Friday, January 18, 2008

Pornography and PTSD; Mensa

Today's entry is, I'm afraid, not going to be either polished or very coherent. Sorry. It's 5:44 a.m. and I'm freezing in my living room, if that's any excuse.

1.) What do pornography addiction and PTSD have in common? Flashbacks. Or at least, I bet they do. (I'm obviously speaking out of vast ignorance here, in order to set up the following theory.) It's been said that a neurosis is simply a normal human trait magnified to an abnormal degree, and I'm speculating here that involuntary visual re-imaging of past events is an intrinsic part of being male. (Why not female? Well, on the one hand people say that women are less visual. And women don't appear to have problems with any of the three sets of problems I'm going to talk about, the first two being pornography and PTSD. But mostly it's because it didn't fit with this crazy idea when it first came into my head.) I recently resolved to give up playing Axis & Allies, and furthermore (I hope) to never enroll in any martial arts courses, because it was getting really hard to concentrate at work since I kept having these visual flashbacks of various A&A game openings, and my brain would automatically start churning and trying to figure the numbers, to see if this would stick it to my opponent, and what I would do if I were the opponent facing this exact opening. It reminded me of the few times I've been in or close to physical fights, the most recent being that time at Family Night recently when they came in to show us aikido. I didn't think much of their claims, but after a few minutes I had to leave the room because I didn't like what it was doing to me mentally--every time they showed us a move, my brain started working out what I would do if someone pulled that move on me. Me being the hyper-aggressive entity that I am, this usually involved planning out how to exploit the fact that the aikido practitioner is expecting me to submit to the pain they're inflicting in order to do something unexpected and damaging with the body parts they don't have under control. In my mind that usually left me with at least a broken wrist. Anyway, even after I left the room, the hyper-aggressive emotions were still there and they took a couple of days to subside. Similarly, even after I resolved, "Okay. I'm never going to play A&A again, at least until I have kids and need to teach them and perhaps not even then," I still kept having these (now-irrelevant) visual experiences with the A&A board for the next couple of days. Since pornography addiction and PTSD are both stereotypically male disorders I'm generalizing these experiences to them.

Okay, maybe PTSD isn't exactly the right term for the post-combat flashbacks I'm thinking of (PTSD could, and probably does, apply to traumatic experiences like car crashes and rape), but I warned you that this wasn't going to be a coherent entry.

2.) Mensa. Remember that my reason for joining Mensa was that I realized I really do find intelligent people interesting, and wanting to meet some more. The idea is that it's a nice, generalized forum with lots of special interest groups. On the other hand, I've always had misgivings about Mensa because they seemed kind of elitist, so I'm just sort of giving them a chance to see if they're more inclusive than I thought they were. There's a Mensa science SIG that I'm planning on going to tonight. One thing that I intend to ask is if it would be okay for me to bring a friend as a guest. If they're also just interested in meeting interesting people, they'll probably be okay with that. If they're interested in protecting prerogatives as members of some special elite they will probably be less okay with that. [I think I've expressed previously that the top 2% isn't any kind of special elite anyway. There are 6 million Americans in the top 2%. Really unusual talent, like Einstein and Mozart, is probably more like four to six sigmas out there--Fields Medalists and such. By the way, I have no illusions about belonging to any such elite group. :) I'm just a dilettante.] So part of my opinion on Mensa will be formed tonight.

There's another thing going on in the Mensa program that kind of gives me the creeps. Apparently, there's this terminology: a "mixed marriage" is where one spouse is a "Mensan" and the other isn't. That is way too much cultural identity for me. It speaks of someone whose primary identity centers around being a Mensan. The only group memberships I have that are strong enough for me to imagine "mixed marriages" as an appropriate term are my identity as an American and as a Latter-day Saint.

We'll see. For the next year or so, Mensa is on initial probation with me. Of course I reserve the right to walk out sooner than that if appropriate.


P.S. I take it back. My experiences last week weren't primarily visual; they were spatial, or kinesthetic if you will. Kind of like imagining yourself tying a knot: it's an awareness of what would go where, in what order. You may have a visualization on top of that but it's a side-effect, and a lot of the details are probably missing from the visualization. (You probably don't see anything but your hands and the rope or thread. No body, no surroundings.) That's how it felt moving my tanks around. This is still interesting because men usually have enhanced spatial awareness compared to women (I heard of, but didn't read, a study where they took people to a new location and escorted them around, and asked them questions like "Which way is north?" and "Where are the exits?" Supposedly, men were 95% on knowing which way was north, and some high percentage on knowing the location of the exits; women were significantly lower but I don't know how much. I'm actually kind of skeptical that the average man would do quite that well, but it may have been a very simple location--or a skewed sample of men.)

"The presentation or 'gift' of the Holy Ghost simply confers upon a man the right to receive at any time, when he is worthy of it and desires it, the power and light of truth of the Holy Ghost, although he may often be left to his own spirit and judgment." --Joseph F. Smith (manual, p. 69)

Be pretty if you are,
Be witty if you can,
But be cheerful if it kills you.

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