So, I read this Cracked article about how anxiety can ruin going to the movies. I didn’t expect to identify with the story as much as I did and I certainly didn’t think I’d have any “aha” moments. But I did.
First, the headline. This title was taken from a line of a scientific study about heightened empathy in people with social anxiety. Only they called it “social phobia”.
Anyway, I read the link to a scientific study about heightened empathy in the super anxious. Well, I kind of read the link. Once it got to the graphs and formulas they used to measure anxiety, my eyes glazed over. They were already glassy, but the graphs lost me.
The article discussed what must happen for the maintenance of social phobia.
Maintenance means work. I suck at maintenance. My car is 6000 miles overdue for an oil change. And our furnace has been wonky for at least 8 years. I am a master of bad maintenance.
However, it seems I am extremely efficient at maintaining social phobia.
Why am I doing this? Why can’t I just stop? Why can’t I suck at all maintenance instead of the things that always end up costing me money I don’t have?
I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. I have to try to read the paper again. I really tried, you guys, but I am not a scientist, so I had to plod through the study. They referred to “social phobia” as “SP” and I had to keep going back to see what “SP” stood for, so I was off to a rocky start. Also, I had to read the “Theory of Mind” part a few times. I’ve already forgot the theory. My work days are still hectic as shit after a software implementation. I don’t want to think that hard after working all day.
Hahahahaha…in the spirit of honesty, even if I read the article on a Saturday morning with a clear and rested head, I would struggle with it.
I’m going to take learning about maintaining something I hate as a good thing.
I think any time I examine something difficult from a different angle, it helps. Even if I’m tired all the goddamn time because of doing goddamn maintenance on my anxiety.
The other thing I learned was an explanation of why I hate watching any super awkward scenes on television or in movies.
I hate when characters are humiliated or embarrassed or caught in compromising positions. I find it physically painful to watch.
It’s not a matter of distaste, like my distaste of old war movies or anything starring John Wayne. I mean it makes me hurt. Like I’m feeling what that character would be feeling. It’s because of that heightened empathy thing.
The author talked about shows which comforted him and how horror was something he found comforting. I completely get that. That’s why I watch television shows with vampires and werewolves and zombies. It’s scary, but not real. I can be a little scared and still feel safe because they’re not real.
The possibility of humiliating myself is very real.
I’m good at it. I worry about embarrassing myself at least a few minutes out of every hour. Then, sometimes I do embarrass myself, like the time I face planted in my boss’s office. I catalog those instances. I replay them as they happened and cringe through the memory or I make up an alternate ending where I cleverly save face.
No way can I be entertained by watching someone humiliate themselves, that’s my least favorite thing next to being on fire.
Also, try as I may, I can’t find a way to imagine falling flat on my face in my boss’s office in a positive way. The scenario just doesn’t exist.
So, I loved this guy. I read his Cracked article a few times and think I’d like to sit and watch a movie with him. Nothing stressful. Scary is okay. But it has to be scary, not a slasher movie. On a scale from Young Frankenstein to Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I am about a Poltergeist.
I suppose it is never a bad thing to gain understanding about ourselves. I’m still a little butthurt over the phobia maintenance thing, though.
Okay, I need one of you to remind me to get my oil changed this weekend.
Photo courtesy of Jakob Orisek