Friday, January 6, 2012

Sometimes insecure is a perfectly valid way to feel...

[Part 1 of a trilogy, Part 2, Part 3]

We don't like insecurity in this culture. It's a sign of not knowing. And if you don't know, well, how can you tell if you're wrong or right? How do you know what's correct and what's a mistake? How do you know what to think about yourself? Are your efforts good enough? Are you measuring up to the moment? What's the East German judge going to say?!?* Do I have any idea what's going on? Am I even seeing reality?

Have you ever seen a toddler run, without watching where they're going? Invariably they smack their head into some piece of furniture. Then they look at you as if to say, "If only you hadn't been there watching, I wouldn't have hit my head!!!" They are so angry in their pain, so angry that it hurts, so angry that it disrupted the fun they were having just instants ago...

We are all still that toddler inside. When we get sick, when our lives get disrupted by something we did not want, have no power over (besides mitigating the consequences, that is), when it hurts, we get angry. DO. NOT. WANT. It makes us mad that we have to deal with it. We want to escape it. We want a reason why. We can easily fall into blame-the-victim, both towards ourselves and towards each other.

But the truth is, just like that toddler, we can't see it coming. The future is something we anticipate, not something we know. Our incredible capacity to imagine is how we compensate for the fact that we're never really living in the moment. It's actually biologically impossible to live in the moment. It takes "it takes the brain at least a tenth of a second to model visual information." That is, it takes 1/10th of a second for the reality in front of us to reach the vision center of our brain and tell us what we're looking at. Think about this: you're driving in your car, the world is moving around you, things are happening, and you're watching the road. You look away. You look back. Suddenly you have to slam on your brakes. Did you miss seeing the car in front of you? Yes, quite possibly. That could be entirely true. If the movement happens in that 1/10th of a second window...

Let's think about that in terms of baseball. "At 85mph, it takes a ball approximately .425 seconds to go from the pitcher’s hand to the hitting zone." That's approximately 4/10th of a second.
More math, the average human reaction time is 3/4 of a second. That’s .750 seconds [7.5/10ths of a second]. What does that mean if a player simply reacts to the ball from the time it is released? That’s right, if you are good at math, you figured it out. Go have a seat on the bench, strike three went right on by you before you could even swing. Hitting is timing. A batter must begin his swing at the same time the pitcher begins his motion. There is an old saying, and I am not sure which hitting instructor first said it, "When the pitcher shows you his pocket, you show him yours." In other words, when the pitcher kicks his front leg up to begin his delivery to the plate, the hitter should begin his "cocking" or "pre-swing" motion, preparing the bat for a swing at the ball. If he does not, it is physically impossible to react in time.
Be a Better Hitter
We anticipate the world. All the time. For survival. For sport. But sometimes, when our mind is calculating what that future is going to be, we get it wrong. We don't see the table. We strike out. Something happens that we had no intention of happening. We don't get that job. We don't get into our choice of school. We can't afford to live in that neighborhood anymore. We're sick with a disabling disease. Life happens and throws us off our game.

If we're aware we don't have enough information about how to calculate what the future is going to be, we become anxious, worried, and frantic. Where do I stand? What do I do now? What's going to happen to me? My family? My love... Those can be difficult pills to swallow. But it can also give us a sense of wonder, surprise and magic, like not knowing the end of the story or watching a Penn & Teller magic show:

Why do we run from our insecurity? Shouldn't we acknowledge it? Shouldn't we stop for a moment and go, "Hey, I'm feeling insecure. I wonder what's going on here?". Why do we try to insist, "I'm okay! I'm okay! Everything's alright!" even though we're scared? Why don't we stop and identify what's making us insecure? Insecurity lets us know that we don't have all the information we'd like. It identifies places that we should investigate, rather than avoid. It lets us know where the mystery lies.

*(Cold War Olympics humor)
Edited by Brigg Baldwin

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