People have called me “over-organized” or “detail-oriented” or “fussy” or “particular” at various times in my life, and it did not usually feel like a compliment! I’ve long been aware that a busy environment, with bustling people chattering, or loud noise, or even strong smells or wild weather outside the window, can feel chaotic and upsetting to me, while others would find it exciting. Along this same line, most movies or TV shows have too much violence or outright rudeness for me to be able to watch. I’ve criticized myself for years for being “too sensitive”, when this is just who I am. And there are some gifts to having heightened sensitivity. For one, I regularly pick up on and appreciate things others overlook.
So what does this have to do with control? I notice that I “go with the flow” less easily than others do, preferring to be in a situation where I have some control over the input coming into my sensitive nervous system to be processed. This way I don’t get overwhelmed and scared. This doesn’t mean I’m a hermit. I can be very good company for 1 or 2 or 3 other people. I am just not that comfortable in crowds, and need to limit my time in those types of situations so I feel calm enough.
I believe I developed this way since my environment was so unpredictable and noisy as a child. I didn’t have much control back then. The only thing I could do was retreat to a smaller environment, usually my books. I also pulled in my vision, so I didn’t have to look at all that turmoil.
OK, that was my coping strategy back then, but I’m not sure it’s still useful now. I do know the remaining visual constriction I have is not something I want to keep, and I’m working daily to loosen that. Along with this, though I don’t ever expect to be a Party Animal, I would like to be more at ease in a crowd, not feeling on edge and nervous, unable to relax. Yes, I can choose my “crowd” to some degree, picking a small group of peaceful friends. I’d also like to soften my habitual protective armor, maybe even someday deciding it’s not necessary.
To be comfortable in a new or unpredictable situation, and to see well there, I need to be grounded, and to feel safe. My safety meter is also more sensitive than it needs to be (think “hair-trigger”), so I can feel threatened when there is no real danger. Calming this hyper-alertness is becoming a big focus for me now. I often wake up in a state of alarm, feeling like I’m late for something important, or that I’ve forgotten to do some essential task. My meditation practice and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or “tapping”) have both helped to reduce this hyper-vigilance, but it’s not gone yet. Just tapping on “It’s safe to feel safe” can trigger me, an inner voice asking warily “Are you sure?”.
Where do I notice this lack of being calm affecting my vision? When I get nervous, I see less clearly. If I’m driving and someone darts suddenly into my lane in front of my car, I’ll gasp, my heart will speed up, and I can feel my vision narrow as if I’m focusing intently on a predator. If I’m practicing with the eye chart, and my partner interrupts me with a question or walks by to the side of me, I’ll lose all the clarity I had just gained, and it may take me a few minutes to get it back.
This morning I was thinking that clear vision is not holding on tightly to a clear view. Instead, it’s letting the previous view go and accepting the new one as it presents itself, whatever it is! This is the opposite of controlling my environment. So maybe I’m not the dunce of the class, improving my vision so much more slowly than most others, not really “getting it” despite all the books I’ve read and all the practicing I’ve done. Maybe I’m just more anxious than most, and that needs to be my focus now as much as the vision improvement does. I want to know, to the depths of my being, that it’s safe for me to see clearly.