Monday, June 21, 2010

The chambers of my mind

It has been mostly in the last year that I began forcing myself into a more "introspective" mode, practicing mindfulness, and basically making an effort to understand why my brain doesn't let me do what I want to do.

I used to think, that if I took up the task of understanding human behaviour, and tried to become more skilled with non-verbal communication, that I could learn how to be a normal human and everything would be fine and dandy and I could have a normal life.

Because I have never had what can be called a normal life. I can barely remember events from my childhood and teenage years because my mind has changed so much. Much of that time was spent being extremely confused, and alone. I had a couple friends, but much of the time I was left sitting around wondering why the other kids were laughing at me.

But...nope. I was quite disappointed to find, that although in my imagination I am able to reproduce all kinds of social situations and act accordingly, in real life I still come across as an idiotic weirdo.

In theory, I can understand the actions and motives of others, and how I should respond appropriately, or, how to express myself. But when I am within the situation, it is not possible for me to do so. This is because my consciousness is hyper-focused, and I can't even multi-talk enough to listen to what someone is saying, pay attention to their behaviour, and think and talk at the same time.

I can't be in all of my brain at once. I can never just "be myself".

There are a lot of studies that describe problems with white matter connectivity in autism, differences in the corpus callosum (the thingy that connects your two brains) or mini-columns. This means that there are problems with long distance communication in different areas of the brain. This seems to be very true in my case.

For me, I can only really "use" one hemisphere of my brain at a time. There are a lot of processing delays for tasks that switch between hemispheres.

The two hemispheres of the brain are differentiated in a number of ways, which I won't bother to explain, but basically the right brain handles global processing, different types of attention, conceptual and metaphorical thought, emotions and empathy, and some types of creativity. The left handles contextual, fact based, sequential, logical thought, and other stuff like music.

When my consciousness is situation in my right brain, it feels like the other half is in the darkness, waiting. When I'm there, I find it much easier to observe the environment, because it's easier to "see the big picture", and interpret gestures and facial expressions. BUT- in this place I do not have a very high vocabulary, and it is difficult to think in some ways. So while I can listen, and watch, it is very difficult to respond in the way I would like to respond.

Since I do not have very many verbal thoughts, translating my thoughts can be difficult in the right hemisphere, having a smaller vocabulary of often used words. It's like I'm floating in the ocean, scrambling to pull together debris to build a raft. I can only grab and use what is close to me.

This means my wording is often very clumsy, and I often come across as a nonsensical simple-minded idiot. When in this mode, half the words that come out of my mouth are inadequate representations of my thoughts. It is easier for me to type my thoughts, than it is to speak. This has absolutely nothing to do with anxiety, or having words "on the tip of your tongue". It doesn't matter what mood I'm in, or if I'm constructing thought out loud, or within my mind. I think that bothers me the most, and it is extremely frustrating to experience. I would never be recruited for a debate team.

In opposition, when I am in the left side, the library of my brain, I can articulate myself far easier, and recall information much more easily. BUT- I can't really look at someone at the same time, or be very communicative, and pay attention to my environment. If I do this, I experience cognitive traffic jams, and discomfort.

I think this is the reason why it's far easier to talk about information, or "facts", than it is to talk about myself or construct arguments. It's like pulling a book off a shelf. It's already written.

So I am stuck in either "transmitting mode", or "receiving mode", and being in both places at once, to be fully aware and a whole person, is nearly impossible. If it happens at all, it is for very brief moments.

I have to poke my consciousness around like an amoeba, directing it to where I want it to go, and which process I want to focus on. I cannot simply desire to speak, and speak. I cannot simply want to hear music in my head, and hear music. I first have to re-arrange my mind in order to do that.

This is not immediate. There are delays in switching processes, which may be 6-10 seconds.

I also can't concentrate on speaking and adequately feel my body in space at the same time. I often feel half of my body more than the other. I have always been clumsy, and while I'm getting better at it, I often have bruises. It is also very difficult to imagine an objective understanding of the environment, and what other people are thinking.

There is a large, impassable cavern between understanding, and being.

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