Updated Thoughts on Mutism

I mainly experience mutism when in a group conversation or when overwhelmed in a foreign language speaking environment. There’s also a third, less predictable way that I become mute and that is to do with certain people. From the first moment when I encounter one of these people, I’m either completely mute or can only say basic words such as ‘hi,’ ‘goodbye’, and ‘thanks.’ Even saying simple words such as these requires a lot of forcing of myself. Maybe it doesn’t sound like such a bit deal, but it also comes with a physical feeling of being closed down and being unable to break through it.

My mutism doesn’t happen only with strangers. It can also be people I’ve known a long time. With these people, I’m no longer 100 percent mute as I was when I was a child. Now, if I need to say something to them I can force the words (in an English-speaking environment, though much harder in a second language). What I say will not be conversational but can include things such as passing on a message or responding to a question. However, I prefer not to speak to or around these people at all.

I had some realisations regarding my mutism which I will now share. What I have to say goes against what I always hoped for regarding my mutism, which was to overcome it eventually and to be able to express myself to everybody. What I realised instead was that when I go mute, my mutism is telling me not to express myself fully in that situation or with that person. It’s a physiological response that shuts down my speech so that I can’t talk openly. This is useful because speaking openly is something I can later regret, for example, if I speak openly with a person who is not to be trusted. My mutism doesn’t catch all the people who are not to be trusted, but at least it points out some of them to me.

What I realised was that my mutism keeps me safe. It’s often not safe to express oneself openly around particular people or when in a group, and mutism shows me when this is the case because I can’t talk. There are many reasons a situation might not be safe to express oneself, such as the people you are with are intolerant (in terms of religion, lifestyle or politics) or think very differently to you in other some way. Often it’s not worth arguing or disagreeing with these kinds of people. Silence is golden.

Sometimes the act of speaking isn’t dangerous so you could theoretically talk, but it’s still not worth it. Not expressing oneself in this circumstance is a case of not casting your pearls before swine. Some people have no interest in knowing who you really are or what you really think; they can only accept you or like you if you act and think exactly as they do. I realised that with these people, being myself and expressing myself as I am is wasted on them; it generally only leads to conflict and them trying to change me. I don’t need to express myself around these people.

At the same time, I know that the mutism is something going on inside me, that it’s my responsibility, and that nobody is forcing it to happen to me no matter how severe of an asshole another person might be. When I used to get panic attacks from experiencing mutism, I behaved very badly and rudely. I don’t think that’s acceptable and in the future that is something I will change. All it takes is to realise that I don’t need to express myself openly in any situation where my mutism is triggered; this takes much of the stress away. Secondly, I can say the one word replies or as much as I can manage, and I should try as hard as I can to do this for people as it is more polite than saying nothing at all. And lastly, to be aware that this is my life and I can shape it in ways so that I can be around people I can express myself openly with. This doesn’t mean that I have to avoid everyone that I experience mutism with, but I think that contact with these kinds of people should be limited, otherwise for me there’s nothing ‘social’ about it, it’s more like punishment.

Copycat, Copycat (Poem)

Copycat, copycat

Rat-a-tat-tat

You get a pat on the back

Cos I know how you did that.


Copycat, copycat

Dum-de-dum-dum

Bang them out and get it done,

Make a quick buck: isn’t this fun!


Copycat, copycat

Ra-de-ra-ra

Do it yourself—That’s a bit hard!

Get a leg up and you will grow fast.


Copycat, copycat

Dong-dong, ding-ding

You know that to copy me is to win…

You add some sexy, then views go schwing!

 

Constantly Update Who You Like and Who You Follow

Things that we once thought were very good can change. That’s why I take care to constantly reassess the things I like. If I realise I don’t like something anymore, I stop following it. This also applies to people; sometimes it just happens that there is a shift in my feelings and the connection I have with that person doesn’t feel good to me anymore. With people especially, the shift can be hard to observe in oneself because a lot of self-deception gets in the way. When that happens, I am remembering old, good memories and feelings that I shared with that person, and not objectively assessing our connection as it stands in the present. The layers of denial can be very thick due to wanting to hold on and not let go of what was good before. When this has happened to me, I’ve found myself in constant doubt, even blaming myself for things between us not feeling right. Now though, I’m getting better at simply observing the change in my feelings and making a mental note of it—in most cases there is no need to take immediate action to remove someone from your life—the slow fizzle does the job.

Updating what or whom I like can be annoying because it’s like a snake shedding its skin. It’s hard to do because it takes a lot of energy and during this process old, irritating flakes of skin get stuck for a while.

When it comes to online content, there is only one blog that I have consistently followed for more than 4 years. Most of everything else I’ve only been into for short phases. Sometimes it’s because I’ve lost interest and other times it is a conscious decision to stop. I stop following someone if their information strikes me as having been corrupted in some way—for example, the person now spreads false information (usually to make big money) or has turned into a cult leader. I also stop following people when ‘internet fame’ has gone to their heads. It can be really disconcerting and even upsetting when this happens because you wonder if you were deceived at first, or else why would you have followed this person?

When I perceive someone to be spreading false information, this does not mean the same thing as me disagreeing with that person’s viewpoint. It relates more to perceiving some background agenda in the person’s words that they aren’t being upfront about. Usually they have some magic method for sale or a philosophy that they want you to become a follower of. It’s a red flag for me whenever someone touts a product or philosophy as being the only solution that works for a particular problem.

Referring back to myself now as a content maker, I change a lot and for some people who follow me or who used to follow me, that’s disconcerting. To that I say that the changes you see in me are much more obvious because they are shown on the outside and are being expressed, whereas with a lot of people, their changes might not be directly shown because the person is protecting their brand image and income stream. On top of this, the majority of people only have one creative mode of expression (like a typecast actor) which is more widely distanced from their real-life personality; who you see on screen and who you get in real life are totally different beings. When this is the case, inner changes can be relegated solely to the private personality who is kept away from the camera. This means ‘unflattering’ or uncommerical inner changes that a person goes through tend not to leak out into what they have to say online. Although if you’re paying attention and watching carefully, you can still notice subtle changes.

Big Event Anxiety E.g. Going to Weddings

I’ve been invited to a wedding three months from now, and the idea of going to it is already causing anxiety. The inner conflict is between the thought that I *should go* and the feeling that I don’t want to because it will be really hard for me.

I imagine this wedding to be hard for a number of reasons. First, as an introvert, I don’t like these kinds of big events, especially when they are full up with people from the distant past. I much prefer leaving the past in the past than I do being reunited with it en masse, such as by meeting again some of the people I went to school with years ago. It’s not that there’s anyone I dislike or specifically don’t want to meet again from my school years, it’s rather that I’ve moved on from all that. There’s nothing interesting there that I would want to dig up, and anyway, the social aspect of my school days brings up more bad memories than good.

Another aspect I imagine to be hard is the energy drain of going to a big event and the pressure to be ‘on form’. This means interacting with a lot of people over what is likely to be a very long day. I have been to weddings that I’ve really enjoyed before, but these were generally when I was the random guest who didn’t really know anyone else there. Not knowing many people actually makes going to a wedding a lot easier, as you can always disappear when you need to and nobody will care or notice you’re gone.

And the final aspect that is hard is going to a wedding alone without a guest. I go on holiday alone and will eat out alone happily. In the past I have been to nightclubs and music festivals alone, that’s harder but still doable. But going to a wedding alone, well, I’m already feeling the cringe of awkwardly standing about with nobody to talk to during all those in-between moments that happen at weddings, such as when waiting to pose for photos. If I go, I can imagine myself latching on another loner for mutual support!

I haven’t decided whether I’m going to go or not yet to this wedding. As an ideal, I do want to go to show my support and care for my friend who is getting married. I also want to be part of the memories of that day. But then again I also know my personal limitations. There’s a big difference between pushing one’s comfort zone (doing something that is hard because it will be good for you) and going against oneself (forcing yourself to do what is hard when your insides scream ‘No!’). In my case it’s much too early to decide whether going to this wedding will be within my comfort zone or not. Three months later is a lot of time for things to change and by then I may be feeling much healthier than now, and if that’s the case, I will have ample energy for a big event such as this. If I don’t feel in good physical shape by the time of this wedding, which is needed to avoid energy wipeout, then I’m just not going to go. I’ll explain my reasons to my friend and hope that she can be understanding of that.