Monday, August 30, 2004

Dear J5 Answers

I was really happy to get what I thought was a really rapid response from Sunday until today. The questions posed are great and vary pretty substantially. Please keep in mind that this is REALLY LONG. Far and away my longest post, so I hope that's ok, and I didn't bother to do spelling checks at all. I'm hoping I can live up to the expectations (be low, please be low) that you have.

Well time's a wasting, so let's get cracking.

Catt asked this question:

Why am I so addicted to blogging? It's not the actual writing and reading I don't think, but the community. Why is it that I feel this connection to several blog friends who are in reality complete strangers? When my family suffered a major blow last week, I didn't write about it on my blog because it felt almost too private to share (and some of my friends read me). Instead, I sought counseling (which was smart), but still felt the need to reach out to my closest blog buddy via email. I have normal friendships and an active social/personal life. Why this need to connect with a perfect stranger, though?

J5 says:

Well, Catt, I think it's important to remember that human beings (99% of them, at least) need social interaction. The beauty of the blogosphere, as it is, is that it's another venue for socializing that is seperate from the normal face-to-face interactions that our species has had for such a long period of time. It also offers a different way of getting to know people. The ability for one to craft, refine, and jettison verbiage out into the void for others to enjoy and indentify with is amazing and, in many cases, cathartic for both readers and writers.

As a reader, our lives are altered and subtly carved by the authors that we consume. I can think of several books I've read over time that have changed my viewpoints on topics as broad as life to as specific as clowns (Stephen King's It just poppped in my head). The difference with bloggers is that you can interract and respond to them, and vice-versa. You develop relationships with these people, so long as interest and diligence prevails.

I'm sure what I've stated so far is fairly obvious, but here is where I think people might separate a little with my viewpoint.

The unique thing about blogging interactions is that they involve a senseless interaction. When I say senseless, I don't mean without rationalization, but that you don't actually use any of your 5 senses in these relationships.

When you can smell someone, you can enjoy their fragrance or be repulsed by their odor. Maybe something about that smell reminds you subconsciously of something else. Maybe it reminds you of good things, or horrible things.

When you know someone in tangible life, you can touch their cold, clammy hands, or feel them shivering, or sense how fragile/strong their physicality is. You can hold hands, wipe away tears, spoon, and cuddle. You can touch their hair and feel the contour of them pressed against you, and you can hug them if and when you want.

When you look at someone, you can see their 3 dimensional image, the curves of their body, their weight and height and stature. You can drink in their beauty or be repulsed by disfigurement. You can like and dislike and judge by appearance.

When you listen to them, you can hear their voice, the inflection pattern, and how it interlaces with yours. They can have high pitched annoying voices, beautiful deep voices, great timbered voices, or they can sound like nails on a chalk board. They can sound intelligent, and they can sound clueless. Dialects, accents, and education can all be understood aurally.

Blogger relationships are based upon the emotional and metaphysical attachment that you have with others. The basically, by nature of the technology, circumvent all physically judgements and impressions immediately. The blogosphere allows, in a very unique way, for relationships to be created on the highest level of intimacy before you ever meet them. Think about it, all of your closest friends and best relationships have that quality of metaphysicality and emotion after you deal with the senses and the getting to know the person, and that's when the relationship becomes sacred. Those are great relationships.

And when you spend enough time learning about someone in blogland, you already have that relationship.

fda writes:

I have had a panic disorder and suffered from anxiety for about 5 years now. I go through small bouts of depression, and feel worthless more times than I feel good. Recently I have taking a liking to a certain man...more than a liking I would say, and things are great for us. I feel like I've attached myself though, I've become dependant on him to make me feel better about myself. I guess the advice I am seeking, if there is any type of advice one can be given for this sort of thing, is how do I still keep what I've got going with this guy--without being so dependant on him. Love is fleeting, and for people like me, the hurt dependancy is not something I wanted to burden him or myself with. I've tried cutting back time with him, but distance makes the heart grow fonder I've learned. Haha. I'm in a lose-lose situation I feel...last night was the first night in 3 months that I didn't speak with him, and I couldn't sleep. What's a girl to do...?

J5 says:

You're clearly going through a difficult time, because you've found a medication that works for you, and it's very hard to control that urge to induldge in it when it helps so much. What I think is truly impressive is your analysis of not wanting to be so co-dependent for his sake and for yours.

Panic disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression are very finely interwoven demons. I say this to numerous people who battle it, and they've heard it before, but there's an element of truth to it:

It's mostly in your mind.

Now, I know you're shaking your head and already being defensive, thinking that I have no idea how hard it is. Actually, I have a better idea than you might understand, but the point is you already know that there's something out there that isn't chemical that helps you. This wonderful man in your life clearly is helping you in a way that's either direct, indirect, or a combination thereof. What you need to think about is What is he doing that I'm not doing for myself?

Most likely, he's aiding you in changing your thought process about situations and life in general. He's affirming the fact that you're important, and that there's safety zone for you where you can always find solace. He's given you a glimpse into what it's like to be even-keeled, and that's amazing. Enjoy and revel in that, but use that impressive analysis of situations you clearly seem to behold, and turn it on yourself with objectivity and the intent of change. Don't fear that change, because with a disorder or two, change usually means for the better.

I would suggests analyzing with supreme objectivity frequently for a few days. Why do you feel this way? What trigger this reaction? Why am I freaking out? But avoid the cyclic mentality of beating yourself up about it, and truly find answers that benefit you and don't harm your state. After you've done this for a bit, begin to fight the thought patterns.

A brief little digression here for the sake of comprehension: The brain is, for the sake of simplicity, composed of neurons and synaptic connections. As you learn things and behaviors, the synaptic connections grow stronger electro-chemically, so that a charge is more likely to follow that path. For instance, if you smell a perfume and associate that with your mother for years of your life, whenever you randomly run into that perfume again, that pathway is strengthened and the memory is accessed.

Now, when you've suffered with a disorder for a long period of time, all of those pathways are strong. It becomes difficult to NOT react in that fashion to various stimuli. So when the time comes, and you react that way, you have to backtrack to the thought of the stimulus, and FORCE your mind to think a different and more positive way.

In these situations, you must start small. For instance, say for the sake of example you had a anxiety about spiders. First, you would reason, Why am I afraid of spiders? Next, you would run into one and have a panicked reaction. Then you would stop yourself, backtrack, and think, I have no reason to be afraid, I wonder what it looks like up close. Then, you would force yourself to believe that you're interested in how it looks, check it out, and then remove yourself from the situation before you can react negatively again. Praise yourself. Return to the situation in your mind and see it objectively. Rinse. Repeat.

It's a difficult process, but it winds up being effective as you use it on a day to day, subject to subject basis. Consider it like an experiment in mind control. It winds up being fun and beneficial at the same time.

I would also suggest that you get counceling to help you through this process, and maybe medication to help you through the initial phases, if you're not already in treatment.

Kate the Peon wants to know:

Dear J5,

Is it healthy to develop crushes on blog-friends, knowing you may never meet? I find myself constantly craving attention from a certain blogpal, and it seems as if the interest is returned. We've never met; live in different states; and are most likely quite different from how we view each other. Is this kind of fascination helpful or hurtful?

J5 replies:

A lot of my answer is in my response to Catt's question above, however, I'll try to tackle your last question separately.

Is it helpful? I think it can be, if it's opening a part of you that you tend to shelter or haven't fully identified with. It's nice to have those butterflies and feel envigorated again.

Is it hurtful? I think it feasibly could be if you develop too much of an attachment and it can't work out.

The truth is, this is a hard question to answer for two reasons: 1) I don't really know the nature of this "crush" and how it pertains to you and affects your daily life. I also don't know the amount of reciprocity those feelings are getting. 2) I'm wondering about the same question myself. I'll have to get back to you if I find the answer later.

Inanna is wondering:

Dear J5:

Although I've been told I have a great personality, I find it very difficult to "be myself" in social situations. I often feel like the third wheel and although I've been told I'm attractive, when I'm out, I don't really attract any attention. I feel like I'm overlooked all the time. How can I just "be myself" and if you were looking for a nice, good-looking, intelligent, single girl, where would you hang out??

I know the questions aren't supposed to be about you but was just asking your opinion on where the boys are...

J5 says:

Being yourself is sometimes an un-easy thing. Always the fear of rejection or humilation tends to pop up, and one will hinder themselves. I used to be shy, and learned that most people truly are themselves. Here's a path I suggest taking.

First of all, when you go out, remember that you have nothing to lose. You, as yourself, shouldn't fear being rejected by people who don't actually enjoy you, because hey, you don't want them anyway. So remember that you don't have to perform for anyone.

Secondly, overcompensate. Pretend that everyone else is shy and you have to set them all at ease. A good way to do this is throw a little party at your house, with groups that won't necessarily mesh at all. Work it out and make it happen to the best of your abilities. You'll find that it's difficult, but that it's actually a really fun exercise. I once threw a party with 7 girls I had seen recently, and 50 or so other people that didn't mesh. It was a hit, and I felt like a champ.

Thirdly, sometimes when you feel really uneasy, it pays to over develop who you really are. Sarcasm, overzealous cheeriness, and interest in people always pays off.

Fourth, once these things are worked and developed, you'll wind up finding that you don't even have to talk that much. People will wind up talking and coming to you. It removes the approach necessity, which is fun too. But to get here, you have to make sure you've approached many and put yourself out. It just gets easier.

Lastly, remember, who cares? You're out to have fun, and fun is for you. Others will join, or they won't, but in the end, you'll always enjoy yourself. And that's the trick, enjoy yourself, and everything else places last.

As for where I would seek a nice, good-looking, intelligent, single girl, I wouldn't have the foggiest idea where to start. Well, actually, maybe a library, the grocery store (puts me out to meet people), a bar that isn't a spectacle, a dance club, anywhere. Hell, I'd go to a gay bar to meet one of them. They're rare birds. The important thing is to meet as many people as I can, and if something falls on my lap, great. Also, having dinner parties, board game nights, etc., are great ways to get people to know each other, and have them bring others into the mix. It extends your knowledge, as well as possible playing grounds.

Just don't spend all your time looking for something that you may find within yourself.

Jay seeks an answer:

Is there an afterlife, and if so, what form does it take?

J5 steps on the soap box:

This is a great, but tough question. I just wonder how serious it was, but I'll answer it seriously nonetheless.

A wise man once told me that there are four things you need in life to be happy, and that the journey is trying to balance them all equally. These four things are:

1) Mental Health
2) Physical Health
3) The Pursuit of Knowledge
4) Spirituality

I think a quest for answers to questions like these is important. My beliefs range from parts of Christianity to Buddhism to Taoism to New Age to Science. I have a belief in something that's a super-consciousness, sort of like an overall energy of everyone's mind and soul. I consider that to be many things as one presence, that I call a god. I think the afterlife is generally what we hold it to be. How does this hold up in my mind?

When someone is passing away, they tend to see a "bright light" at the end of a tunnel and their life flashes by. This is a brain thing, neurons firing all over the place. Thus the science.

Christianity in that the mindset and some of the moral structure appeal and make sense to me. The teachings of Christ, no matter what your religion and if you believe he was the son of God or not, are amazing and truly inspiring.

Buddhism works in the one with nature, super-consciousness, possible reincarnation idea (I'm not wholly sure about multiple lives though).

New Age in the healing the body with the mind and the soul, and living a more simple, earthly, homeopathic lifestyle.

So yes, I believe there's an afterlife, but I believe it's beyond our comprehension. I don't believe in hell, because I think lessons learned in life have a ripple effect and teach everyone everything. Maybe we come back to fully learn, maybe we don't, but we all are intertwined. I don't believe that "God", however you define that deity, is vengeful or judgemental, but all loving.

I don't necessarily believe in any religion, because I think religion is a method of control and follows the old ideals of gathering a small community together for support and comfort. There are few small communities left. I think spirituality, and that identity, is very personal and that religious structure is there for solace and comfort as needed.

I'm gonna go hug some trees now, because I sound like a sally. But I think that's fundamentally what I believe from all I've read and pursued and learned in my time.

Kat asks:

Is there such a thing as fate, and if so, what does it have against me?

J5 says:

No, I don't think that there is such a thing as fate. I think that's largely a religious creation meant to control people into following a certain path. I think that life is full of signs and coincidences, and that it's important to watch for them and understand them as they come to pass. They're there to help you grow, thrive, survive, and be happy. Fate implies to me that we're locked into a path and there's no changing it. Signs to me mean you choose your path, but the optimum one is there if you look for it.

Or maybe fate is calling you to Connecticut, who knows.


Thanks everyone for your questions. I'm fully exhausted from my replies. I really hope they're helpful, but I hope they at least gave you some enjoyment at the bare minimum.


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