Mind center – some thoughts

Yesterday I was thinking about situations where other people made very clear that they were the center of the(ir) world and I was a component of it (or not!) according solely to their judgment. I was not offered the chance to try out the sensation of being in the center of my life, with others being around me at various mental distances. I imagine that some of those people couldn’t even imagine not being the center (not only of their own life but of everyone else’s), and some others weren’t able to act differently, because they needed me to support their mental setup as a kind of stilt but not as a full person.

I’m not discussing the reasons and causes behind what happened, the point is not to find out if they were valid or even if they could have been changed; but there is little doubt that the consequences have been deep and long-lasting. I never imagined myself as the valid center of my own existence, even now it feels uncomfortable and risky. Later in life I kept putting one or more people in that center, which worked quite well until I had to act as if I were in my own center (stating needs, drawing boundaries, distancing myself, rely on myself as an independent human). Removing others from that center always emptied me completely and made me crash to a level below survival, even when I left unhealthy/unsustainable situations.

There is a tangent connection with the pilot post from a while ago: not about tasks or skills, but about role swap. Recently I could practice (at first, implicitly) role swapping around leadership, motivation, focus, self-care, responsibility, in a way that made it a true practice environment. I was sure that if I failed, the other person would be perfectly able to pick up the task, as in the case of equivalently skilled pilots. It is no practice if there are consequences of my errors while I learn: that would be a production environment. The true practice took away that pressure to succeed, but didn’t remove the importance of the action! This is crucial for me, because it is about *redundancy on an important task*.

There are many more thoughts and implications around this, but for a self-contained post, this is it 🙂


Connected and invisible

These last days I thought about a particular state of mind that I may have partially described before (https://aghisladraws.wordpress.com/2017/11/20/on-disappearing-while-observing/ as a past version of this post), that is the state I feel most comfortable in – comfortable as in fully present-effective, not as cozily quiet.

This particular state of mind manifests itself when I’m able to pay attention to what I see best with my mind’s eyes. It’s the small changes in nature or in some person in flow busy with their task, and with a special joy, watching over someone taking a break. I blend in the surroundings (in the social meaning of it, as I don’t talk or move much, so not interacting means disappearing) and I become a sentinel, attentive and protective.

I first clearly felt and described it in a memorable sunrise back in my university years where we hid in the mountains to observe and count chamois (we ended up seeing none, but did see deer and wild boars). Our scientific success was dependent on our ability to be invisible to the animals around us. I enjoyed that so deeply! I was a pair of eyes and a logbook: I was nothing else. I have rarely felt self-fulfillment that intensely, the feeling of doing what I do best, and doing it very well.

I tried to explain that to my employers over the years, but mostly they thought I intended to be passive (which is the opposite of that state) or at least not ambitious (in the sense of ready to break old schemes). They managed to miss that it’s the necessary first step for me to become one with my task space and introduce manageable improvements. Starting to change things before even grasping their nature is at best a risky path (not because it never works; but when it works, it’s by chancey match and not by plan).

On a more personal level, I am often in this mindset with the people I can spend a lot of time with. I become good at spotting where their attention is, without them telling me, and make their work/actions easier. Some found it creepy, because they felt constantly monitored; others basked in the attention and enjoyed the assists. To rule out the creepy interpretation I have started to be clear upfront that I do it with a helpful intention and that I stop if that feels uncomfortable. This is when I act. When I don’t act, and neither does the other person, it’s the quietest mix of relaxation and reciprocal motionless attention.

Maturity and independence

I am hurt every time I read sentences that see the ability to live with less care/interaction/attention as a sign of maturity and/or independence, or somehow implicitly as a sign of growth. Especially when it is seen as a reduction in complaining and/or requesting attention, that can be a sign of resignation as consequence of requests being ignored (cfr. learned helplessness – content warning: experimental abuse).

I refuse this interpretation of independence=maturity=growth. I refuse to see growth as a direction to aim to, or worse, an inevitable fate, that normalises the fight for having one’s needs met while everybody around consider themselves optional or at least available on their terms.

I understand that this is actually the case, from the point of view of the outside world (albeit a bleak perspective, to be fair), but it is more of a consequence than a cause: “I am more independent because I have developed sufficient internal stability and resources, so that I am not relying on external stability any longer” is a healthy, sustainable stand; and not: “I am forced to improvise and beg for external stability, available at its own rate that meets my needs only randomly – I should be thankful when I receive support, because it is not expected at all, and I should at some point stop relying on external support altogether, no matter how much I still need support”.

I am not forcing anyone (in particular, nor in general) to meet my needs, oh, that would be the wrong solution, and I have already been told often enough that I can’t expect anyone to help or even just be there. I don’t need to be told, I can see it for myself that it’s the case. My perception is that I have been cared for a certain amount of time, then support was over, without me having actually learned enough to care for myself, let alone identify my needs. I have been considered grown up by definition, which means being left alone without support, and honestly, teaching me to care for myself and to identify my needs by means of leaving me alone is the most drastic and risky way to make me learn anything. I am aware that this will sound like moving the responsibility to people around me, but my first step here is to recognise that if I only rely on my skills/resources, then I am not equipped to deal with most of the challenges that are part of my existence.

Sorry for the variously-faceted bitter stance on this. I’m tired of getting better at identifying my needs and be met with the toxic positivity of “Nice! Now you know how to deal with yourself on your own” – no? at least not right away?

I will keep thinking about this, until I find ways to process this that make sense to me.

Not worried for myself

How can I explain that I don’t talk about (world) problems because I’m afraid for myself, but because I’m worried for others?

The answer to my worries is so often “well, there are no big consequences for you” but I’m not worried for myself, I’m worried for all those other people who have to leave their home, their country, all of this; I’m not worried about myself, about anything around myself.

Phugoid and mental setup

It is a quite technical post, and I hope I get my metaphor through. Bear with me!

The concept of phugoid comes from airplane flight and has been identified as a basic aircraft mode of motion, that oscillates between nose-up and nose-down, in a cyclic motion. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phugoid .

I initially felt a similarity with my own mental states, but I could not feel that my own mental states converged towards smaller oscillations as it was described for commercial airplanes, whose very shape dampens the phugoid.

I kept reading and found a more detailed explanation at https://aircraftflightmechanics.com/Dynamics/ModesofMotion.html, that made clear that commercial aircraft are DESIGNED+REQUIRED that phugoid motions get damped, while not-commercial aircraft (military, but experimental designs too) are subject to phugoid motions that diverge, and need to be handled as devices that are not going to stabilise themselves.

I took some time to carefully read through the article. I needed some time to realise that my own mind actually has a diverging phugoid mode.

It was liberating! I got the hint that I needed to handle my mind as something that is not inherently stable. No judgment, no expectation, no sadness, no nothing – just an established instability I have to deal with, and I am ready+willing to deal with, like a skilled pilot.

Bilingual in areas

Recently I read an article about bilingual people’s brain activity according to language spoken/read. I honestly don’t remember much of the methods nor conclusions, but I thought about my use of languages, and it’s quite evident that I’m not even fully bilingual when I consider the two languages I learned as a child. Especially back then, each language belonged to non overlapping environments (home, school, books, movies…), and even growing up, each environment kept its language or at least its strongly preferred language.

That’s why I don’t see myself as bilingual in the sense of being able to use any of the two languages interchangeably. Not to mention the two more languages I learned later in life, that are even more markedly domain-specific.

Dolphins with hands

During a recent conversation, a friend told me “Imagine how powerful/effective a dolphin would be if it were fitted with hands it could control, it would probably make humans look stupid in comparison, as it could finally make use of its great intelligence”.

I tried to take a breath before answering, but I immediately thought “Are you implying that dolphins are living massively below their potential because of their hand-less bodies? Do we even understand how their lives and world views are? Are we maybe unaware of something important that we could learn from them instead?”

Then my thoughts took a turn towards “Why always evaluate animals’ performance using normal-human standards as the goal, and judge them as less developed, or worse, that they would live better if they were more human-like in their actions and aspirations?”

Then I only answered out loud: “Isn’t it the usual human focus at play? I bet the dolphin chosen for the experiment would be bullied because it’s not human but dares to challenge humans’ achievements, probably bullied harder if it’s smart, or more cruelly, if it’s not that smart for human standards, as if it were the proof that all dolphins were overestimated in their potential? Like what happens to neurodivergent people? I don’t wish to dolphins to be treated like this.”


Difficult to pick words in this time and place. I feel that speaking about my thoughts like I did in recent posts is irrelevant in light of how other people’s lives are and will be devastated. I am not scared for myself or my future – no matter what happens, and (sadly!) not due to my actions, my life will not be hit as badly as the lives of so many people. I feel lucky, but I wish someone else received my share of luck and opportunities.

I am overwhelmed and speechless, but I don’t want to isolate myself from what is happening. I find that staying calm and positive in such times is either the product of an exceptionally stable mind, or of an aggressive (to the point of looking inhuman) filter on inputs. I struggle talking about this, as strong emotions and projections make the discussion derail, leaving me more confused than before.

Mind garbage collection

Here is one more post for the series “short posts about big topics”.

This time I will describe a behaviour of my mind that can be compared to the garbage collection feature of programming languages. For a computer program, it is a way of removing objects from memory when they are no longer used. This can happen behind the scenes or be manually controlled, and is necessary to avoid memory being saturated by items no longer in use. For a programmer, it is an art in itself to be able to juggle a collection of items that would overflow the available memory, by having at each instant only the item or part of item that is actually needed.

I noticed that my mind is able to do this decluttering work too, but at two conditions: the task has to be properly completed (more on “properly completed” below) and the stress level has to be low. This has some impractical implications: long-haul or non-progressing tasks stay in memory until they are complete, because the cost of recalling everything about a suspended task is high, and considered higher than keeping the task in memory as is; the mind’s threshold for “properly completed” is quite high, so tasks need more work/time/attention than average to be allowed to leave memory; and last but the most critical of all, if I’m stressed I actively keep in mind more inputs than usual, to counteract my mind’s emergency garbage collection (which can’t properly keep really important tasks), and I rely more heavily on tasks’ completion to prove myself I’m still functional, both of which further extend the time an item stays in memory and makes overflows happen faster and more often. This is another way of describing the behaviour of my mind, which shares similarities with the “fragile autopilot” metaphor.

I didn’t describe this mechanism to receive feedback about how to change it. Of course a major review will make sure that the mind always has free space for new tasks, but at the cost of too many other features/behaviours that I consider fundamental in allowing myself to consider this loose puzzle of body and thoughts as “myself” (there is more about that, but for another time). I am actually able to function and even shine, when the conditions are favorable; I just recently started the process of identifying those conditions, and I have no practice about making my needs clear, so for the short/mid term I will have to live with memory management issues and temporary workarounds. It’s not that bad, because I know how crashes look like, but it’s surely a lot of work. Thanks to all the people who are patient with me during this phase, and thanks for all supportive inputs 🙂