Do No Harm

  • On February 15, 2021 ·
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Featured Image Do No Harm

As I’m writing this I’m taking today to organize my thoughts. This time last year there was a Twitter thread making the rounds about Internal Monologues. Similar to the one on astigmatism, many people were surprised to find where they sit on a subject they didn’t even realize existed. For those unfamiliar, an internal monologue is when your thoughts form clear sentences, as though you’re narrating your life in real time.

“Doesn’t everybody have that?” No, actually. Some folks don’t. This doesn’t mean they don’t think about things, rather they don’t interpret those thoughts as words until they need to communicate them to someone else. Likewise some visualize thoughts more clearly than others. Aphantasia as it’s called is the inability to form mental pictures.

I remember growing up I’d imagine stories out loud as it was easier to funnel those thoughts the way we share them with others. Eventually I got self-conscious about talking to myself, worried others would hear me and what they’d think. Internalizing took practice and felt like more work. There is a mental and emotional energy to it that’s very real. If you’ve ever sat in a class or office waiting down the clock until you don’t have to be alert anymore then you know what I’m saying. Just as we need to build up our abilities to think and process active thoughts, so too we need time to decompress.

Visualization is another mental skill I need to practice. It may come as a surprise to some that, though I decided to be an artist, I don’t tend to think in pictures. I also don’t doodle or draw as much as others or even as much as I’d like to. Like any form of exercise the problem comes down to the path of least resistance. Is it easier to do something you know is good for you but requires effort or is it easier to put off? Doodling is a constructive and experimental process. Usually I stress to know what I need to draw and then find under what conditions I need to draw it. Is it a single illustration? A comic? Show me some reference so I know I’m not making stuff up.

This is a long way of explaining I spend a lot of time in my own head and a lot of time aware with my mind switched “on” which can be problematic. It becomes an issue when I start dwelling on things due to stress. With nothing productive to focus on I whittle away at my assuredness, second and third guessing my decisions, craving validation when I’m the only one in the proper place to give it. We’re all stressed out these days. We all have expectations for ourselves, for others, and from others to deal with. Even people I enjoy being around can become a drain mentally and emotionally given enough time. For a while now life has been extremely out of the ordinary for all of us. There’s always talk of the “new normal,” how as humans we have to adapt to our situations to survive, how we settle into routine to keep going on.

2020 was an exhausting and frustrating year. 2021, though still being complicated, also shows signs of light at the end of the tunnel. We need to be able to empathize with each other as we never really know what all our neighbors put up with. At the same time we need to reinforce boundaries and expectations for our own lives. As the quote from Moïra Fowley-Doyle goes: Do no harm, but take no shit.