24 June 2013

Excessive Sensibility and Rx Story

I'm in the frame of mind right now where about the only prescription that works is "Take two stories and call me in the morning." So yesterday, we finally went to see the new Star Trek movie, and then, because I was on a Benedict Cumberbatch kick, I watched episode 1 of season 2 of Sherlock, which I hadn't seen yet either. [Warning: there might be the odd spoiler in what follows. If you don't want to know that the movies I watch end happily - else I don't watch them - quit reading right now.] Unfortunately, all this movie-watching had the effect of having Mr Cheekbones-sharp-enough-to-cut-yourself-on rampaging manically through my dreams last night, but that's okay.

Now, I could have sworn that as Khan, Benedict Cumberbatch has brilliantly blue eyes - but as Sherlock, his eyes are green! Sort of a sage colour, a light tone, but kind of subdued. What gives? In which one is he wearing contacts? Or was I just hallucinating the blue eyes from wishful thinking? (I have a thing for black Irish colouring - black hair/blue eyes = knockout. But I'm pretty sure the black hair is fake, too; in his publicity shots, he's usually more of a sandy-blond.)

Well, no matter. That wasn't really what I was going to talk about right now. What I was thinking about this morning is the issue of "excessive sensibility" (in Austen's terms) - in other words, being a person who feels too much. "How can you not feel?" asks Kirk of Spock with his dying breath. Yes, Mr Spock, how? I would dearly love to have the answer to that one, too. Especially from someone who admits earlier in the story that he stops himself from experiencing feeling not because he hasn't got any, but because he's got too much. You've got to shut down those feelings before they overwhelm you.

And if you're the kind of Princess (or Prince) on the Pea who feels everything, shutting things down is nothing short of self-defense, a survival strategy. As a matter of fact, there's some research that shows that for certain people, their brain shuts down sensations  that might be too painful without the person's even noticing them first. Unfortunately, Mr Spock, that's very likely to lead to physical health problems. I have a suspicion that Vulcans, and especially half-human Vulcans, with all those intense emotions roiling about inside of them that they don't allow to the surface of their consciousness, suffer from chronic high blood pressure, digestive issues, depression, and probably heart disease and what-not. Live long and prosper, eh?

But that's where stories come in. If you're born with excessive sensibility, if you're an empath, you will feel things, whether you want to or not. What you see on a screen, read in a book, or hear from somebody's mouth will affect you. You feel the feelings of the person in the story, even if it's a very simple story and not terribly convincingly told. Even if it's a news item from thousands of miles away. Even if it's fantasy fiction about wizards or space ships, which your rational mind is fully aware is just invention.

But you see, it's not just invention. Because the emotion is real. And you can use that consciously to cope with reality. You immerse yourself in a story, and feel those feelings, and in the end, when the credits roll or you close the book, you come out stronger for having lived out positive emotion. Sherlock outwits Moriarty, the Enterprise is triumphant, justice and harmony is restored, people are happy once again - and it gives a tremendous boost to your own feelings to have felt that happiness with them. Mental health on a movie screen.

Or between the covers of a book, or even, in reality, on Facebook pictures of your friends being happy. Feeling with a beautiful young couple who just got engaged and are radiating love to such an extent it shines out of the photo, laughing at the big toothless grin of another friend's baby, hearing and seeing the pleasure of people you care about and feeling that pleasure for yourself - all that works together to help in dealing with your own day-to-day reality. And even if those you care about are pointy-eared aliens, the effect on your emotion is real.

Life, the Universe, and Excessive Sensibility. Bring on the stories, I say.


  1. Benedict Cumberbatch (aka my imaginary husband, as I've had dreams I was married to him-as-Sherlock, and frequently rolling my eyes in fond exasperation behind his back at John) has very changeable eyes. They can look either green, blue, or grey, depending on the lighting and clothing he is wearing. And yes, I'm pretty sure he is a natural "ginger."

    As a kid, I could never watch or read anything where injustice or cruelty went un-vindicated, no matter how small or petty (for example - I still remember wanting to cry myself at Cecily crying over Felicity locking her out of their bedroom during one Road to Avonlea episode, and even Felix and Sarah stealing Felicity's diary didn't make me feel better, because Felicity never apologized to or made it up to Cecily). I think it's one reason I so naturally gravitated toward fantasy - THERE, there's always a hero to step in and fight for justice, while reality's a bit greyer.

    So fantasy stories definitely helped this overly-sensitive empath learn to manage her emotions and not grow to be either a Marianne or an Elinor (Kirk or Spock ...?).

    1. Oh boy, yes! Even tiny instances of meanness still really get to me. Like the time in "Blue Castle" when Olive swiped Valancies dirt pile, and never got punished for it. But then Valancy gets over it, so that's not too bad. And I can't bear the opening chapters of "Jane Eyre" because of the horrible injustice and abuse she gets from her aunt and cousins and then the school teachers. I only ever start the book at the point where she's an adult. But on the other hand, even small instances of "he gets what's coming to him" fill me with great glee - my favourite scene in "The Avengers" is where the Hulk whaps Loki on the ground like a rag doll, and punches Thor to send him flying. Hehehe... And you're right, it's fantasy that does these things best.

      They must have done something to the lighting in Star Trek to make B.C.'s eyes look blue, if it's not contacts. I mean, look at that: http://www.empireonline.com/images/uploaded/star-trek-into-darkness-trailer-learned-21.jpg. I specifically remember thinking that there's an awful lot of very blue eyes in that movie (Chris Pine is another one).

  2. Eloquently written, very much enjoyed this post and just wanted to second, 'bring on the stories,' indeed! ^_^