Tag: Psychology

We all know the James Baldwin quote about how being black and relatively conscious means being in a rage all the time. This is also the plight of the black journalist. If you think consuming black death day in and day out can be remedied by some “emotional distance” and “journalistic integrity,” you are wrong.

From Black Journalists and Covering the Storm That Never Passes by Danielle C. Belton

Dreams all through the night alternated between horror and dystopia, until one this morning about breaking to a communal household my idea for a better toilet.

When cobbling together my Locus books post, I experienced another time dilation, wherein the length of time that had passed since I read certain books did not make any sense at all to me and surely it wasn’t a year ago that I read The Raven Tower and surely it wasn’t November when I read A Memory Called Empire — but it was, and I’m unnerved.

It’s not at all the point of the thing but in the latest edition of Why is this interesting? there’s a paragraph about kids crying that sent me to a very particular place.

This kind of fits one of my long-standing theories about kids: that they’re mostly right about things. It started with observing my children when they were little babies and trying to avoid the urge to do root cause analysis every time they cried. I’m not sure whether this was more for me or for them, but I eventually came to the conclusion that the most likely reason a baby is crying is because something is just weird. Wouldn’t you cry a little the first time you felt something pushing on your face that you couldn’t see if you didn’t know it was called wind? Few places is this theory more apparent than on an airplane. On flights, kids whine about being bored, wanting to move around, and being hungry, which, if any of us were being honest with ourselves, would be exactly the same list of complaints we have. We’ve just learned to shut up and deal with it.

Think about this idea that kids are “mostly right about things” the next time someone complains about an autistic person’s “tantrum”. There’s a stimulus there, and it’s real to the person reacting, even if your own mental makeup, or even just cultural acclimation, hides it from you.

With all the attention given to urban applications of machine vision — from facial recognition systems to autonomous vehicles — it’s easy to forget about machines that listen to the city. Google scientist Dan Ellis has called machine listening a “poor second” to machine vision; there’s not as much research dedicated to machine listening, and it’s frequently reduced to speech recognition. 7 Yet we can learn a lot about urban processes and epistemologies by studying how machines listen to cities; or, rather, how humans use machines to listen to cities. Through a history of instrumented listening, we can access the city’s “algorhythms,” a term coined by Shintaro Miyazaki to describe the “lively, rhythmical, performative, tactile and physical” aspects of digital culture, where symbolic and physical structures are combined. The algorhythm, Miyazaki says, oscillates “between codes and real world processes of matter.” 8 The mechanical operations of a transit system, the social life of a public library, the overload of hospital emergency rooms: all can be intoned through algorhythmic analysis.

From Urban Auscultation; or, Perceiving the Action of the Heart by Shannon Mattern (via Andrew Small)

Writing for the Star Tribune about toxic positivity Kevyn Burger (via Ryan Boren) offers an important caution from graduate student Bridget Siljander — “We act like if they just try harder they can be happy. That ignores science. It ignores diversity. It ignores trauma.” — but I was mostly struck by therapist Sherry Merriam.

“It’s as if this turned up the gravity on the planet. For those people, whatever they were trying to do feels harder and heavier now,” she said. “Now we see the pressure to make something positive out of this situation — get that sourdough started, read those books. It’s wonderful for those who can use those things as coping mechanisms, but a lot of people can’t and they feel like a failure. That’s what makes it toxic.”

It struck me because I’ve used the gravity metaphor a lot. It doesn’t feel metaphorical when it hits; your body physically responds as if everything is heavier and slower. It shouldn’t surprise me that the metaphor exists, you know, outside of my own head.

“I believe that character includes who we are in the heat of the moment,” says Alexandra Erin. At the risk of reinforcing Twitter threads over blog posts, start at the beginning for Erin’s discussion of Amy Cooper’s bias crime from The Ramble in New York City’s Central Park — while Cooper herself is in the stage of complaining that her “life is being destroyed”.

Feelings of numbness, powerlessness, and hopelessness are now so common as to verge on being considered normal. But what we are seeing is far less likely an actual increase in a disease of the brain than a series of circumstances that is drawing out a similar neurochemical mix. This poses a diagnostic conundrum. Millions of people exhibiting signs of depression now have to discern ennui from temporary grieving from a medical condition. Those at home Googling symptoms need to know when to seek medical care, and when it’s safe to simply try baking more bread. Clinicians, meanwhile, need to decide how best to treat people with new or worsening symptoms: to diagnose millions of people with depression, or to more aggressively treat the social circumstances at the core of so much suffering.

From Is Everyone Depressed? by James Hamblin

‪I no longer remember the details but in the middle of the night I woke up from a nightmare feeling for the first time I can recall like the dream had been personally unfair to me.‬

Delia Cai offers a quote from a Zach Baron piece on interviewing during a time of social distancing, and I’m going to reproduce the quote in question in full because I have questions, and thoughts.

One thing you learn through interviewing people is how fundamentally kind we tend to be to each other, and how drawn we are to the ritual. Our default mode is to seek agreement, to find common experience. Maybe we don’t communicate our thoughts well, but another person still nods like they understand. Our urge is to come together, to smooth out our differences, to find a way to be on the same side […] Being together almost always involves an actual effort to be together. It’s one of the most beautiful things people do for each other without even knowing they’re doing it.

Is this really a sufficient or accurate description of what’s happening during the ritual of the interview? Or, at least, is this really generally applicable?

I question to what degree it’s our default mode “to seek agreement, to find common experience”. Could our default mode instead not be “to avoid in-person conflict”, or even “to each get what we need out of this very transactional conversation”?

The Good Dale Is In The Lodge And Can’t Leave

I’ve managed over three days to do a complete rewatch of Twin Peaks: The Return, and all I can do is state again why I dislike the last one and a half hours of it.

The original series ended with Cooper having failed the fundamental existential test of being a live human being inside the Black Lodge: he ran from his shadow-self, the Dweller on the Threshold. He refused to face his failings and his failures; that’s how Bob is able to take him and leave the Lodge in his place.

The Return ignores all of this in its resolution to the doppelgänger’s 25-year reign of terror in favor of just shooting him with a gun and then some random guy we’ve never met before with a “piledriver” for a fist punches out Bob.

Cooper’s fall was all internal struggle made “flesh” inside the Lodge; his return was all goofy plot mechanics.

In the end, I don’t even especially care about what’s happening in the final episode of The Return because the penultimate one didn’t seem to care about what originally made Cooper’s fall resonate from a character perspective. Cooper in effect is allowed to cheat his way out of his self-made prison in the Lodge, which I’ll never be able to see as anything other than cheating him, and me, out of a resolution that actually mattered.

Link Log Roundup for May 15, 2020

In this edition: a decline in distancing, hot spots, strange new worlds, an inability to focus, mixed messages, concentration fatigue, Marion County, race and immobility, making or breaking cities, and a Grubhub scam.

Here’s a new question for other autistic people: do you ever find that a thing you might be able to do for yourself is not something you can do for other people? As if only an internal motivation provides the necessary lubrication for those cognitive gears to engage? I’ve often had people tell me, for example, to look at jobs 1, 2, or 3 because they’ve seen me talk about doing X, Y, or Z, but I know from the experience of decades that literally I can’t do X, Y, or Z for other people. (This is not limited to employment questions; this is just the easiest example.) I know that my brain won’t function for them the way it will function for myself, and I’ve never been able to find a way to explain this that doesn’t sound like selfishness, laziness, or simply an excuse. The above is the closest I can come to illustrating it: without the internal motivation, the gears don’t move.