Fickle memories and things I need to ask my therapist about

So my friend and I were having dinner and for some reason we started talking about weight. Weight has always been an issue for me, because I’ve always been thin and many people think it’s ok to taunt me about it. No one in my family is overweight, and we’re all those annoying people who eat everything and don’t put on extra pounds. We also tend to lose weight when we’re down or stressed out, unlike other people. Personally, I eat more when I’m anxious and stressed, but everything I eat is burned up by my nervous system.

Apparently though many people think I should conform to their vision of what I should look like, regardless of my genetics and the way my metabolism works. It doesn’t help that it is socially acceptable to come up to a thin person and say, “You’re so thin, did you enter a contest to disappear or something,” (I didn’t make this up, someone actually said it to me once), but if I remarked, “You’re so fat, did you enter a contest to become a whale or something,” then I would be a really mean person. The irony in all this is that I’m not really underweight according to the body mass calculators online. I’m just pear-shaped and people only tend to look at your upper half. 😀

Anyway, as my friend and I were talking, I remembered something rude a mutual friend had once said to me about my weight and mentioned that I was so upset that I didn’t have any reaction to the rude comment.

My friend said, “Oh but you did, I remember you answered in a very dry tone and in a very smart way. [Our mutual friend] was left speechless.”

And I said, “I don’t remember. I believe I froze. I was going through such a hard time at the time and was so sensitive to anything anyone would say to me that I just felt hurt, like I’d been punched breathless.” 

My friend smiled and said, “No, you didn’t freeze. Your voice became cold and you said something like, ‘If weight were easy to control there wouldn’t be an entire industry dedicated to it.’ I thought that was a very smart answer.”

I thought for a second and said, “That sounds like something I would say, yes.”

We proceeded to check if the rest of our memories matched. “Was it at that dinner party at our friend’s hostel?” “Was it in the summer?” “Were there our friends […]?” “Was it before dinner?” They did.

And as I kept thinking about it it slowly came back to me. But it brought up many questions. Why did I just keep in my memory that I felt deeply hurt and misunderstood? Why didn’t I remember that I actually managed to stand up for myself without being rude? Remembering that could have been a great resource in many situations afterwards. Knowing that I can defend myself could have boosted my self-confidence and made me trust myself more. Do I unconsciously want to play the victim? Do I unconsciously go on picking up clues that reinforce my ingrained belief that I’m not good enough and therefore I should feel sorry for myself?

I feel a little disturbed considering this. It’s definitely something I mustn’t forget to talk to my therapist about. 

Subliminal

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I started reading this book because a friend of mine recommended it to me, but at first I wasn’t sure I was enjoying it. After some years reading very technical books about similar subjects, I thought this book sounded like a collection of anectodes that only very lightly tapped on the tip of the iceberg. But Leonard Mlodinow had me when he explained why two Tylenols could actually ease the pain of social exclusion and even the pain of a broken heart.

Feeling curious? Leonard Mlodinow draws from the early beginnings of psychology and evolutionism and traces them until the recent birth of a new field called social cognitive neuroscience. That is to say, this new field studies how our conscious and unconscious mind process thought, and it does so through the use of brain imaging technology, which is very recent. They then apply their results to our social interactions, trying to figure out how conscious or unconscious the decisions we make in our everyday lives are.

The author compares the conscious and unconscious to two entire railway systems. “Each comprise a myriad of densely interconnected lines, and the two systems are also connected to each other at various points.” They both work together in a very smart way evolution-wise, in order to allow us to navigate fast and safe in a world full of dangers, challenges and information to sort out. Our conscious picks up the general picture and our unconscious fills in the gaps. It does so with the visual data, with our hearing and with our memory. “In each of these cases our subliminal minds take incomplete data, use context or other cues to complete the picture, make educated guesses, and produce a result that is sometimes accurate, sometimes not, but always convincing. Our minds also fill in the blanks when we judge people, and a person’s category membership is part of the data we use to do that.”

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