Some entries on this blog come about because they’re subjects that I can’t help but notice in my daily life. Eye contact, meltdowns, etc. These are things I actively notice. Other subjects happen because in my talking with my peers as I’ve happily been doing on twitter. This topic was one of those.
I’ve written before about overstimulation but I overlooked counterstimulation aside from a brief sentence. I’m not quite sure that was the right thing to do. To a great degree counterstimulation is our finest coping mechanism and one of our most known traits. Manifesting as echolalia, flapping hands, or any number of repetitive behaviors, counterstimulation, or “stimming” as we call it, is one of our most distancing acts but one of our most vital things.
The first thing I need to make clear is this: There is no standard behavior for stimming. Some of us flap our hands. Some sing. Some do various things at various times depending on the stimuli. I certainly do. What we have in common with the activity is we use it to reduce block out the constant overwhelming stimuli in the world.
I have several key behaviors. Listening to music with ear buds in is an important one. It reduces my awareness of the chaotic noise around me. I like to twirl things. This might look weird but bear with me as it’s a nice, regular, repeating motion. Drumming my tongue against my teeth is a great one when in a high stress, inescapable situation. Can’t go wrong with good old counting either.
Then there are the ones you wouldn’t expect. Playing Tetris and Pinball on my Wii achieve the same effect. Playing those simple, goal based games puts me in a place where my mind is clear and all is peaceful. I find digging through old newspapers to be one of the most relaxing ones I know. Growing up, as noted in that entry, riding my bike was an unlikely one but I swear, when I got out and allowed myself the simple rhythm of it, nothing else was nearly as good. That’s how I, despite suffering from heat stroke easily, got through it.
The truth is, we do find great comfort in our minds. I don’t know but I suspect many of us meditate frequently as I do. Community depicts this rather well with Abed and the “dreamatorium.” Stimming is our outward manifestation of our journey into the safer, quieter places in our mind. We can’t live there but sometimes we HAVE to visit there. It’s a complicated thing but we need it.