Brain Survival

“You change context away from emotion much faster than I do,” said Performance Guy.   We sit for a coaching session, then at the end, I shift over to business to talk about how I am supporting his websites.

He finds my transitions fast and abrupt, going from showing real hurt and struggle to a cool business posture in a heartbeat.  He needs more time to shift gears,  isn’t used to snapping out of feeling and into thinking that quickly.

For me, the requirement to put my emotions on hold in a flash is a pure survival skill.  My experience of the world is that it is a place where things can go badly very fast and I need to be ready to get back my sharpness instantly.

Being emotional and out of control, even for a moment, is a luxury I have never experienced.   You only feel that way if you feel safe in the world, safe to be exposed and vulnerable, safe with others who will watch out for you, safe and protected in community.

My experience of life is waiting for the “third gotcha”

A top professional golfer who is offered an enormous sum to play a round. When they asked what handicap their opponent wanted, they were told “Three Gotchas.” They accepted the offer, and on the first hole, just as they were about to drive, their opponent rammed a hand between their legs and screamed “Gotcha!” which caused them to miss the shot. The same thing happened on the second green, just as they were about to putt. When the golfer got in the clubhouse, they had lost by seven strokes.  Someone asked why they had lost, and they replied “Have you ever tried to play 17 holes waiting for the third gotcha?”

I have been taught that my emotions are flawed, sick, weak and abusive to others.   I am not allowed them because they aren’t conventional, because they aren’t the way others assume I should feel.

I was called “Stupid” as a kid because I got my choices wrong.  Rather than instinctually trying to satisfy others, to fit in and be liked,  I asserted my own individuality.   That made me the target of abuse and stigma.

My instincts were seen as wrong, flawed, sick, terrifying and abusive.   They were something I had to control and suppress, to deny and disable.

I’m certainly not the only “too person” in the world — too smart, too intense, too queer, too whatever.     I’m not the only person who was taught to distrust and bury my own feelings and instincts.

One of my favourite quotes is from Nina Arsenault: I like doing stuff without knowing if I’m being ironic.   Her training is always to know her intent, to control and manage her expression, and her choices are almost always seen as ironic by others because they are not conventional.  All she wants, though, is the freedom to do stuff without having to know why, to be herself without the demand of continuous and deep self control coming first.

My experience of the world is simple: things are going to turn to shit and I have to be ready for that at all times.  Other people may be excited about possibilities and portents, about the direction that events might head, but my training is to believe it when I see it, and I don’t see things turning out well very often.

When things go bad, as they inevitably will, I need to be able to use my head to keep going.  My head is my armour, my Swiss Army knife, my solace.  It’s where I go to feel safe and cared for.

I’m certainly not the only transperson who has learned to live in their head.  ShamanGirl may have felt strong emotions facing some of those transpeople who need to put others down to put themselves up, the ones who play crabs-in-the-barrel, who spray their sickness across anyone trying to heal, but by trusting her head, she was able to find her centre and make some safe space for others at the party.

People who resist healing are people who come from emotion, especially the negative emotions of pain and rage, but are also those who choose to attack in an attempt to control the conversation and silence challenges against their sickness.    They are the people who have the luxury of manipulation and emotion.  Worse, they are the people who appeal to the primal emotions in others, encouraging them not to transcend messy and twisted emotions but to simply surrender to them.

To engage healing, to rise above, to stay stable and functional beyond the huge network of scars and damage, I need to be stay in my head even as I feel and express emotion. That’s why I can so quickly change context back to the intellectual.  I have been trained that my emotions are dangerous because they are too queer, and I have learned that my emotions are dangerous because they lead me into pain & hurt, not effective, conscious, considered response to those who want to silence and hurt me.

I know how easy it would be for me to slash out, expressing my pain, my frustration and my damage in a vivid way that is deeply emotional, but I also know that doesn’t read well on me.   My smarts are visible, so even if they are isolating, I am saddled with an obligation to use them.    If it is to be, it begins with me, and not with me operating out of the pure joy and love that I experience in the world, rather with me rising above the pain to do what I know to be the right thing.

For me, the requirement to put my emotions on hold in a flash is a pure survival skill.  My experience of the world is that it is a place where things can go badly very fast and I need to be ready to get back my sharpness instantly.

Being emotional and out of control, even for a moment, is a luxury I have never experienced.   You only feel that way if you feel safe in the world, safe to be exposed and vulnerable, safe with others who will watch out for you, safe and protected in community.   When you always have to watch your back because you travel alone, emotions don’t serve you, only focus does.

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