Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wishing It Was & Making It Happen

This morning I was dancing in my living room (something I do for exercise and brain chemistry therapy), listening to Santana's Supernatural. One of the songs, "Wishing it Was," perfectly describes the dilemma of bad brain chemistry.  Here are some of the lyrics:  "Beauty and grace is what touches me most / Good times can put me in fear / I always feel safe when things are bad / So I cannot let you come near / It seems that I thrive on the dark side of things / I always feel alive when death bell rings / Now you come and bring out the tears in me."

As I explained in my theory of bad brain chemistry, the hyper-alert or super-observant person feels anxious because she is aware of the dangers or potential dangers around her.  Once she figures out where that danger is coming from and deals with it--by fighting or running away from it--she feels better. But for those of us who live in a relatively safe environment, real dangers are few and far between.  Yet despite the absence of danger, the hyperalert (HA) person still feels anxious.  He wants to fix the anxiety, but in order to do so, he must find the source of that anxiety and deal with it.  That's pretty hard to do, of course, when it doesn't exist.  So he comes up with a source of danger, something not too difficult to do if he has any kind of imagination.  Once he identifies the "danger," then he can respond to it and feel better.

I think the seemingly paradoxical statement from the speaker in the song--"I always feel safe when things are bad"--illustrates my point quite well.  If things are going well for him, he gets anxious, because he knows danger is lurking somewhere: "Good times put me in fear."  But once he responds to the danger, he feels better: "I always feel alive when the death bell rings." 

But the line that is the most poignant, and perhaps most indicative of the bad brain chemistry dilemma is this one: "So I cannot let you come near."  He can't allow himself to be happy with someone he loves because that makes him unhappy.

Here's the chorus of the song: "Pain never makes me cry, but happiness does / It's so strange to watch your life walk by / Wishing it was / Wishing it was more like a fantasy / Where every day surprises me / Wishing it was."

He'd like to have a "fantasy" life where he enjoys the "surprises" of life, but he can't.  To me, surprise has a good connotation: something you don't expect happens to you, and you're pleased.  If something unexpected happens to an anxious person, he's afraid.  That's not going to work in a love relationship because part of getting to know someone is exploring the differences, delighting in the strangeness of the other.  For the hyperalert person, the stranger is a threat that must be escaped from or destroyed.

The last part of the song shows his regret over the way he is: "This feeling won't last cause I cannot survive / I tell you I've been here before / When it's moving this fast / It's a matter of time / One of us walks out the door." He chooses to escape the danger of a relationship before it goes too far.

In the wild, animals only explore the strange other when they feel safe.  Bad brain chemistry interferes with the natural inclination to explore, to socialize, to pair-bond because it won't allow the person to feel safe when she is safe.

And that's what I struggle to do every day--make the bad brain chemistry go away so I can enjoy the good things in life.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Hidden Face of Bad Brain Chemistry

At 4:30 this morning I woke up, as I usually do, but was unable to fall back to sleep.  I remembered that my mother is once again threatening to leave the nursing home and move back in with my sister, despite the fact that she is well cared for in a very nice home. Even she admits it's a nice home, which is a big admission for her.  Then I remembered all the other times over the years that she and my father and my sister have made terrible decisions.  Of course, when that would happen I'd be angry and frustrated because I care about them and the pain they go through when things go wrong. I always hope they will listen to me or learn from their mistakes, but it seems as if they seldom do.  They refuse to plan ahead or anticipate the consequences of their decisions until it's too late and the die has been cast.

Ah well, it's not as if I've never made a bad decision.  I do know, though, that many bad decisions are the result of bad brain chemistry.  For instance, when I'm in the throes of depression or fear or rage, I just want out of it, and will do anything to make a change to my mood.  In the past, I would change my mood by changing my life--quit my job, move to a new state, etc.  I've since learned that all I needed to do was make the bad brain chemistry go away.  And making it go away is simple--I just do some scanning activity, such as playing Solitaire.  Exercise helps too.  Or writing, as I'm doing now.

I can't control other people, and I guess I don't really want to.  I just want them to know what I know--that brain chemistry is controlling them, but they can do something about it.  They can help themselves before they do something they'll regret.  They can get a handle on bad brain chemistry.

Of course, knowing what to do and doing it are two different things.  Rage is a manifestation of bad brain chemistry that's particularly difficult to control, I've found.  When I'm in a rage, I lash out before I can remember that it's just bad brain chemistry, that it's a response to fear, and that how I'm about to respond--yell at my boss or pass on a curve, for instance--is probably way over the top and may be quite risky.

How to keep from letting bad brain chemistry rule?  Recognize it for what it is.  Don't be fooled by the disguise.  What looks like righteous indignation may really be craven fear.  What seems like a rational decision based on facts is underneath an irrational decision based on bad brain chemistry and trumped up evidence.  Be suspicious of speed.  Most decisions don't have to be made immediately, so what's the hurry?

Again, not so easy when the mood is upon me.  But I keep working on it.  And I'll keep posting my progress here.