Shrunken Heads


I like the idea of therapy. I’ve just never found a therapist that clicked with me. They all seem to just be making it up as they go along and while they may very well have a good idea of possible diagnoses pulled from the DSM-V, they often end up just trying to fit their favorite solutions to your problems. Depressed, stressed, neurotic, self esteem issues? You need to do breathing exercises. Can’t seem to find the motivation to get out of your rut? Go for a hike. (Or maybe she said “take a hike.”)

You talk for a while, and you delve into your childhood and see “Oh, I’m like this now because I was treated this way then.” “I react this way because this happened.” “I avoid this because I’m afraid of that.”

Then you do what with that exactly? Any armchair Freud and amateur Erikson can listen to childhood stories and figure out why you do weird things as an adult, as watching adult movies or getting services from sites as Great, wonderful. That’s about as useful as a six pack of beer to a drowning raccoon.

(feel free to skip this)
Here’s an example: I have a very hard time ordering for other people, where they tell me what they want, give me money and I go get it for them. If they’re standing there with me, I’m fine because I can order for them and if I miss something or get something wrong, they’ll correct me.

It makes me far more anxious than it should, worried I’m going to screw it up. If there is a mistake in the order that isn’t my fault I beat myself up over it anyway. I know I’m irrational about it.

Why am I like this?

When I was young, my mom would try to teach me to be a big boy and she’d give me money and tell me what to order. I’d say exactly what I was told, verbatim, and they wouldn’t understand or they didn’t have what I wanted or they misheard, and when your groove is ruined like that and you’re already nervous, it’s easy to just start nodding shyly, or trusting that the person at the counter is going to take care of things, saying “Yeah, sure.” or “Um… I… think so.”

So I’d pay, give my mom back the change, and whatever I ordered would be wrong.

They didn’t have the drink she specifically told me to get (or she phrased it in such a way that they didn’t know what the hell I was talking about when I repeated it) and like a big boy, I improvised and made a subsitution.

Go to the stand and order the “Yellow Barrel Juice”, she says, one day while we were at a water park. She hands me money, and I go to a vendor selling juices in plastic novelty sipping containers. “Can I have a… um… ‘Yellow Barrel Juice’, please?” I managed to say. If I was quicker on my feet or not so shy, I might have looked around and found someone enjoying one, so I could point to it. I might have known what my mother actually wanted by concept rather than just a random string of words. I did not. He didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. He offered an alternative. A container of juice in a happy blue plastic dolphin. Instead of bringing back lemonade in a little plastic barrel shaped container, I brought back that fruit punch dolphin. My mother was so pissed at that. She chewed me out right then, and every time I returned back to her towel to say check in between trips down the water slides. I was 7 at the time. Whenever she was going through boxes in the garage and found that thing, if I was near by, you can bet I would hear something snarky and remind me of my stupidity that day. The last time that happened, I was 16.

Maybe I accidentally got conned into 20 cents worth of cheese, or large fries. Maybe between her, me and the person who just learned english 4 years ago and is trying to make her way in this crazy world, it gets confusing whether my mom wanted the Chicken McGrill, the McGrilled Chicken, The McChicken, The Chick Mac or the Filet O’Chicken. I don’t know, I just know what she told me. If she really cared, she wouldn’t be on the toilet or in the car, you’d think.

In any case, I always feared getting the order wrong because I don’t like disappointing people, but mostly I don’t like getting yelled at.

Fairly often the order would be wrong, and instead of being understanding and just enjoying her god damn food that she trusted her idiot son to order for her, she has to yell at me and bitch about how I can’t follow directions, can’t follow instructions and can’t do anything right.

The scenario played out over and over again.
“I don’t want to do that. I might get it wrong. You’ll yell at me. You always yell at me when this happens.”
“No I Don’t. Just do it.”
“Alright, fine.”
“Okay, here’s your change Mom.”
“You ****ed it up again… [commence bitching]”

And now I’m stuck with this neurosis. What’s worse is that I tend to date complex, interesting, intelligent girls. Such girls are often very, very, very moody.

So, I have this issue -this fear-, and I still find myself in situations like this where I am expected to order and return with the correct order. I’ve told them flatly that I have this issue, and that I’m afraid of letting people down, ruining their day or getting yelled at when the order is wrong whether my fault or not. They always promise not to. They write down the order for me. I’m a little sharper in the mind than I was before, so my improvisation and guessing for what she might like in a pinch has improved. Still, every once in a while at the drive through or when picking up some take out, the order is wrong.

And the “irrational” fear that I just need to get over, is played out, just as I feared. The order is wrong and they’re mad at me. The order is wrong and it fouls their mood so they just act mad at me. Maybe they’re just disappointed. Maybe they pick at their food for a second, and decide it’s inedible. If someone is disappointed with their order, I the loathing I feel just stabs at me like an inside-out porcupine coat, even when it was definitely not my fault.

Oh… oh, but when someone knows I have this issue, then gets pissed off at me because of a mistake in the order, it’s one of the few things that can make me completely lose my temper.

So what’s the point of this long stupid story?

I have an example where I act crazy. I know exactly what causes it. How the hell does that help me?

I open up, I talk about how I feel, I complain about my life, I make a few jokes. I can do that to a random bar patron, or a web forum. Every once in a while, they repeat what I say in the form of a question, make a non-committal “yeah, I’m listening” noise or say something really, really obvious using psychology jargon. I threw down $70 to talk to you for most of an hour, and you give me nothing week after week. You’re not an expert on minds. You’re a cross between a friend and a whore, but because of professional boundaries, you’re not very good at either.

I think the problem is two-fold. Psychology is a very inexact science.

Physiology is pretty universal. Alcohol makes most people drunk. Caffeine makes most people more alert. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” etc. etc. Sure there are genetic traits and other factors that might cause a drug or procedure to do two or three completely different things (or nothing at all) in different people, but basically, the body you’re issued is more or less like a an electronic gadget. If you know how to fix one of a certain kind, you can fix any of that kind, even if there’s some different versions out there.

Not so much with brains. So many things that could be wrong, it’s hard to explain some symptoms without rough metaphors and similes and ultimately most of these symptoms are experienced entirely inside the brain which means that only the self -whoever is looking out of your eyes, or talking in your head- can even begin to understand it. It’s like the cave allegory. A shrink can only watch the cave wall for reflections and shadows of what’s going on outside the cave and have a pretty good idea, but can never actually look outside the cave to know for sure.

The other problem is that people who go to college to learn about child development, sexuality, psychological disorders and how the mind works are often there trying to get their own bats out of their attics.

My least favorite shrink ever was a couples therapist for me an my ex. I wanted to take her advice. I wanted to accept her help. I really did. She was a jaded man-hater. She’d twist my words and attack the twisted sentiment. If I said I don’t feel heard, it actually meant that I wanted to do all the talking. If I said I don’t feel like we do enough things I like together, it actually meant I was a control freak. If I said I feel like I do all the compromising, it actually meant that I never compromise. She’d make assumptions based on this caricature of a typical male and paint me with them. I don’t know if she thought I was lying or she just wasn’t listening to me, but she had her own issues. My ex came to my defense a couple times to tell her she’d gotten me all wrong, but not often enough. She liked having a cheer leading section.</RANT>

Caffeine Nirvana


It’s 7 am. I’m going on coffee more than sleep. Time is slowed down. My employees are moving in slow motion. The third-party inventory counters are frozen like Matrix Time. They’re eating danishes and drinking coffee on their first break of the day.

I’ve spent a month preparing for this inventory. Every item is tagged. Every tag number is correct. No stray items will go uncounted. This will go perfectly.

I can catch bullets.