September 30, 2005
I found out that my company's parent company offers some free mental health counseling sessions. You call an 800 number for an assessment and then you have the option of setting up sessions with a local counselor or even scheduling further phone appointments. Since by the end of the assessment I had already rambled at the guy and it seemed easier to not have to travel to some office and back, I went with the phone option.
It's been interesting. Something Kevin (the counselor guy) has picked up on is how I subject almost everything I feel to an intense bit of rational inspection. He put it in terms of "shaping and hammering at an emotion until it becomes a thought"...an oddly poetic idea, the possibility of one being transmorgified into the other.
To be fair, I've been able to wield logic like a weapon since I was 9 or so, I have memories of mounting an argument about the immaculate conception vs Mary and Joseph just fooling around, deliberatly forcing the woman into a high stakes all-or-nothing position when it comes to traditional Christian faith. I remember her saying I had won her over by the end of it.
Kevin had another neat insight...I was talking about one not-useful behavior I'd been getting a handle on lately: endlessly returning to the same 2 or 3 websites--frequently-updated websites, but not as frequently as I'd been bouncing back to them--as a way of avoiding tasks that I didn't have confidence in solving. I had been labeling this behavior "noodling" after the musical "noodling" I've heard at Johnny D's jazz brunch, where some guy on xylophone and another on guitar just kind of sloppily and casually jazz around, noodle noodle noodle, no hooks, barely a rhythm.
Drawing the parallel between my negative behavior and that jazz stuff had been helping me to mend my ways, but Kevin was more interested in my disdain for free, light jazz improvisation. Based on other things I've discussed with him, he sees insisting on structure and order in many aspects of life. (Now, this might amuse some people who know me, because the first thing that comes to mind when seeing my desk at work, or (often) my living room is NOT "structure and order", but still...I think that might be an issue of "things whose structures matter, really matter, and things whose don't, really don't"--and that time and energy can "better" be devoted to other pursuits.)
This could also tie into the way I get really angry at some things that aren't the way they "should be"...traffic jams, computer hardware or complex system failures, or even some broken computer code that is resistant to analysis and repair. I've learned how to real this rage in, sometimes even surfing it and laughing at myself, like when I work to channel my aggression into a big continuous stream of non-repeating swear words. Overall, though, it's not one of my favorite things about myself.
Going further out on a limb, I wonder if the desire for logical order is tied into my intermitent problems with pointlessly exaggerated anxiety. My thinking might be that if this contains some new unexpected problems, who knows what kind of further unexpected problems might be waiting in the wings to blindside us? And who knows if we'll be able to cope. Could this have its roots in a childhood full of moving around every year or two, a certain instability? Or the death of my dad when I was 14? I don't know...though like I said, there's evidence that the "rationality" predates the loss of my father.
Of course the ability to analyze and think about emotions isn't all negative...it lets one isolate causes and effect and make specific positive changes. The question is figuring out when it becomes negative, creating a feedback loop where emotion becomes thought which then bends back and squelches or warps the emotion. Actually, there's even the question if a deliberate (and rational) effort can do much to change that loop, or if it's too ingrained than that.
Hmmm! Sorry this got so long! I'll try to get back to your regular scheduled kisraeling tomorrow.
Quote and Article of the Moment
But the critics are missing the beauty of this new theory. Because the really great thing about intelligent design is that it takes all the awkward uncertainty out of science. It says, "You know those damn theoretical gaps and conundrums that send microbiology graduate students into dank basement laboratories at 3 a.m.? They don't need to be resolved at all. Go back to bed, sleepy little grad students. God fills those gaps."
--Dahlia Lithwick, Mind the Gap, a pretty scathing attack on ID, Intelligent Design. Also in Slate, William Saletan wrote a more relaxed piece on how "there's no there"...ID is just a negative response to Darwnism, it only pretends to explain anything.