Saturday, 28 November 2020

The selfishness of post-traumatic stress disorder

 After having spent some time over the past weeks chatting with perfectly friendly strangers as they came to pick up some items that I was selling via EBay, it rather hit me how much I enjoyed those contacts. In that regard it's even more frustrating that I always seem to end up by myself, whether holed up in my room as a child or teenager with books and my computer instead of hanging out with friends and classmates, or holed up in some apartment, often in front of a computer instead of hanging out with friends or family.

Pandemic aside, I think that the answer really goes back to the childhood trauma. As my mother put it, I changed practically overnight from a happy, carefree child who wanted nothing more than to be friends with everyone to a frightened child who refused to be touched or embraced by even their own mother. When you only become aware of those changes many years later and have to trace things back at that point, it's a tough job, which takes time. Time during which you are occupied a lot with yourself a lot.

Not just with digging through your own past and memories, but also trying to make sense of what it is that you are feeling and why you are responding in certain ways. Why did that one thing which I just got asked about upset me so much? Why did I suddenly start crying? Why am I feeling angry? Why does it feel right now like hurting myself is even remotely acceptable? Why do I feel worthless? Why do I feel ready to just give up on life?

Those outbursts of rage, of helplessness and intense regret and sadness are not only upsetting to oneself, but even more to one's environment, who are spared the emotional turmoil, flashbacks and intense feelings that associate such moments. When reading the story of a woman who tried to build up a relationship with a war veteran with PTSD [1], there's a lot of such moments in there. That said, the final point in that story ('It's OK to walk away') does make sense from the perspective of the caretaker, as they too have to protect themselves. On the other hand, it is also very cruel towards the person with PTSD.


As a victim of PTSD, it is not that you choose to behave in such a way. The level of awareness of one's own behaviour differs, of course, and there's a certain leeway in how far you can control your behaviour. In the end, however, the effect of PTSD if the patient is left without appropriate help or assistance is more akin to a person who is drowning. In their panic and fear, they do not realise that they are wildly flailing around, injuring and possibly killing their would-be rescuers along with themselves. Nobody is at fault, which is the real tragedy.

This article by Juli Fraga [2] focuses on loneliness with PTSD and why it's both a natural consequence and very wrong. The main thing being that becoming stuck in loneliness can reinforce the traumas. Left alone with one's feelings, dealing only with the day-to-day things of modern society (many of which are fairly hostile or can be interpreted as such), this would further promote the feeling that the outside world is unsafe, and thus also that trusting others is unsafe. If you're alone, nobody can hurt you, basically. Even though it is yourself that you have to fear the most of in that case.

Similarly, it shouldn't be up to just one other person to 'rescue' you. As said earlier in the 'drowning person' comparison, and described in the Health Line article [1], that tends to be a recipe for disaster. Speaking as someone who has also been at the other side in such a relationship (flatmate with diagnosed psychological disorder), getting the heck out of that situation is really the only way to salvage one's sanity and health. I barely got out of that situation, losing only all of my possessions when things turned a bit too... psychotic.


All of that said, I think that I am aware of most of my emotional and psychological outbursts and issues. There is obviously still a lot that I need to learn, especially since I kind of stopped that learning process back as a child for obvious reasons, but I want to understand and better myself. I enjoy dealing with the emotional fluctuations caused by my PTSD about as much as others around me do, which is to say it makes them want to run away and never return.

For me, however, I cannot abandon myself. This is the only 'me' that I have got, and it's the 'me' I have got to work with, even if it feels like a broken, shattered vessel, filled with regrets and haunted by ghosts of the past. I just have to make it work somehow. As Juli Fraga's article points out, something that can already help is to write down what you are feeling and experiencing. That would make this blog part of my PTSD therapy, I guess?

When I notice how others respond to me when they first meet me, I feel like there is definitely hope. That I can become master of these traumas instead of vice versa. Just have to rebuild that self-esteem, tweak that self-image, take a deep breath before the boiling, trauma-fed emotions get the better of me. Sounds easy.

What are you afraid of?


Maya


[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/lessons-partner-with-ptsd
[2] https://www.rewire.org/loneliness-trauma-side-effect/

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

The cost of proving that one isn't transgender

 Sometimes one cannot help but marvel at how the road to Hell is paved with only the most exquisitely well-intended words and actions. Even as I try to write this all down in the knowledge that I really have to get this off my chest, that is something important, it's hard not to feel like I am committing some kind of social offence. Who am I to dismiss popular opinion, after all?

Fact of the matter is that as much as I just wish to 'move on' with my life, it is hard to ignore a certain elephant in the room. One which has been standing there for a while now, and surely isn't going to budge merely by the power of me ignoring it. It's not an easy elephant to name, though its nickname could be 'transgender accusation trauma'. Perhaps not a very short nickname, but it will have to do.


It's both funny and scary how when one looks back, one can clearly see how naive and simplistic one used to be about certain topics. If you had asked me about the topic of transgender/transsexuality fifteen years ago or so, I would have given you the popular opinion spiel about the body and male and female identity of the brain.

That was before I discovered that I am intersex. Yet with the doctors still telling me that I had to be transgender. The MRI-based evidence that I got from a private clinic, which showed me to be have a hermaphroditic intersex body was cast aside, and it was insisted appointment after appointment, year after year that I had to be, nay, could only possibly be transgender with my obviously male body and with my insistence that my body was not male.

Only what I was asking them was to examine my body and tell me what I already knew inside: that it is in fact not a male body, nor a female one. But they would always circle back to me having to be transgender in their professional opinion, with the evidence about my body not being male dismissed as 'insufficient', 'unclear', 'open to interpretation' and so on. They kept asking me: "But you want to be a woman, right?", even as I required no hormones or surgery to appear and sound for all intents and purposes female already.


How does one go about disproving that one could be transgender? Years of running in this endless treadmill led me to investigate what all of those terms really meant. From 'gender' to 'feeling like a woman/man' to the intricacies of physical and psychological identity. Along the way I was forced to admit that popular opinion was wrong. The reason why I couldn't pin down 'feeling like a woman/man' was because it's a nonsensical notion that as I have referenced in previous posts is not based on science [1], with 'gender' in the modern sense being instead a symptom of transgenerational trauma [2].

What I was feeling was just the way that I am, and the person I want to be. I cannot feel 'like a woman' or 'like a man', because those statements mean nothing. Only in the context of a physical body does 'male' or 'female' make sense, and there too is too much variety to create just two groups. Even among individuals with purely male or female genitals there exists a wide variety, and there are those who suffer certain pains and defects, some involving infertility, others with varying levels of period pains and PMS. The 'female experience' isn't binary, with each woman getting a unique experience on account of the unique combination of their female body and associated hormones and reproductive organs.

Where this overlaps with the hermaphroditic experience, hermaphrodites and women can definitely swap tales and tips on how to deal best with the downsides of womanhood [3]. This realisation made it easy for me to accept that I am not a woman, nor a man, but a hermaphrodite, and unique again among hermaphrodites and human beings in general. Therefore I only have to be myself to be okay in my own eyes and 'pass' as myself.


Yet over a decade of having doctors, psychologists and other know-it-alls try to hammer their opinions home have left their scabbed over wounds. I feel that any trust that I could have had in such people has evaporated, perhaps never to return again. Perhaps worse is that I can no longer share blissfully in popular opinion. How does one go about informing people that their views on what it means to be male or female, not to mention gender are incorrect? That the diagnosis of 'transgender/gender dysphoria' is flawed and without scientific basis?

Should one even tell people about it? While I am glad that I have figured things out for myself, I feel that in doing so, many doors have been closed between me and much of society. There is a lot that I can no longer talk about now without either sharing my own thoughts, or hiding them. These days I seem to lean more towards avoiding it, it seems.

Together with the topic of intersex itself, all of it feels like dead ends to me [4]. It's easiest in many ways to not deal with something unpleasant, even if it means that one may have to actively avoid it, for example by using filter lists on social media to avoid certain content.


I think it is also essential that I get to escape from these topics for a while at least. When it has formed a significant part of one's life for far too long, and caused mostly grief and sorrow, it is essential to give it a rest. Put it on a shelf and focus on the other parts of oneself for a change. My womanhood can stay confined to the discomfort of periods and PMS for now. Even if it's a right bother sometimes, it is still a part of who and what I am. And that's fine.

There is still life beyond the sharing in popular opinion, after all.


Maya


[1] https://mayaposch.blogspot.com/2019/12/your-brain-doesnt-care-what-genitals.html
[2] https://mayaposch.blogspot.com/2020/11/gender-as-special-type-of.html
[3] https://mayaposch.blogspot.com/2020/08/when-intersex-woman-isnt-just-woman.html
[4] https://mayaposch.blogspot.com/2020/02/so-i-got-denied-medical-care-because-of.html

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Gender as a special type of transgenerational trauma

 Whereas the term 'sex' unequivocally refers to an individual's biological sex, i.e. their body's physical properties which pertain to the function of reproduction, the term 'gender' [1] has changed or assumed different meanings over the past centuries. Originally referring to a group of people or things which share a certain trait, it came to mean the same as 'biological sex' around the early 15th century as a way to differentiate it from the physical act of procreation that had become associated with the term 'sex' by that time.

The currently common meaning of 'gender' to mean 'social role' in the feminist sense dates to the early 1960s. This claims the existence of distinct masculine and feminine attributes that would define an individual as being part of either a masculine ('male') or feminine ('female') role in society, seeking to define the identity of a person's ego in only those perceived qualities.


Here I would like to postulate that this definition, and the perception of 'masculine' and 'feminine' properties to make up the ego of an individual, is indicative of transgenerational trauma [2]. Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that the very notion of such properties does not hold up to scientific scrutiny [3], with studies showing the brains of volunteers to display a mosaic of properties, with no distinct sets of properties that would indicate a propensity towards either a 'male' or 'female' pattern. Effectively, neither the presence nor absence of specific hormones or chromosomes appear to have any effect on the development and final functionality of the human brain.

While for animals as well as insects, their biological sex has a significant impact on their expected role in courtship rituals, an important distinction to be drawn here is that of instinct and behaviour versus reason and intelligence. No matter how enlightened a species may be, the basic courtship rituals and the instincts that drive them are still present. This underlies much of human societies, with in particular societies founded on Abrahamic religious foundations only relatively recently accepting that women are in fact individuals with the right to self-determination.


The societal patterns that have been sustained over the millennia as a result of these base rituals persist to this day, as do the traumas that accompany them. Despite there being no scientific evidence to support any dimorphism between human brains, it's still held as common knowledge that men and women are 'different'. Along with the feministic pseudo-scientific 'gender' theorem we can see this supposed difference being used as justification by some for segregation, or discrimination ('affirmative action', 'gender quota'), with no backing scientific evidence that would justify this.

Other ways that this societal trauma appears is in the form of individuals crossing those perceived masculine and feminine societal roles, either dressing up in a way that is generally perceived to be only acceptable for individuals in the other role. More extreme is the appearance of individuals who feel that they cannot live with the reproductive organs with which they have been born ('gender dysphoria', or GD) and must have these organs surgically removed. Here a considerable overlap with Body Identity Disorder (BID)[4] seems to exist [5]. Similarly to cases of non-neurological BID, individuals diagnosed with GD can grow out of the disorder, go through with surgery and end up regretting it ('detransition') [6], or find that the surgery did not alleviate the effects of the psychological disorder.


In the comparison with BID and GD one can see a pattern of trauma appear. For non-neurological (i.e. no deficiencies found within the brain) BID, there appears to be often some kind of impressive experience, often in the childhood of the person. This can be something shocking, such as seeing someone with an amputated limb. For GD the trauma appears to overlap significantly with transgenerational trauma.

Even before a child is conceived, the parents and their environment will hold certain beliefs about what is right and proper for a child, depending on the biological sex it is born with. This continues with the birth of the child, their clothes they receive, the toys they play with and the other children they see and how their environment expects them to play with others. At each stage along their development, they grow up in an environment in which their behaviour and preferences are cultured, promoted, punished and promoted until they are deemed 'appropriate'.

Here the parents and the environment are often unaware of their own actions, or would be at a loss to explain why they feel it is 'correct'. This is in many ways similar to the behaviour seen by the victims of childhood abuse, some of whom who will go on to inflict similar abuse to their own children. The distinction here is that this transgenerational trauma about societal roles or in its current nomenclature 'gender' isn't something that affects just some unfortunate families. This level of trauma affects entire societies and nations, generation after generation.


This also helps to explain to some extent the attitude towards intersex individuals. Falling outside the convenient boundaries of a binary sex, they either suffer early mutilation (intersex genital mutilation) to force them to conform, or will suffer the trauma of dealing with a society which is too traumatised to be able to accept that its concepts of masculinity and femininity are not only beside the point, but also comprehensively, scientifically incorrect.

To heal from this trauma, societies will first have to learn to accept the reality and scope of this trauma before they can begin to let go of fictional narratives. This would be a long, arduous process. If this concerned a singular patient, a psychiatrist would seek to slowly ease the patient out of their delusions and circular reasoning, so that they might see and grasp the reality. To do that with entire societies is however a whole different level.


Maya


[1] https://www.etymonline.com/word/gender
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgenerational_trauma
[3] https://mayaposch.blogspot.com/2019/12/your-brain-doesnt-care-what-genitals.html
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3326051/
[5] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269697839_Body_integrity_identity_disorder_and_Gender_Dysphoria_A_pilot_study_to_investigate_similarities_and_differences
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detransition

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Getting back into that 'career' thing after recovering from PTSD

 This is not an easy post for me to write. Even as I am grateful for the progress that I'm making in recovering from decades of trauma and the associated post-traumatic stress disorder, it's hard not to find myself painfully aware of how the world around me has seemingly moved ahead without me. Instead of neatly and mostly happily bouncing my way through the education system and ending up in some job from which I'd work my way up to a bright career, I more or less fell off the grid as I fell into depression, followed by a string of traumatic events which put my continued existence strongly in question.

To make a long story short, I seem to have managed to make it out of the other side more or less in one piece, courtesy of primarily the efforts of people who I am very grateful for not giving up on me. Yet as the darkness of depression recedes and my PTSD no longer controls me, it's equally painfully obvious that the reason why people rush into a career is so that they can acquire that which most crucially sustains life itself: money.

I'm grateful that I have found some freelance work mostly writing articles for sites and publications, but diversification seems like a good thing. For example something to do with my experience as a senior-level software developer. Call it an artefact of my cosy relationship with computers while growing up, but software development in particular is something which is practically an integral part of my being, much like the ability to read and write. Basically, that means that I like it a lot.


I was supposed to have landed a software development contract for a big international company at the beginning of this year, but as the pandemic did its thing, that lead dried up, like so many others. Finding new leads and following up on them is still something that I have to work on, just like the whole 'networking' thing. It's no use if you might be a great fit for a lot of remote software jobs out there, but neither side is aware of the other.

In that regard I guess that my string of published books on mostly C++ and embedded development is a good kind of advertisement, along with the projects which I have published on my GitHub account [1]. Yet it's still a struggle to generate and handle leads, even if others do their best to find a few for me. I guess it's mostly due to the vestiges of PTSD that still trouble me, slowing me down and making even simple tasks more demanding than they would be for anyone without such a psychological burden.

Some of these projects which I started have gathered a lot of feedback already, especially NymphCast [2], even as the amount of work there is still astounding, especially for what is still a definite hobby project. While I did recently go back to fix a regression with playback and add a host of new features, it did impress on me again the need to balance hobbies with work. Hobbies are for relaxation and fun learning, while work is what you do first and foremost for money to survive.

While I have seen some open source projects grow to the point where they can have an actual business plan, or keep growing through the power of donations, aiming for such a thing seems roughly as practical and realistic as trying to become rich by inventing the Next Big Thing and patenting it.

What seems more realistic at this point is the development of my Nodate embedded framework project [3], as I can directly use it as the foundation of articles on embedded development. That level of synergy is extremely helpful.


In summary, at this point I'm still scraping by as a freelancer, doing odd jobs, but I would definitely like something bigger and more permanent. I think it would be helpful for my recovery by having something steady and predictable. I think that what I have put out in public in terms of publications and projects should leave a favourable impression. Enough that I should have more self-confidence, perhaps.

Time to chase more leads like an overly excited kitten chasing yarn and see what comes up at the end of them, I guess :)


Maya


[1] https://github.com/MayaPosch
[2] https://github.com/MayaPosch/NymphCast
[3] https://github.com/MayaPosch/Nodate

Monday, 9 November 2020

Healing, growing, accepting

 I would say that a healthy point in the healing process while recovering from psychological trauma is when you not only feel disgusted with the thought of being a victim, but feel motivated to reclaim your life. Previously I have talked about the sensation of feeling like a victim, and how much I dislike that. Sure, I could complain all day and everywhere about how society keeps hurting me, and moan about their debt towards me, but that's not the person who I want to be.

Things happened. I can fix this, because it's what has to be done. Because I can see what has to be done. Even as it feels like parts of my brain are still slowly sliding and clicking into place after having been chopped up and reshuffled by repeated trauma over the decades, I can feel myself growing stronger. I am healing.


I still don't get what my body exactly is. Even if I'm less confused about it than doctors, for whom intersex bodies seem to be completely outside of their field of expertise. I had no choice but to make this my field of expertise, as this is the only body that I will ever have.

Chronologically, my body has a specific age. Yet when people are asked how old they think I am, the answer seems to roughly vary between 15 to 25 years old. From what I can tell, my body is still going through puberty. As the harm from the unintentional years-long starvation process fades, my body seems to enthusiastically return to wrapping up this 'puberty' thing. I had no idea that my body would end up looking this feminine. Nor did I figure it would display a kind of reverse ageing process. Or maybe I'm just looking healthier now. It's hard to tell sometimes.


I have to acknowledge the years of fruitless attempts at searching for medical help and answers, and unsatisfying or even harmful psychological help. I tried and did my best there, but it was not meant to be. I still feel unhappy with the fact that nobody seems to care about me being forced to use my abdomen as a monthly sanitary pad, and feeling the resulting ickiness squishing inside my perineum, along with other unhappy symptoms. But this is discomfort, not hazardous to my life. I think. I hope.


Looking back, it's hard not to admit that the past years have focused a lot on dealing with and coming to terms with these and other things. Yet it was necessary, I think. One cannot just move on when every thought feels like it had to crawl its way through glass shards.

Then comes the time when one feels that one can, no, wants to move on. Continue fixing up one's mind, while seeking positive interactions and accomplishments in the big world out there. Because life waits for nobody.


Maya

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Childhood abuse and the eternal expectation of compassionless punishment

 A few days ago, I was suddenly reminded of a dream which I have had a few times by now over the past decades. Each time it is essentially the same dream: I find myself at what seems like a party or gathering, with people sitting around a number of round tables, busy chatting, drinking and amusing themselves. Meanwhile I wander between those tables, feeling invisible as I at the same time deal with the knowledge that I'm a condemned person. That tomorrow my execution will take place and that this is my last day alive. Invisible. Ignored. Irrelevant.

Until I was reminded of those dreams again, I had not been able to place them, or make sense why I would have that same dream over and over. Then it hit me that I could connect my feelings and experiences in those dreams with the feelings that often crop up when I'm dealing with strong negative emotions, usually as part of a negative or stressful event. Feelings of feeling worthless, defective, disgusting, revolting, deserving of punishment and so much worse.

Seeing those two things side by side and seeing how they fit together also allowed me to connect them with the details of the traumas which I have suffered over the past years, starting with the presumed childhood abuse at around age five which seems to have started all of this. Although part of me still struggles to accept that I truly did suffer childhood abuse, the circumstantial evidence is just too overwhelming. That just leaves the frustration that I cannot remember many details of what exactly happened to me, or who was involved.


While reading up on the topic of childhood abuse and the far-ranging emotional, neurological and social consequences that this has on the lives of victims, I came across a lengthy but excellent article by Beverly Engel over at Psychology Today [1]. Reading it allowed me put a few more things together. Most of all the visualisation I had of child me still being stuck in the dark room that I can remember, with the child crying and feeling so horrible about everything that had happened before being abandoned by one of the adults responsible in that room.

I described previously how it felt to me like I had found a way to this room with the traumatised child inside it [2][3] and had managed to open the door, leaving the previously dark and cold room instead empty and sunny. This to me seems like a first step towards healing and self-compassion. Instead of leaving the traumatised child part of myself alone in that room, I instead allowed it to become a part of myself again, ending that fragmentation.

As Beverly Engel describes, often the problem with childhood abuse is debilitating shame and guilt. Whatever happened as a child established those patterns, leading to subsequent behaviour that devalues one's own existence, one's body and one's place in society. Due to being unable to feel like anything one does is good enough, combined with any praise feeling far less genuine than the opposite leads to a constant sensation of being invisible or unwanted.


Looking back, I can see how easy it was for me to discard any compassion expressed by others towards me. I was waiting for actions that would show me that those words of compassion were genuine. Amidst cruel and compassionless acts from people like psychologists, doctors, landlords and many others, it only reinforced the feeling of being led to my eventual execution day. Ergo those dreams.

What I also felt in those dreams was a feeling of sadness, but at the same time a sensation of relief that it was almost finally over. That I could be free of... the guilt and shame, I would say. Very similar in a way to those moments between me deciding to take my own life in early 2011 and executing the plan. Reading Beverly Engel's writings and articles by others I can now see those lines running from five year old me to today. As lines of fate or perhaps more accurately doom.


The obvious therapy to heal from childhood abuse is thus compassion. Compassion from others, but also compassion from oneself. I feel that I have taken the first steps with the latter, which should also improve the way that I respond to compassion shown by others towards me. The difficulty for me being that I have to reprogram parts of my brain which have been running the same trauma-born responses for decades now. For me to really feel a connection with others and not merely as an unwanted guest wandering unwanted through a crowd. How do you fix the way one's brain perceives social interactions?

In that respect, it's good for me to practice self-compassion and to be... nice to myself instead of acting like an abusive adult would towards a terrified child. Being non-judgemental is one of the points of self-compassion which are also mentioned. All so that one day I can feel like I'm an actual human being who also has every right to exist and mingle with others, while living their life in this universe.


Maya


[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201501/healing-the-shame-childhood-abuse-through-self-compassion
[2] https://mayaposch.blogspot.com/2019/12/to-finally-wake-up-from-life-long.html
[3] https://mayaposch.blogspot.com/2019/12/freeing-child-overcoming-childhood.html

Saturday, 24 October 2020

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, or: Reality comes with consequences

 The human brain is something amazing, especially in how it is capable of imagining and maintaining an inner fantasy world. This is an essential part of what we call 'imagination', and is what allows children to creatively play, inhabiting these fantasy worlds which they may or may not share with other children. It's often assumed that once humans grown into adults, they lose this ability, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Fact of the matter is that society, a culture and a lot of behaviour and opinions with it are a direct consequence of this very same imagination. Just that instead of a momentary whim by a child's mind as they play out a scenario, a society is the consequence of many years of such 'play acting', to the point where it becomes indistinguishable from reality for those inside the scenario. This is also why the playing of children is considered to be an essential part of growing up, allowing them to explore many scenarios and ways of interacting, even as they develop their own personalities.

This is to say that imagination is not necessarily harmful, and societies aren't necessary wrong or harmful. Much like how the fantastic dream worlds which our minds conjure up when we are asleep can turn into a variety of experiences, so too can a society turn into an oddity, something barely or instead fondly remembered, or even a nightmare. Here the imagination of a singular mind is amplified, reflected or extinguished by the other minds that make up a society.


Another property of imagination is that it isn't necessarily connected to reality. A conspiracy theory for example is a type of imagination virus, or 'meme', as in meme theory. This postulates that ideas and concepts can act like biological viruses, spreading to viable hosts, evolving and propagating to the best of their abilities. Some meme viruses can be lethal, others harmless or merely annoying. A harmless meme virus would be something like a popular widget or toy, such as the recent fidget spinner [1] craze. This saw an existing toy suddenly explode in popularity before sinking back into obscurity. This is similar in effect to a biological virus that shows explosive growth, but lack of persistence in a population.

More harmful meme viruses involve a sudden rise in popularity for certain pets, on account of a celebrity owning the same kind of pet. This can lead to the sudden surge in demand causing shortcuts to be taken by less scrupulous breeders, resulting in a massive spike in genetic defects in those 'pure-bred' (i.e. incestuous) dogs. Long-lived versions of these viruses can lead to 'cultural behaviour' that for example casts certain groups of people into a certain light. For example that of menstruating women being 'unclean' and being forced to leave the house during that period.

Finally, the most harmful virus that thrives exceptionally well in some imaginations are those involving conspiracies. This one is most insidious because these do not concern a fad or short-lived hype, or even something that can be considered to be 'relatively harmless'. In the case of a conspiracy virus, the affected person begins to lose the ability to separate fantasy from reality. Starting often with some nagging doubts, the person finds themselves slipping more and more until their thinking patterns have been reordered that no (virus-caused) dissonance occurs any more.


The fun thing about an imagination is that it's, well, imaginary. Just as a child can imagine themselves for a brief moment to be a pirate, a prince or princess, or the owner of a retail store, they too know that none of it is real. They merely enjoy playing those roles. It would only become problematic if they truly believed that they truly were those characters.

This permanence of imagination is something which becomes especially problematic in the case of an urgent situation, where reality clashes with the imaginary world that's being kept alive in the minds of one or more people. For many years people have been play-acting out today's and yesterday's societies, establishing societies that are primarily based around exploitation, as that aggressive model works well for survival.

This means exploitation of the earth's biosphere and other natural resources, of other human beings and groups, and even oneself. This is the imaginary world which we have created for ourself. A world in which we deem ourselves to be masters over this planet, and goad others into believing that if they exploit themselves a little bit more, they too can one day live the wealthy lifestyle of those who were born or adopted into wealthy families.

A world in which we assume that we can just cut down forests and further encroach onto the last remaining habitats of wild animals, and not suffer any consequences. Yet as Ebola [2], SARS, MERS and now SARS-CoV-2 have shown us, this is a delusion. We are not the gods we see ourselves as. We'll keep stumbling over new natural reservoirs [3] of new and fascinating new diseases that have the potential to turn into the next pandemic.


Part of fundamentally fixing the problems that led us to yet another pandemic within two decades time does involve taking stock our collective imaginations and the many viruses that dwell inside them. It's this viral ecosystem within our imaginations that have led us to these societies of greed, suffering and exploitation. They are the reason why some people truly believe that electromagnetic radiation can cause diseases or cancer, why genetic engineering is deemed too risky but mutagenics totally fine, or why even after a vaccine becomes available against SARS-CoV-2 and the associated COVID-19 disease, we'll still have to somehow deal with a range of other patients, ranging from those who believe that vaccines cause cancer, cause autism, add trackers to our body, contain toxic aluminium and/or mercury, to a wide spectrum of other conspiracy viruses.

Maybe that'll be the real challenge this century. After tackling biological viruses, maybe this is our wake-up call to address imagination viruses. Because although they only exist in our imaginations, sometimes our imaginations become more real than reality itself.


Maya


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidget_spinner
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebola
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_reservoir