25 02 2009



Here is a painful personal trait that a few (or many?) of you may ruefully recognize. A partial explanation may be developing in current research. I’ve placed a link to that research at the end of this post.

I’ve spent a lifetime being hyper-reactive to unpleasant situations, and as a result desperately trying to pre-control everything that happens to me. The aim has been to head off the misfortune, frustration, moments of fear, periods of sorrow, etc., in order not to have to go through the seemingly-inevitable over-reaction that I have known from childhood will follow any misfortune.

Here is an example. I do almost all my shopping on the Internet. That means that a lot of things have to come to me in the hands of a UPS man. Unfortunately my house is long and thin (They’re called “shotgun houses” here in south Louisiana.), and I’m hard of hearing. The result: when I’m at the back of the house in the kitchen I often miss knocks on my front door.

I found a way to address this problem. I put a soft-headed hammer (made for auto body work) on a table on my porch, and a note above it saying, “UPS. Please knock with this hammer.”

Unfortunately, my local UPS man will NOT use the hammer. Yesterday I just caught the soft sound of a classic knuckle knock on the front door frame, and, because I was expecting a delivery, I rushed to the door and flung it open, only to see the UPS man getting into his truck on the curb outside, preparing to drive away.

I yelled for him to come back and he brought my package, which just happened to contain much-needed medication that I was almost out of.

OK, I’d managed to prevent that frustration/danger. I’d received the medicine, No big deal. Fagidaboutit! Right?


For the rest of the evening I reflected on the fact that this is the second time the UPS guy has ignored the same highly visible sign, potentially causing me a very uncomfortable absence of a needed medication. “How could he be so stupid?” I asked myself. “What do I have to do to straighten him out.” [I’d forgotten to confront him on the matter when I took delivery on the medicine.] “What will I do if this happens again and I miss my medicine?” “Do I have to start paying extra money for FedEX delivery of all my medication just because this guy can’t or won’t read my sizeable sign?”

Yada, yada, yada…until eventually I became extremely depressed from confronting the mere possibility that that guy’s stupidity could cause me pain in the future–and the actual fact that there was nothing I could do to prevent that possibility. I went to bed literally beside myself with fury and sadness. I was in despair.

Late today I realized that yes, I will have to pay extra for FedEX every time. And I can accept that–with irritation but not despair.

So why would a person be this way? Why am I prone to be pitched into a slough of despair at the slightest frustration or moment of fear? I know that most other people definitely are NOT like me. I’ve known that since I was a child. And ever since I was a little child I’ve felt shame at being such a SCAREDY CAT.

Well, there’s a clue in my heredity. Both my parents were very timid people. And now it turns out that there’s also likely causation in my home history–how I was treated by my parents. It involves the hormone cortisol.

So follow me, fellow scardey cats, to this revealing New York Times article:

I received virtually no parental comforting at times of upset after about age 10. How about you, readers? And are any of you now prone to being pitched into total depression at the slightest misfortune?




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