Components of Resilience: Affect Management & Positive Frameworks

This is part two of a series of posts dedicated to breaking down components of resilience. The series is an elaboration on a post I made in 2015, continued now as part of the June 2016 Carnival of Aces on Resiliency. In part one, I introduced the series and covered tenacity. In this post, I will cover affect management and positive frameworks. Continue reading

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Identity Maintenance

Time passes me by lately like water does a fish—I am always in it, it is always flowing around me, but each moment is just something I live in without really thinking about it. I pay attention only to the strong currents and my eventual destination, letting the usual ebb and tide just make its lazy circles about the unconscious.

Of course, I’m still able to focus on time and its various aspects, bring it out of the background and into the forefront as I am doing now. But that kind of focus might as well be a flash of lighting. For the most part, it passes, and I make neither an effort to live in the moment nor hold fast to hope or memory. Things happen, mostly boring and not worth reporting—or so it was for a while. Unfortunately, no news does not necessarily mean good news, even though I am significantly less likely to update without the motivation of conflict. This past summer, I’ve been beset by a number of injuries and illnesses, including a brief visit to the hospital (which fortunately turned out to mean nothing except that I should take better care not to exhaust myself). Those injuries and illnesses have continued since I started school, which means that I have missed a lot of class and my ability to keep up with assignments has suffered. My relationship with my partner suffered a lot as well—partially, indeed, as a result of my being sick so often—and now we have broken up, albeit somewhat tentatively and while keeping the possibility in mind that we may be able to resolve our differences and work back up to a romantic relationship.

With all this going on, I hadn’t really been thinking about asexuality.  Over the summer, there were still plenty of moments, from time to time, when I would see my girlfriend looking at porn and, upon hearing my comments, she would groan at me and says, “You’re so asexual.” But for the most part, it went unnoticed, and barely mattered.

I have been trying to decide what is different about the part that sex played in our relationship as compared to the part that it plays in a pairing of two sexuals, but I can’t come up with much. It’s not as if it isn’t generally enjoyable, and I can’t say that it isn’t intimate. There were periods when we go without for quite a while before either one of us would crease her brow and say, “Hm. When was the last time, anyway?” That is probably the most obvious sign of my asexuality combined with her relative lack of sexual attraction to me. The thing is, our relationship actually did seem to suffer more during the dry spells than when we were doing it relatively frequently, despite my conviction that sex should not be a necessary part of a relationship.

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Dismantling Emotional Flatulence

A few days ago, I posted about Rabbi Schmuley Boteach’s bad definition of asexuality. Now, I want to address the main point of his article.

As Ily has observed, his argument makes no sense. It is inarticulate and illogical, and there are so many gaps where he has jumped from one assumption to the other that the article is quite difficult to follow without making great leaps of inferences.

Essentially, this is an emotional argument, and it must be dealt with as such. There is a sort of reasoning to it, but it’s not the same kind of reasoning as an argument based on logic. The Rabbi looks around him and sees that a good chunk of the population does not share his values, and so he fears that society is gradually becoming more and more immoral. This rant of his (for really, that’s what it is) is just the expression of that fear. It doesn’t amount to anything else, because he has not taken the trouble to check his facts; the entire rant is based solely on his own perceptions of the world around him.

Emotional arguments are very tricky, because unlike simple misinformation, they arise from some sort of emotional need, and serve as a defense mechanism which, when taken away, would leave a person vulnerable.  Franklin from Xero Mag wrote an essay which does a great job of explaining this. I don’t usually like to challenge emotional beliefs, because it tends to lead to a great amount of hostility, and it rarely accomplishes anything, since the person whose beliefs are being challenged will tend to just sit there and vehemently deny everything that I am saying. If a person is very invested in their emotional belief, it is extremely rare that anyone will be able to get through to them. This is why arguments between atheists and Christians (for example) are almost always futile. The only thing that they can usually accomplish is to change the opinion of someone who is sitting on, or very close to, the fence.

Still, I think it’s important to talk about stuff like this. There are a lot of people out there who might start to become aware of the emotional undercurrents in their own heads which are undermining their statements. I think it’s important for people to challenge their own emotional beliefs, and not let their emotional landscapes twist facts way out of proportion. This kind of thinking affects everyone, including the asexual community. Specifically, I see certain similarities between the Rabbi’s beliefs and their rationale, and those held by some asexuals. Continue reading

Asexual Character Spotlight: Data

So, I’m a nerd. And I’ve been rewatching Star Trek TNG lately because the gf hasn’t seen it yet, which is just not acceptable for someone as space-nerdy as her. She seems to like it, while I am rediscovering my love for my favorite asexual character.

When I still browsed AVEN a lot, I saw a few people who had avatars or quotes of Data, and seemed to identify with him like I do. Data is very much a classic character, so I expected as much. I feel like, if anything, I’m just going to be rehashing things people already know. But after doing a quick google search, it doesn’t seem like it’s anything that’s been discussed a whole lot, so I thought I might as well talk about him a little.

Like most asexual characters currently out there in the media, Data is not human, though he desperately wants to be. The very fact that he is not human is one reason why asexuals, as well as other people who feel alienated or outside of society in some way, are more likely to identify with him. But the anatomically correct android takes it several steps further than a cute, appliance-like robot character like WALL-E could, for one because he is in a show that is much more adult and thus has the possibility of actually exploring sexual themes; and two, because his goal is to become as close a facsimile to humanity as he possibly can. He fervently explores humanity and tries very hard to understand “the human equation” as best he can.

I particularly identify with this attitude because that is exactly my attitude towards sexuality. Like Data (who engages in sexual activity with Lieutenant Yar, telling her that he is “programmed in multiple techniques”–and taking into account his performance at every other task, we can be sure that he functions more than adequately), I can and have engaged in (enjoyable, even) sexual activities, but I still fail to understand the human urge or “need” to have sex, because I do not experience it. I’ve had people go so far as to tell me that I cannot possibly be human and still feel this way, though obviously since I am human, those people are mistakenly twisting the facts to fit the theory, and not the other way around. Clearly human sexuality is in actuality more varied than most people would like to think, but my main question (unanswerable though it may be) is why do other people feel this way? How does it affect their perspective on love, the way they feel towards their crushes, and so on? I have a tendency to drive people crazy asking them endless questions about how they think about love, sex, intimacy, and other related topics, which I think is frustrating to them mainly because they’ve never thought about it before, or certainly not in such detail as I request.

Essentially, I want to know what other people feel. It’s not that I want to change myself to feel the same way they do, because I’m perfectly happy with my own lack of… not interest, because I am certainly interested in human sexuality. From a distant, analytical perspective. Sound familiar?

If I were denied the full range of human emotions, I would yearn to be human, too. But I already am human, and I have those emotions. Why should I want to feel a form of desire that would only continue to frustrate me?

One very intriguing thing that Star Trek implies about sexuality is that it is contingent on having emotions. Anyone who hasn’t seen First Contact and doesn’t want to be spoiled, please refrain from highlighting the following text: Remember that creepy scene with the Borg Queen? She turned on Data’s emotion chip and then tried to seduce him, and seemed to be succeeding. In effect, before the emotion chip is activated, Data is asexual. After? He may well become borderline sexual, and able to experience sexual attraction, although he would still have no particular need to have sex.

This implies that sexual attraction itself is an emotion. Is that an accurate presumption? I’m not sure. It could be. Or it could be that the emotion Data was experiencing was purely his intense desire to be human, channeled through a sexual circuit. Is this not similar to what many people do with regards to intimacy?

This is merely an observation, but it seems to me that many sexual people do channel their emotions through the act of sex, as a sort of release for them. I don’t really understand this behavior, (and again, I feel like Data because of it), but I do see that it happens. It seems I’m just not wired to experience sex from an emotional perspective. Would I be, if I were sexual? I wonder.

And so I continue to ponder the puzzle of human sexuality, seeking answers that I will likely never be able to attain. In a way, I think the search is more important than the ultimate conclusion.

Greener Grass: Understanding That Other Patch

Jealousy has always been a curious thing for me, since I experience it so extremely rarely that my relation to it is most often as a spectator tilting her head to the side at this weird thing that humans apparently feel with such strength of emotion that it makes the stomach roil and the head fill up with so many images which each introduce a fresh wave of agony. Even in situations in which I suppose I should have been expected to feel it (I was well aware that M was carrying on liaisons with many other women besides me), if I experienced it at all, it was as a thought rather than an emotion, which in any case I only entertained for a little while.

Yet I am put in the odd position of often being expected to feel envy rooted in yet another emotion I don’t know what it’s like to feel, and told I don’t know what I’m missing for not feeling it. I suppose that’s true enough in one sense—not reacting that way myself, I may never know exactly what it’s like to react in that particular way to that particular stimulus (or rather, in the expected ways, to that particular set of stimuli). But what I recoil from is the idea that I can’t know what I’m missing, that not having that reaction myself, I can’t possibly understand the reaction of others. I’ve touched on this idea before, when I mentioned the oft-cited analogy that sexual people tend to come up with for why they can’t explain themselves to an asexual person, of trying to explain red to a colorblind person—why red, I wonder? So many people independently come up with the color red, yet all my friends and relatives with color deficiencies tell me they actually can distinguish that color. I’m being glib; I know red is culturally and psychologically associated with sex, but my point is, you can see from the choice of colors that even if we were literally talking about explaining red to a colorblind person, it would still be more about the speaker’s (mis)understanding than the listener’s. Perhaps it is a better figure of speech than I first pegged it to be, but if so it’s only unintentionally good, because it’s presented to demonstrate what’s taken as truth about its subject, but it actually better demonstrates the attitude of the person who is not its subject. My criticism of that attitude still stands, but now I want to expand on it. Continue reading

Almost-Sexual Frustration

Excerpt: As the title suggests, I have been feeling increasingly frustrated for the lack of physical contact with any other human being. Not sexual contact, but intimate contact: kissing, spooning, hearing someone else’s heart beat, feeling their skin beneath my nails, and pretty much anything that, according to popular ideas, is supposed to lead up to sex. Hell, I wouldn’t even really mind having sex, though it’s the part that comes before that I truly enjoy. Among asexuals, I seem to have a pretty broad view of what borderline acts are acceptable and enjoyable. This is why I sometimes call myself and almost-sexual, because if the definition of sexuality were broadened enough to include them, I might be able to identify as a sexual person. Although I still doubt whether even under the ideal circumstances, it would ever occur to me to initiate sex as it’s usually defined (i.e. intercourse, oral, manual). Point is, I still have a drive to be physically intimate with people even if I couldn’t care less about actually having sex with them. The only word I have to describe my feelings when that drive is frustrated is “sexual frustration” but it’s not quite that.
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Insecurity

In the middle of the night, it gets ya.

You know, overall, I’m a pretty secure person. I’ve had a lot of trauma to deal with in my life (no, not sexual trauma), so much so that honestly, looking back over my life experiences, it’s a wonder that I turned out sane. Given all the shit I’ve gone through, I ought to (at the very least) have suffered years worth of depression by now, but as it turns out, I’ve only spent about four months of my life depressed, and even then, it wasn’t constant. I am damned good at minimizing, interrupting, and conquering bad feelings. I can fucking cope.

Still, I have some issues to deal with. Continue reading