Friday, January 20, 2017

Crowds .............. or, Mysanthopy Managed

I am socially introverted. This hasn't always been the case, but since my teens it certainly has been. I also primarily use an Intuitive learning style (Ni), rather than a Sensory one like 75% of the rest of the population. These two things together mean that I haven't really ever fit in. It has always been hard for me to make friends and for other people to understand me.

I have been cynical for a while. Part of that is because of feeling ostracized, part is because I see the flaws with systems very well. A healthy amount of cynicism is perfectly fine, I just have no idea where healthy stops.
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Cynicism in the Army was fine. They don't really care. What I learned is that there is a time and place for cynicism. During the process of plan creation, for instance. Good leaders like to see how their plans might fail so that fixes or contingencies can be put in place. What didn't work so well was when I added PTSD to the mix. For me, the combination had three results: depression, nihilism, and misanthropy.
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I kind of made peace with my nihilism. I even learned to keep my mouth shut about it (which was the tricky part). I fight every day with depression and misanthropy. Mostly my misanthropy isn't an active problem. It is more of a background noise. I don't really know how to break it. It isn't a clinical diagnosis, it is more of an outlook. There is no medication for it, nor are there any procedures to fix it. I think it comes from the horrible first impression that I give (for all the reasons listed above, plus I am not classically handsome).
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The other wonderful gift of PTSD is paranoia. So you put all of it together and you have someone who is a hairs width from throwing in the towel and calling myself agoraphobic, or at least a hermit. Let me walk you through a scenario. I went to my daughter's play. My paranoia mandated that I be there in time to scope the place out and get my choice of seat (usually near an exit, preferably in the back so I can see everyone). My misanthropy wants me to be as far away from other people as possible. Inevitably someone will sit near me, no matter where I sit, and want to engage in small talk. I have expressed my disdain for small talk in another post. I just want to tell them that they are wasting their time, that I have no societal affirmations for them.
When I talk to my therapist about this type of thing I am told to go out anyway.

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So, by now you are asking how I function. The secret is in my realization that I am not in hostile environments. Although the pulse pounding action isn't an indication of safety, I still know that the Grandmother sitting behind me isn't going to attack me. It is unsettling to be in that situation, but I just rationalize my way through. Sometimes it works better than other times. The other thing I do is conscientiously monitor and control my breathing. I know that sounds like a weird thing, but by controlling my breathing I am able to slightly lower my pulse and blood pressure. It isn't much, but sometimes it is enough. It also gives me something to focus on other than outside stimulus, and makes me feel like I have some control over what my body is doing. The feeling of no control is a pretty scary thing. I am not so delusional as to think that I have control of autonomic processes in my body, just that I can effect them slightly. 

If you suffer like I suffer, or differently. Give this breathing strategy a try. Breathe in for four seconds through your nose then out for four seconds. It doesn't seem to matter if I breathe out of my nose or mouth. I find it way more convenient to breathe out of my nose. You look more in distress if you are breathing out of your mouth every four seconds. Make sure that you are counting in your head. Counting makes you concentrate on the breathing. This technique is just as much about mental distraction as it is breathing. I have looked someone in the eyes while they were talking and been completely focused on my breathing. It makes you seem like a good listener, which is ironic because I have no idea what that person was saying.

Do you have other strategies? I would love to hear them. Leave a comment below and we can talk about it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Analysis Paralysis ..............or, Why I'm Broke.

Mantra: Done is Better than Perfect.
Cognitive process order: NiTeFiSe

When it comes to making decisions I tend to take into account as many variables as possible. The more familiar I am with a given situation the better the outcome (or more accurate the outcome) will be. The problem that I run into is that when not framed properly in my head the variables don't stop. I am always seeing new ways to do something, or new ways that things can go wrong. These become puzzles, large jigsaw puzzles with no clear borders that seem to go on forever.

With jigsaw puzzles it is common practice to start with the border pieces and work your way in. It gives you guidelines to work off of. Picture a jigsaw puzzle that has had the border pieces removed. Now imagine that you find one piece for your jigsaw puzzle every minute. The pieces all seem to fit somewhere. At what point do you stop putting pieces together? You don't know when your picture is complete, there are no borders. So you decide to stop putting together pieces once your puzzle has reached a decent size and it makes a clear image, only to find out that you had only completed a small section of the puzzle. The actual complete puzzle would have shown a totally different image. What do you do when you start getting handed pieces for the next puzzle? When do you stop putting pieces together? You don't want to miss the whole picture again (because in life that means bad choices that waste time and other resources).

So that is where I sit a lot of time. I find pieces everywhere, but I never know when to stop putting them on the puzzle. The more defined the situation the easier it is to make that decision. When I was in the military I would only work on certain things. My goals were well defined. If I didn't know where to stop there were plenty of people around me who would let me know. Once I was out of the Army there were no more people to stop me. Sayings like "you can be anything you want to be" do nothing but add to the number of pieces I want to include. As if there were a picture out there that would be perfect for me, only I can't seem to find it.

I, like all of you, have bills to pay. I took a job in security so that I can live while putting my puzzle together. I am at an age where opening my own business is the most desirable choice. But a business doing what? What picture completes that thought? As far as skill goes it doesn't really matter. I can learn anything. But what magical business is going to let me hit all the criteria I am searching for (money, time, ect). So I put pieces together. I have been burned by moving too fast to accept the picture that I need it to be full. My biggest fear is that I have had the completed picture for decades now without moving on it. All of that time wasted.

I think the puzzle metaphor is most easily understood by watching this video:

I know this one is kind of weird. If it doesn't make sense then please ask me questions so that I can clear it up.