually makes some sense, as the movement disorder I have that appears to be why these movements happen less these days (it used to only affect more purely voluntary movements), resembles (probably involves similar brain functions) the same things that happen to people on the kind of medication most commonly used for tics.

  5. I was just listening to a podcast of a lecture on neurology.

    There’s a part where phantom limb pain is talked about. Apparently people can have paralyzed or non-paralyzed phantom limbs. The explanation for the feeling of moving a phantom limb was explained as due to motor commands in the brain being CC’ed (as in “carbon copied”) to some non-motor part of the brain. I didn’t catch the names of the parts, though (only on the first listen so far).

    There’s also a part about synesthesia.

    Anyway, thought it might be of interest:

    “What Neurology can tell us about human nature”
    Princeton University
    V. S. Ramachandran
    October 15, 2009

    I downloaded it via iTunes; I’m not sure if it’s available other ways or not.

  6. I’ve often noticed that when I get visualizations, like a visualization of banging my head into something, it likes my emotions are trying to send me a signal that I’m over-whelmed. I don’t know if this relates to what you’ve been experiencing or not.

  7. Some researchers have actually argued that without words we cannot remember what happened to us, saying that babies have very poor memory because they can’t speak yet. Words define reality to these people-“without language,” they say, “babies cannot logically create a sequence of events in their mind.”

    After reading this blog I find that view to be downright stupid. Just play with a baby animal, and you will see and touch the evidence that words are not needed for an understanding of sequence.

  8. feeling the need to do some movement or other kind of thing like this.
    but don’t doing it.
    It can be very… I don’t know the best word to use… painful, upsetting or like the untoward lady said, unpleasant.
    I think i know how it feels, i don’t like it.

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