Mitigation

I am attention grabbing by nature.

I’m tall and ‘attractive’, to kick things off. I like to wear bright colours, and items that would generally be considered statements. I have big eyes, and I use them extensively. My walk is more of a dance to the music, and I’m often grinning for no good reason. I might be singing. I’m very expressive, and I like to exhibit myself. I am inclined to obliviously defy hierarchy. I interrupt excitedly because I already know how the sentence ends and it’s given me an idea. I gesticulate profusely. Once I start talking, most people label me intelligent. My opinions are usually outlandish, complex and challenging.

Except, most of the time, if you actually see me, I’m not sure you’d notice me doing any of this stuff. Because, whilst I read that description and like this person already, I have invested a great deal into mitigating all of it in myself. Ashamedly shirking the attention my traits would have me grab. Mitigating my nature. Not because I don’t like me, and, looking back on it, not because other people don’t like me either. Just because I never knew how to handle the attention, or the effect I had on other people.

Quite a long time ago, I stopped wearing makeup. I stopped wearing colours. I stopped talking unless someone expressly asked me to. And, to this day, I’m almost constantly monitoring my own behaviour when out in public.

I’ve been working to undo a lot of my acts of self-diminishment, but they’re fucking engrained little fuckers. I’m not sure I’ll ever be complete.

I was walking to the shop earlier. I had my music loud and no-one was around. Life was good. And then, at some point, I spotted a guy headed my way. And I toned down my swagger, lest it be too noticeable to him. Lest it cause him to make comment. Lest I leave an impression.

Later, when I was walking down the high street, there were suddenly lots of people around, so I suppressed my joyful glee at being alive and moving, lest I cause someone to question it – be that outwardly or inwardly. Lest my defiant difference make somebody uncomfortable.

When I catch myself, I try to reverse it, because it’s stupid and unhelpful. But the effort is lacking. It’s like I’m faking the thing that I stifled that was so authentically me.

We must all do this; we must. It can’t just be me. But we mustn’t do this. We mustn’t. The world needs us to be more, not less.

Glad we got that straight

I think if there’s something we can all agree on, it’s the fact that, Seth Godin, I am not. While he may have been the inspiration and impetus for this blog, and just an all round positive influence in my life, we don’t have a lot in common. I like to think it’s easier for him to blog daily, but maybe I’m just conning myself. Maybe it’s far less about privilege and personality and brain hardware, and far more about choices. The problem is, sometimes, we’re not making our choices as consciously as we think we are, and how much of that are we even in control of?

For a time, about a year ago, writing daily was easier for me than not writing daily. And not because I had something I needed to say, but because the process was important to me; the endeavour was important to me, and losing what I had built within myself was not worth any temporary gain to time or energy.

But then I did lose it, because I did have something I needed to say, and I was scared to say it, and so I let writing become more about the outcome than the process. And what I had built within myself was no longer factored into the question. I had forgotten.

I had a pet research interest while doing my masters – emotional interference. It’s not a particularly well-researched phenomenon and so naturally, before COVID descended, I was designing a study to explore it further. And then when COVID descended I designed a completely different study in a completely different area of not-well-researched phenomena. I have a suspicion that emotional interference is an important link between ’emotional dysregulation’ and ‘executive dysfunction’. Basically, you’re more likely to get distracted by something emotionally pertinent. You’re more likely to perform worse while distracted by something emotionally pertinent. If you feel things more strongly, or feel strong emotions more frequently, it stands to reason this will present more of a challenge to your focus and attention. Thus, understanding the emotional aspect may be key to managing the cognitive challenges.

I didn’t even notice I was making the choice to switch from process to outcome. If I’d noticed, I could have consciously reassessed. And I would have, because I’m good at that. But I didn’t see it at all. I was swept up in the preoccupation of the words I was keeping to myself. I was feeling things, and those things caught my gaze. I knew there was a problem – I wasn’t writing daily anymore. And I knew the problem came when there was something I needed to say. The thing I missed – because my attention was caught by the thing I needed to say – was that the thing I needed to say wasn’t the problem; it was just a distraction.

Sometimes the thing isn’t a problem to be solved; it’s just a distraction to be ignored.