Category Archives: Emotions

Christopher

When the men hammered the head of the fish, the boy screamed, crying. In the short time it had lived in his bathtub, he had grown fond of the big swimming creature. He’d named it Christopher. It’s understandable that the boy loathed the act of his uncles. But our Christmas meal was at stake and the young emotional bond had been destined to be ignored.

It’s a Buddhist belief that if you give someone or something a name, you make a claim to that which you name. It means that young parents who, out of duty, name their newborn Pete, immediately make it their possession. But it also means that if you give your partner a nickname, this person or the aspect you named, becomes your property.

Adversely, when you give someone your name, you give that person ownership over you. And every time this person calls it, he or she summons your attention. Have you felt that? It’s an excellent sales technique and a good way to get yourself liked to call another by his name. The other way around: creating a name for yourself or your organisation, makes you graspable to the audience and by that less threatening.

It would be an act of liberty, in this perspective, to invent a new name for yourself and keep it secret. That would give you a claim to yourself that no one else has. A different approach would be to behave in a way that is not expected from your personal or family name. But the freest is he or she who detaches from all names that are given to him or her. The one who doesn’t have a name.

I would take this idea a step further and say that any judgement people make of each other is an attempt to seize something. Calling another by his or her profession, for example, or by a political preference, or cultural background has this same effect of occupation, even if you don’t attach a value to it. Even thinking it has that effect. We allow each other a certain degree of possession over ourselves by sharing who we are, but set limits as well. And by conceptualizing, we are determining our place in a hierarchy.

You could say that the idea of ‘not being understood by anyone’, something we all have to a certain degree, is a result of being judged in an inacurate way. It could be solved by giving your loved ones the names you secretly hold for youself. Yet while we give these names away and create a space for trust through which we can bond, we also hand over part of our autonomy.

As we could see in the case of the death of Christopher the fish and the reaction of his young friend, these things can have enormous emotional implications. ‘You never call me honey anymore’ means that you’re no longer taking your claim of this aspect of her that you once shared. Changing your official name is a deliberate act of breaking out from the property of your parents. The name switch of women after marriage is comparable.

A friend once called me ‘joyful sailor of dreams’. This blog is a tribute to something she observed in me. Reappropriated, as you can see, but I’m still thankful. By that simple act, she called something into life. This is what the boy did with Christopher. It’s no more than a memory now, but who knows what that will grow into?

It’s probably because I agree with this Buddhist theory that I have become a writer.

Amoebing

In the series of using new words for old emotions, which I was surprised to find out got following, I’d like to discuss one which I forgot to talk about: amoebing. That must be because the word only occurred to me the day before yesterday.

Though it can release fear as well as more joyful emotions and slow tears, amoebing to me is a state in which I concentrate. In fact, I experience it as if the state itself draws my concentration.

It goes like this. When I’m amoebing, there’s a defined cloud of, let’s call it energy with form, in the shape of an amoeba that slowly leaves my upper body while I breathe out. The narrower part of the amoeba resides just above my shoulders and the extremities attain the shape of half-body-sized bulbs. Don’t look at the picture for this. Half of the amoeba is above me and out, and the other half is situated in the top part of my lower body. It feels as if it opens up a space that helps release a concentrated form of energy from below by belly button, which as it starts moving, expresses itself as a stronger often emotional sensation. But let’s not get distracted by that.

The top bulb of the amoeba, residing above my shoulders, is not always closed, though it is sometimes. It can be open to, let’s call that the universe. The entire thing feels like a funnel into the area below my belly button. The presence of the universe doesn’t necessarily make the amoeba bigger; it rather makes the the space smaller. It remains and limited by the edges of the amoeba, which are less tangible this time. In any case it’s empty and silent up there. And when I breathe in, the entire thing gets sucked back into my body, bringing me back down to wherever it is I am. And when I breathe out the amoeba reaches out again.

The moment I first noticed this, years ago, I felt as if I was being possessed by some external force. I was afraid. Nowadays, I don’t believe in the same ‘I’ with that much force anymore, so I also don’t fear its possession as much. The state is is a lot more laid-back. More like looking at myself through an internal telescope in the shape of an amoeba. Amoebing has become a leisure activity instead of an adventurous duty.

I think I first noticed it when I was on weed and I also remember the experience on ayahuasca. When I thought of the word amoebing the other day, I was in some yoga position, but the sensation can also occur on the bus or during some other random activity. I don’t consider it anything special anymore, but it is still worthy to mention and invent a word for. I guess amoebing helps me relativize things.

Which brings me to a funny paradox. While spiritual states are generally considered high or advanced, the word amoebing suits my impression of it because it has a nicely retarded meaning. Ultimately, this sensation makes me feel like witless unicellular being that knows absolutely nothing. And that also is the core of it. As if, like amoebas once did, it would take millions and millions of years to learn how to fuse one with another. As if we could create a being that’s built out of many minds. But that at the same time, that would just be the start of a new kind of ignorance and therefore not be any better than the things we’ve been until now. I might be wrong, and highly underestimate the gurus, but I’d like to add amoebing to the list.

Amoebing. I’m sure you’re worth it.

Nightmare

It’s my grandma’s funeral, yet she is standing right here in front of me. Did something go wrong? Her face is as white as her hair. We’re in a hallway at the ceremonial building of her cemetery. She’s looking at the others who are at her funeral down the hallway. She knows she should be dead. She looks confused. Then she quickly turns yellow, then also purplish. As if she’s decomposing. She falls backwards. I catch her, my one hand behind her back, the other behind her head. My arms are around her fragile body and she’s facing me now. She looks at me in agony, confusion. As if she wants to ask me what she’s doing here. There’s a morbid serenity between us. She starts vomiting. She cannot stay on her feet, so I gently lay her on her back. My moms voice is mixed with my own in a command to put her on her side so that she doesn’t suffocate. I lay her sideways, then I violently start puking as well. It is not actual puke, it’s a yellow-black decomposed liquid. It spreads over the floor, creating little stretched-out  puddles. Then a bit more, as if my bile spits death. If spurts on her feet.

I wake up in the middle of the night, unsure if she’s dead or alive. I feel sick, to the extent that I’m wondering if I am. It doesn’t go away easily. It was just a dream. Was she there? The likeness of the confusion was striking. Minds deceive, go back to sleep, I tell myself. So it gets dark again.

It dawns on me the next morning that the texts I had considered finished at my new job, got returned to me by some clients. As if they resurrected, through a will beyond me. As if I had to lay them back with care, not knowing if they would stay or disappear from my life. Perhaps the dream’s sepulchral aspect was related the Game of Thrones episode I’d been watching earlier last night. Things are never what they seem. Or maybe the dream related to the talk I had with my girlfriend afterwards, in which we spoke about her insecurities at work. A confusion which then probably reflected my own. It could even be related to a diuretic intestine problem I’m experiencing, working on my mind while I’m asleep.

But was she there?

My grandma didn’t believe in ghosts or in life after death. She told me that in the months before she died. Killed herself. She called me one day to inform me about her decision, so I went to visit her more or less weekly. Cook for her. Bond with her. For the first time in my life, really. I remember that a few days before she took her fatal drink, I had a similar, nauseating dream, less morbid than last night, in which I told her no, I wasn’t fine with her choice. I never told her in real life. My daily me respected her courage and resolve.

For many years I have romanticized death. A next state, a state of freedom. Where worldly matters release their grip. An eternal, infinite deep blackness we all carry inside us but fail to perceive. For a long time I looked upon death in the way I imagined it would look from the inside, as an experience. I’ve never believed in reincarnation, but yes, I do believe that consciousness exists outside our brain and also in dead matter. More than my consciousness shutting down when I die, I believe it will dissolve.  A part of me may have projected this romantic perception of death upon my grandma’s choice to do euthanasia.

It only recently starts to dawn on me, that, free as death may seem from the inside, it leaves a penetrating print upon the living. As a biologist I could have known. We can be poisoned by a dead brother’s body. Could it be that if a body of a dead person can make you ill, so can a dead person’s emotion? Should that too be properly cleaned?

I’ve carried the disturbing memory as a heavy weight through the day. I never knew that death, in all its beauty, can be so repulsive. Not even when watching Game of Thrones. I don’t think I’ve ever had a viler dream. Death in my dreams was usually fresh or even mystical. Not rotting and definitely not in such a way that it spat from my own guts.

She told me she hoped I’d remember her in a nice way. I told her I would. I do. I’ve wondered today if I missed signals in her instants of confusion, when she was still alive. Instants remarkably similar to her anxiety in my dream. Her question if she’s dead or alive. For a while today I seriously wondered if there was a piece of her spirit remnant inside me. Yet now that I truly tune in to that time, I remember joy, laughter and a deep calm. Her choice was made. Anything I would have tried to do to stop her would have made it harder.

It’s that calm that tells me now that it was just a nightmare. The emotion should be taken care of in me, not in her. Some proper rest once in a while wouldn’t hurt.

Subsyruped

There’s another emotion I’d like to describe, but don’t know a name for. At the time I am writing this down, I haven’t found the right word yet, so I’m going to try to squeeze it out by writing this text. Surround it. Catch it. Become it. Look at it from a distance. As if some part of my mind yet has to travel to that point, a light perhaps, where it has crystallized.

It’s a high tension emotion which, in my case, only arises from the interaction with another human. An interaction with high charge. The emotion comes afterwards, when, in an upcomming surge, the conversation starts playing back inside my head. When it rises in between me and my thoughts, hijacks them and blinds me from what’s happening around.

There are three clear moments when this can happen in my case: after an argument or a fight, when I have a crush on someone, and as occurred recently, when I have a job interview. There’s always a question involved. A fight can leave me puzzled about the question ‘who is right?’. The anger fuels this, and causes me not to think clearly. In the turbulence, I construct a frame of thoughts that makes me right, and makes me feel better about myself. Then I start wondering how I can relate back to the other person. Solve it. All that time, I’m dominated by this same emotion.  Having a crush is similar, but the life-dependent question there is: “does she like me back?”. Whatever that may mean. Very important, obviously, so there come the thoughts that interpret the conversation during the recent date in my favour, and there goes the focus on anything else. Job interviews, might objectively have an impact on my life, but they trigger the same mechanism. Did I say this right? Was I spontaneous enough? Should I have added more information here? Was I too quick? To jovial? Still didn’t hear if they hired me, by the way, but the emotion has faded by now.

What I want to describe, find a word for, is the gooey structure of this emotion, which I notice if I want to break it. For example, when I want to get to work. It’s so viscous, that when I arrive at a point where I can concentrate, it undermines that, lurking me back into its useless rambling. And particularly when I fight it, it can cause electric bursts of panic in my heart or shoulder, or right under my belly button. But surrendering to it doesn’t release its grip either: it fuels it. Regardless of how I relate to it, it passes with time. As a falling tide.

It’s a bit like being submerged by a flood of mental syrup, really. My functional mind moves slowly and with a lot for force, working itself into being stuck in a new position. There seems to be a lot going on, but in fact I’m stuck in a sticky cloud of anxieties. Think I’ll call it subsyrupism. As in, “I’m feeling very subsyruped” today. Or: “she can’t hear you, she’s subsyruped.”  Yes, that works. Good. Subsyruped it is.

Programmed soul

I recently had a conversation with a webdesigner about The Grid. The Grid is a website builder that uses ‘Artificial Intelligence’ to design websites according to the demands of the user and makes it look attractive. It will launch soon, and I’m considering to try it out. My conversation partner told me he believed human minds will always be necessary for this kind of thing. I replied that I wasn’t sure. One of the most striking films I recently saw on this topic was Her. In it, a program and a human become friends. I don’t want to spoil too much, but at some point the AI composes a jolly song. It’s fiction of course, but the story is self-explanatory and makes it credible. I bet it’s not the first time you hear that Artificial Intelligence is rising and taking over our jobs or even our lives, but have you ever really believed it? I’m starting to. If you would have asked a person before the war if a computer would ever be able to beat a human in chess, the answer would have been “No!”. Today, computers beat all champions. You could argue that chess is limited to the board and the predictable movements of the pieces, and therefore easy to calculate. Then, you could say that thoughts and words are unlimited, and that their sounds and meanings are too subtle for a computer to get, let alone to create with it. My answer would be: maybe. It might depend on how you program the AI. Let me take writing as an example. I’m not a grandmaster, but I’ve been doing it for a while now. A big part of it is technical: you attract attention with a title, build a structure of intro, middle and end, and try to choose your words such that they mean something. Build in some contrasts, break some grammatical rules. I don’t think people would disagree that the technical part is easy to learn for Artificial Intelligence. It’s the lived aspect that is harder. The part where emotions come in. Where meaning comes in. Where the sounds of the words dance around in your head. Where senses are triggered. The rhythm. Knowing what works and what doesn’t. Re-reading. Disagreeing with yourself. Making impossible choices. Creating symbols and metaphors. And yet when the text is done, there was only so much that a writer could do: the rest is what the reader creates for herself. If google can learn to recognize voices, can’t there also be a recognition of emotions in the tone of the voice? It’s all sounds, no? If facial recognition is possible, aren’t facial expressions the next step? With the increasing sensorial finesse of AI based systems, it could well be a matter of time before AI can discern a good wine from a bad one. Or a good story from a bad one. Give it control over the story, and it might improve it. I think another crucial thing to program is hunger. The insaturable need to take up information. To learn. The program should have limits, which force it to create. Digest, get stuff out. And it should be able to grow, but with a limited speed. Those are probably the hardest things to program, yet they have been attained with bacteria. Peristalsis, perhaps? I’m not an expert. Finally, to increase its status as a creator, the AI should have a drive to be acknowledged. If nowadays you can measure much of your societal recognition by the amount of views and likes of your webpage, then a ‘like = good – no like = bad’ algorithm should do the trick. Of course, you could further improve it with video information of people reading the words. Add up the factors and computers could become better at creating art, marketing themselves and being loved than humans ever have been.

Wiggle

In the series of ascribing names to emotions I know no name for, I’d like to discuss ‘wiggle’. Now, wiggle is not a new word, it has been used mainly for wavy physical movement, sometimes with sexual connotations when done with the ass. Yet it fits excellently.

I think that the best way to grasp wiggle is to go out on a sunny day, take your shoes and socks off, sit on the grass with legs straight in front of you, watch your toes, then move them a little. Not too much.

To me, wiggle resides in the heart. It feels a little like a flower that gently opens and unfolds slowly, thereby revealing its colour to itself and the world. But wiggle is more reserved, it has no need to show off. And it literally feels wavy, with slight ups and downs. Yet the base tone is joyful.

What can trigger wiggle? Comfy blankets, cute animals, the arrival of spring, gentle sounds, meeting lovely people. But the state of mind is important here. Wiggle can easily be buried under more intense sensations, and it can be easily spilled. For me it only really unfolds if I’m ready to receive it, give it my attention.

In essence, wiggle has something in common with Outsling, but it is not directed. It is contained. The outside world does not perceive its effects, except perhaps by gentleness or a slight smile. Wiggle is fragile, it has an unstable balance that can easily over stretch. It can be smothered and lost. Instead, when it is cherished, it can turn more subtle.

But even if carefully nourished, wiggle does not last. Sometimes I think it exists as a transition, a subtle unblocking of something that was stuck. Like a refreshing drink that releases its intensity while slowly providing gratification. Tiny sips prolong the joy, but at some point it will end. Still, if I manage to seize wiggle without disturbing it, if I let it seize me, it imprints my state of mind with delicateness. It leaves me in touch with a finespun lineament of the web of life and by that, it changes everything.

Winter Ramblings

Over the years, I have accumulated some subconscious rules as a blogger. Customs, so to speak. Most of them for the benefit of clarity. One is to treat one topic at the time. Another is to write the article in pen first. There are phases when I have to do effort to find a topic to write about. This week, I have gathered so many impressions and frustrations, that I’d like to break my rules and fire an incoherent set of thoughts back onto the internet. My lunch consists of a piece of precut raw brocolli of which I take bites only when I manage to lift my fingers of the keyboard.

Charlie Hebdo and his clan got killed. What a surprise. We all saw that coming for years. Is this an attack on freedom of expression? No it is not. It is an attack on insults to a religion. An over the top reaction, I agree, but a reaction nonetheless. We in the West are lucky to be able to get killed while doing the thing we love. Thousands of journalists are killed world wide every year (just a passionate guess, I admit), For saying far less bad things.

Yesterday, the ECB announced that the deflation in Germany is worse than expected. Bad news, we would say, but the European stockmarkets went up. Huh? Because investors have learned by now, that when this happens, the ECB pumps in some new artificial money to prevent a crash. Therefore, they invested their own money, just to be able to fish more out of the market later. I sincerely hope the ECB takes a wiser decision this time.

My new favourite word is Wiggle. Wiggle is a great word. Not only is that because of the sound it makes when you say it and the smile you put your face in when you do, or the feeling you get when you wiggle your toes, but also because I discovered that wiggle is also an emotion, and I’m looking forward to write an article about that one day and I know this sentence is way to long but I don’t care.

O yes, I posted a new video with my friend Michael Kailis, yesterday. If you want to kill me for it, come visit me. By the way, I just noticed I have outsling. I hate rain. Don’t expect me to reread this, just going to look for a picture now, and post it right away, breaking another rule as I go. Deal with it.

Breathshake

In the series of new names for unspoken emotions, I´d like to discuss breathshake. Breathshake is what it sounds like, a deep shaking of the breath that interferes with the actual breathing. It comes together with a pulsating fear of the loss of life, possibly that fundamental one. In fact, I´d challenge you with the thought that breathshake is a pulsating appearance of life out of a state where it is not. Appearance of emotion too. It´s probably the most terrifying fast emotion I know.

The obvious pathway to the experience of breathshake is running out of air. You can do this by not stopping with breathing out, going very deep into the water or doing sports while breathing far below your natural rhythm. The first option is probably safest. In these cases, my diaphragm starts contracting and I have the sensation of being cut off. The thought “this situation is eternal” forces itself upon me. You could call it fear of death, but I think it is a fear of never getting access to life anymore. While silence is present, a feverish tingly cloud dwells up in my upper body. I feel sweat emerge from several spots. I sense that the feeling could subdue me from the back of my neck and shut off my awareness. It never has.

Lighter forms of breathshake can occur without that I run out of air. An interesting thing that can trigger this for me is the tought of not receiving attention from a person I love. It can also happen in conversations where I feel incapable of standing up for myself the way I think I deserve. It is as if the conversation partner suppresses my self-perceived value and does not recognize my true character, or whatever it is inside me that needs to be appreciated at that moment. The parallel with being cut off from oxygen is interesting, as if human attention also is a substance we need.

The pulsating character of breathshake delivers a remarkable alteration of states of mind which reveals parts of myself to me. Fuelled with panic, short, shallow gulps of breath try to resolve the feeling of sinking away into a swamp. That experience alternates a state of tranquility and acceptance, as if the end is already there. This tranquility eventually takes over and allows my breath to deepen again. All of it happens quite quickly.

Breathshake relativizes my concerns. It can release some tensions, but it also makes me aware of my incapacity to be fully in control of myself. I am aware again that somewhere deep inside me lingers a deep desire for taking part that can become stronger than myself. The thought is humbling, but slightly discomforting too.

Loving the fear for the lie

There are people in this world who talk about fear and love as if they are each other’s opposites. Some of those people frame it as a choice between two pathways: do you take the path of fear or the path of love? You may have met them. Some people also categorize acts into ‘fearful and loving’ behaviour. This scene from Donnie Darko puts it poignantly. It makes me wonder how it has happened that these two simple words are now so deeply embedded in the human understanding of their lives.

What strikes me most about the way society understands fear and love, is that both are very tightly connected to our will. Ask a person what he or she fears, and many times that person will speak of something he or she likes to avoid, while if they talk about something they love, they’d bring up a situation they would like to attract. There’s a movement of the mind towards or away from some object. If both are indeed movements, aren’t fear and love ultimately very similar things? Or seen from a different angle: how would fear and love look if we imagined ourselves out of the equation?

Perhaps my objection here is not with this immature definition of fear and love, but rather with the omnipresent understanding of all things as having a dualistic nature. I think this whole yin yang thing is a veil over a colourful reality. The reason it is so popular, I think, is that our minds prefer to contrast themselves to the background of their own projections. And how do you better do that than in black and white? Then again, since I am perceiving the world through my mind, I am per definition not the right person to contest a well established truth as dualism. After all, it is possible I am unknowingly objecting against the nature of existence itself. My mind can not know reality without it, but then again, whose mind could? How can we be sure duality exists? Or does not? Isn’t this very question dualistic in nature?

Something you fear can turn into something you love, something you love can turn into something you fear. You can love fear, and you can fear love. You can even fear and love a single thing at once. If you dig into it, you find vast varieties in what people perceive as their fears and their loves. They can be emotional states, but they can also be lingering presences in our conscious or subconscious perceptions with, admitted, influence on our choices. A triggered fear can lead you anywhere, and a triggered event of love could lead you to exactly the same place. They can be directed towards something that actually exists, but they can also confront something imaginary, something that we have made up, yet presents itself to us as lively as anything else.

To talk about fear or love is to talk about two mountains in the own emotional landscape. We don’t usually clarify if we are talking about the peaks or the base, the tree line or the sound of the birds. Are we talking about the act of climbing these mountains, or sliding off from them? Instead, we are tempted to just place one mountain on the opposite side of the other and say: well my experience is either of the two. What is the benefit of doing that?

Perhaps downsizing the richness of the inner world makes it easier to lead your life. Or maybe it is part of an evil plot serving to control our behaviour by fragmenting our inner coherence and scatter our will. Or am I overcomplicating things and are fear and love indeed poles of our mental existence? Poles we can simply pick a direction from. Maybe I’m justifying my incapacity to do so myself. Am I guided by my fear of the lie? My love for the truth? Or maybe I’m just playing around.

A fearful loving fool would know.

Gutwrench

When I make up words for emotions, I look them up to see if they exist already. This one did. Not only is it slang for – apologies for the upcoming graphic in your head – large penis, it also has the meaning of emotional scattering, anxiety and despair, sometimes caused by uncomfortable images. Do take a moment to enjoy this inconvenient homonym for our brothers with whale-sized willies, then let’s move on to the emotion I’d like to discuss, shall we?

I considered deathsqueeze and lossgrip, but gutwrench works better for me, because I don’t think the the word should encompass it’s cause. It’s as if somewhere central below my navel, around the exglow area, an invisible hand grabs my intestines and suddenly wrenches them like a wet towel. It comes together with pulsating pulls at my adam’s apple and uncontrolled crying. Surrounding belly muscles contract as well. It draws my full attention to that inner spot, much like a 220 volt electric shock, if you ever had that.

Some clear triggers for this sensation are the death or the long-term departure of a person close to me, and the breakup of a relationship. In fact, looking closer, the trigger is usually a very specific, self-centered memory, such as that persons expression of appreciation for me, or the image of me staying behind on my own. I believe gutwrench has a lot to do with a turn of attention from something shared to something individual. I oversee the beauty of what is lost, wishing to be able to express that to the person, but I can’t, because he or she is gone. The hole that person left behind is painful and at the same time there’s new freedom. That realisation feels good for me, but it is a type of betrayal too. Everything is intensely happy, yet intensely sad.

Because this experience squeezes my being so tightly, the relaxation afterwards is very deep. As if some weight has truly disappeared, I see the world under a different light: more laid back than usual. I’m open for new things, ready and obliged to dive into new experiences, into new beings. Even though I went through gutwrench, I’m still here, and that knowledge has primordial power.

The word gutwrench existed as something negative. I understand it as a manifestation of a bond. How about you?