Mr. Trump, Please Get Some Sleep

sleep

Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health. It helps us heal when we need healing. I went to bed very early last night, and got all the sleep I need to do well at work today. I wish to suggest to our president that he do the same.

At least eight hours of sleep a night is healthy and helpful. Also, especially for a man in his seventies who is under a great deal of stress, long naps during the day can be a literal life-saver. In Mr. Trump’s case, the number of lives saved can be very large indeed.

To free up time for sleep, I have one more piece of advice for the president: limit yourself to one tweet per day.

Meditating, and Not

I just noticed that I can elect to pay attention to my breathing, or ignore it, but one or the other keeps happening. Changing which one I focus on changes the way I think. This is interesting.

494 Circles, Each, Adorning Two Great Rhombcuboctahedra, with Different (Apparent) Levels of Anxiety

 

Trunc Cubocta

The design on each face of these great rhombcuboctahedra is made from 19 circles, and was created using both Geometer’s Sketchpad and MS-Paint. I then used a third program, Stella 4d (available here), to project this image on each of a great rhombcuboctahedron’s 26 faces, creating the image above.

If you watch carefully, you should notice an odd “jumping” effect on the red, octagonal faces in the polyhedron above, almost as if this polyhedron is suffering from an anxiety disorder, but trying to conceal it. Since I like that effect, I’m leaving it in the picture above, and then creating a new image, below, with no “jumpiness.” Bragging rights go to the first person who, in a comment to this post, figures out how I eliminated this anxiety-mimicking effect, and what caused it in the first place. 

Trunc Cubocta

Your first hint is that no anti-anxiety medications were used. After all, these polyhedra do not have prescriptions for anything. How does one “calm down” an “anxious” great rhombcuboctahedron, then?

On a related note, it is amazing, to me, that simply writing about anxiety serves the purpose of reducing my own anxiety-levels. It is an effect I’ve noticed before, so I call it “therapeutic writing.” That helped me, as it has helped me before. (It is, of course, no substitute for getting therapy from a licensed therapist, and following that therapist.) However, therapeutic writing can’t explain how this “anxious polyhedron” was helped, for polyhedra can’t write.

For a second hint, see below.

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[Scroll down….]

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Second hint: the second image uses approximately twice as much memory-storage space as the first image used.

On Therapeutic Writing, and Putting Hexakaidekaphobia in Remission

hexadeka

When my mother died, last November 16, I wrote an obituary for her, which I was then asked (unexpectedly) to read at her funeral, as one of two eulogies. This was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but writing it did help me (somewhat) with the immediate problem I was having dealing with grief.

After the funeral, I felt numb much of the time, for months, until May 16 arrived — exactly six months after she died — at which point my tightly-controlled emotional state shattered, leaving me in worse shape (in some ways) than I was on, say, November 17 of last year. This was unexpected, and caused significant problems, including the development of monthly hexakaidekaphobia, a morbid dread and fear of the 16th day of every month. (The word is a modification of “triskaidekaphobia,” an irrational fear of the number thirteen).

June 16 was worse than May 16 — absolutely full of PTSD attacks. (I’ve had PTSD for most of my life; my mother’s death made it worse.) Fortunately, I don’t try to hide mental health problems, as I once did — I try to find the help I need, from physicians, to deal with such problems, and, when I find things that help me, I write about them. I also have long used recreational mathematics to help me feel better when depressed.

It was in this context that mid-July arrived. I went to sleep on July 15th with the knowledge that it was extremely important for me to find better coping mechanisms before the start of school in August. When I woke up on July 16, which could have been another horrific day of severe depression, anxiety, and other problems, I did not feel those negative emotions. This does not mean I had “gotten over” the facts that my mother did die, and that I miss her terribly. However, it did mean I was experiencing grief differently: I was feeling grief, rather than letting feelings of grief control me — and there is a huge difference between the two.

That morning, July 16, I knew what I needed to do as soon as I woke up: I needed to write. For me, that generally means blogging, and that’s what happened. This “therapeutic writing,” as I call it, was helpful enough on July 16 that I continued it the next day. When I next spoke to my doctors, I told them I was doing this, and why, and they agreed that such writing (like the “mathematical therapy” I have done for years) was an excellent, helpful activity. (This “check with professionals” step is essential, and I do not recommend attempting mental health therapy without the help of at least one licensed, qualified psychiatrist, and/or other type of therapist, such as a clinical psychologist.)

Of course, I could do this therapeutic writing in a spiral notebook, and keep it private; no writing has to go on the Internet. Why, then, do I choose to post such material where anyone can see it? I first explained why I blog about mental health issues in this post, but the short version is this: I hope that my openness on this subject can help reduce the social stigma which, unfortunately, still surrounds topics related mental health. This stigma is harmful because it keeps millions of people from seeking the professional help they need. I have also found it a personally liberating experience to come out of the “closet” on such issues, for, as with other metaphorical “closets,” it is the truth that closets are not good places for people to live their lives.

School starts on August 15 — only four days from now — and I’m going to do everything I can to make that day, the next day (the formerly-dreaded 16th of the month), and the rest of the days in the school year as good as they can possibly be for my students, as well as myself. I could tell I was on the right track when I decided to write about monthly hexakaidekaphobia early this morning, but in the past tense. Before I started writing, I “warmed up” by constructing the geometric art at the top of this post, which, if you examine carefully, you will see is based on — what else? — the number sixteen. In my case, at least, mathematical therapy and therapeutic writing go hand-in-hand, and this is what I am doing to try to leave my monthly hexakaidecaphobia in the past, where it belongs.

I still miss my mother. She was once, as I am, a science teacher, and was also involved in education in many other ways. She would want me to have good school days on August 16th, September 16th, and so on, as well as the days in-between — and, to properly honor her memory, and give my students the education they deserve, I am determined to do my best to do exactly that.

If You Really Want to Scare Me, Don’t Use Thirteen.

House_Thirteen

I was alerted today, by e-mail, that a blog-proofreading service has found thirteen whole errors on my blog, and they’ll tell me where they are, exactly, if I send them money.

This blog is four years old. It has over 1,300 posts on it, so that’s, um, an average of one error for every 100+ posts. The logical thing to do, I believe, is to keep doing my own proofreading, which I do every time I look at posts, old or new.

I do hope those 13 errors are not disturbing anyone else, though.

Upon re-reading the e-mail, I found three errors. That’s in one e-mail. I’m definitely keeping my money!

The Inverted Popularity of This Aspie’s Phobias and Philias, Part II: A Mathematical Analysis of My Phobias

phobias and philias

First, here is where to find Part I of this post. In it, I explained the reasons for my view that my phobias are among the uncommon ones, while I actually like many things (such as mathematics, darkness, and spiders) which are feared by those with more common phobias. I find such self-analysis, and reflective writing, helpful. This is unusual, of course, but those with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to be unusual in many ways, and this includes being different from each other.

For Part II, I used Google, and searched for “100 most common phobias.” My goal was to determine the extent to which my current and past phobias are atypical, when compared to the incidence of various phobias within the general population. The top search result was http://www.fearof.net/, where 100 common phobias are listed, in descending order of world-wide incidence. These 100 phobias were then split into the seven categories, ranging from phobias about things I like a lot, to things about which I am phobic myself, as seen below.

Category 1: I have a strong affinity (a philia) for these things which people commonly fear, and I have never feared them myself. There are 17 phobias in this category, including four of the ten most common phobias.

  • Spiders (arachnophobia is the most common phobia of all)
  • Heights (acrophobia, 3rd most common phobia of all)
  • Small/enclosed spaces (claustrophobia, 7th)
  • Flying (aerophobia, 9th)
  • Public speaking (glossophobia, 13th)
  • Solitude (monophobia, 14th)
  • Long words (hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, 26th)
  • The unknown (xenophobia, 27th)
  • Success (achievemephobia, 30th)
  • Cats (ailurophobia, 32nd)
  • Balloons (globophobia, 34th)
  • Darkness / night (nyctophobia, 35th)
  • The number 13 (triskaidekaphobia, 39th)
  • Friday the 13th (paraskevideka-triaphobia, 46th)
  • Sleep (somniphobia, 47th)
  • Women (gynophobia, 48th)
  • Numbers (numerophobia, 93rd)

Category 2: I like these things people commonly fear, but not with high enough intensity for the word “philia” to apply. There are 23 phobias in this category, including three more of the top ten.

  • Snakes (ophidiophobia, the 2nd most common phobia)
  • Thunder and lightning (astraphobia, 6th)
  • Holes (trypophobia, 10th)
  • Birds (ornithophobia, 16th)
  • Chickens (alektorophobia, 17th)
  • Intimacy (aphenphosmphobia, 19th)
  • Falling (basiphobia, 29th)
  • Love, or emotions in general (philophobia, 38th)
  • Butterflies (lepidopterophobia 43rd)
  • Buttons (koumpounophobia, 50th)
  • Ducks (anatidaephobia, 51st)
  • Fire (pyrophobia, 52nd)
  • Doctors (latrophobia, 57th)
  • Adult little people (achondroplasiaphobia, 60th)
  • Moths (mottephobia, 61st)
  • Bananas (bananaphobia, 63rd)
  • Mirrors (catoptrophobia, 70th)
  • School (didaskaleinophobia, 83rd)
  • Technology (technophobia, 84th)
  • The future (chronophobia, 85th)
  • Halloween (samhainophobia is the 90th)
  • Rain (ombrophobia, 94th)
  • Zombies (kinemortophobia, 98th)

Category 3: I used to fear these commonly-feared things, although not to the level of a phobia, but now I no longer fear them at all. This category has a mere six phobias.

  • Everything, or terrible things happening (panophobia, the 44th most common phobia)
  • Food (cibophobia, 66th)
  • Horses (equinophobia, 68th)
  • Mice (musophobia, 69th)
  • Pain (agliophobia, 71st)
  • Worms (scoleciphobia, 97th)

Category 4: I am indifferent to these commonly-feared things, or have a like/dislike balance. In other words, for these things. . . meh. This is the largest category, which I view as healthy. It contains 25 phobias.

  • Failure (atychiphobia is the 15th most common phobia)
  • Needles (trypanophobia,  20th)
  • People, in all situations (anthropophobia, 21st)
  • Abandonment (autophobia, 23rd)
  • Commitment (gamophobia, 25th)
  • Bridges (gephyrophobia, 41st)
  • Insects (entomophobia, 42nd)
  • Feet (podophobia, 45th)
  • Frogs (ranidaphobia, 53rd)
  • Dolls (pediophobia, 58th)
  • Fish (ichthyophobia, 59th)
  • Animals (zoophobia, 62nd)
  • Cotton balls or plastic foams (sidonglobophobia, 64th)
  • Ghosts (phasmophobia, 67th)
  • Beards (pogonophobia, 74th)
  • Belly buttons (navels; omphalophobia, 75th)
  • Depths (bathophobia, 77th)
  • Obese people (cacomorphobia, 78th)
  • Getting old (gerascophobia, 79th)
  • Hair (chaetophobia, 80th)
  • Hospitals (nosocomephobia, 81st)
  • Work (ergophobia, 87th)
  • Opinions (allodoxaphobia, 89th)
  • Oceans (thalassophobia, 96th)
  • Being buried alive (taphophobia, 100th)

Category 5: I currently have an aversion to these commonly-feared things, but my aversion, in this category, does not reach the level of a phobia, and never has. This category contains only nine phobias, and none are in the top 32.

  • Change (metathesiophbia, the 33rd most common phobia)
  • Sharks (galeophobia, 54th)
  • Being forgotten, or not remembering things (athazagoraphobia, 55th)
  • Cockroaches (atsaridaphobia, 56th)
  • Choking (pseudodysphagia, the fear of choking, 76th)
  • Loud noises (ligyrophobia, 82nd)
  • Clowns (coulrophobia, 88th)
  • Roller coasters (coasterphobia, 95th)
  • Ants (myrmecophobia, 99th)

Category 6: I used to be phobic regarding these things, and still don’t like them. However, I can manage, now, to keep my aversion below the intensity of a phobia. This is also the category that has involved the most work, for it is difficult to shed a phobia. This category has three of the top ten, and 14 total — but these are former phobias, not current ones.

  • Open or crowded places (agoraphobia, the 4th most common phobia)
  • Dogs (cynophobia, 5th)
  • Germs (mysophobia, 8th)
  • Cancer (carcinophobia, 11th)
  • Death (thanatophobia 12th)
  • Crowds (enochlophobia, 18th)
  • Water (aquaphobia, 22nd)
  • Blood (hemophobia, 24th)
  • Driving (vehophobia, 28th)
  • God and/or religion (theophobia, 31st)
  • Bees (apiphobia,  49th)
  • Crime (sclerophobia, 65th)
  • Wasps (spheksophobia 86th)
  • Getting rid of stuff (disposophobia, 92nd)

Category 7: I am phobic, now (or very recently), about these things, and still actively try to avoid them, when I can. There are only six left in this category, and, with professional help, I am working on eliminating them, as well. Nothing left in this category is ranked in the top 35, which is consistent with my idea that my remaining phobias are among the less common ones.

  • Men (androphobia, the 36th most common phobia)
  • Fear (phobophobia, 37th)
  • Vomiting (emetophobia, 40th)
  • Pregnancy & childbirth (tokophobia, 72nd). In my case, since I am male, this means that I have been very careful, my whole life, to avoid participation in the creation of a pregnancy. The reason is simple: My now-deceased father was a horrible role model for fatherhood, and have never felt I could take the risk of becoming a biological father myself, for fear that I would turn out like him. His influence is also the reason I have both androphobia (top of this category) and PTSD. If there is a silver lining here, it is that I would not have learned how to focus on mental health, rather than mental illness, without him making such work necessary.
  • Talking on the phone (telephonophobia, 73rd)
  • Light (photophobia, 91st)

Further evidence that my phobias are rare was discussed in Part I. I may actually have some which are unique to me, such as my dread of the 16th of each month, which has plagued me since my mother’s death, last November 16th. Since fear of the number thirteen is called triskaidekaphobia, fear of the number sixteen is hexakaidekaphobia. This is what July looked like, to me, as I approached the 16th.

Hexakaidekaphobia

Yesterday was the 16th of July, and that is when I wrote Part I of this post, which is no coincidence. The 16th is now over. By focusing on improving my mental health, and using therapeutic writing (which I am also doing right now), I made it through yesterday without falling apart, although it was not easy. Sixteen is a rational number, and it is time for me to resume being rational about it.

This makes me hopeful that hexakaidekaphobia will now stay in the past, where it belongs. No one need suggest that I get medical help, including seeing a mental health professional, for the appointments to do exactly those things, before school resumes, are already scheduled. 

The Inverted Popularity of This Aspie’s Phobias and Philias, Part I: An Explanation

phobias and philias

The image above contains three colors: white, black, and red. The words appear in red because I see it as a color denoting positive or negative intensity, and phobias and philias are both certainly intense. To “see red,” I have learned, does not usually mean what it would mean if I said it myself. Consistent with Asperger’s Syndrome, which I have, I tend to be almost completely literal in the words I use, while the non-Aspie majority often uses words in confusing (to me) non-literal ways. Over the years, I have figured out that this phrase means, when non-Aspies say it,  that they are extremely angry. (I, however, would only say “I see red” if I was actually seeing light with the wavelength-range, ~620 to ~740 nm, which our species has labeled, in English, as “red.”) On the other hand, red roses and Valentine’s Day hearts are popularly used to symbolize romantic love, which is an intensely positive emotion, while extreme anger is extremely negative. White and black, the other colors above, in much of the world, are commonly associated with, respectively, positive and negative things. I, on the other hand, view these colors the opposite way: I have avoided sunlight for much of my life, and continue to do so (to the point where I need to take supplements of vitamin D), while also reveling in darkness, in much the same way that I revel in my “Aspieness.” Right now, it is daytime here, and I am writing this inside, in a dark room, with the only artificial light reaching me coming from computer screens.

It is a common misconception that Aspies (an informal term many people with Asperger’s use for ourselves) are non-emotional. After all, two well-known fictional characters from different incarnations of Star Trek, Spock and Data, are based, in my opinion, on Aspie stereotypes. Stereotypes, I have observed, are usually based on some real phenomenon, and in this case, that phenomenon is that many Aspies experience emotions in radically different ways from the non-Aspie majority — so differently that we are sometimes perceived by non-Aspies to be emotionless, although that is not the case. This causes a considerable amount of tension, and no small amount of outright hostility, between the community of Aspies and the non-Aspie majority. When I write on the subject of Asperger’s Syndrome, I try to do so with the goal of explaining and understanding our differences, in order to reduce Aspie/non-Aspie misunderstanding, which is both common and unhelpful — in both directions. This is the reason I use the factual, non-hostile term “non-Aspie,” in place of the unhelpful and perjorative term “neurotypical” (a word in common use within the Aspie community), one of three unfortunate words discussed in this post.

Explaining my choices of colors in the image above was a prelude to a personal, mathematical analysis of the inverted popularity of my own phobias and philias. I have long observed that I have an intense, inexplicable affinity (in many cases, reaching the level of a “philia,” an often-misunderstood word and suffix, for reasons I will discuss below) for things which the majority, in my part of the world (the American South) hates and/or fears. Examples include spiders, cats, the number thirteen (and all other prime numbers), mathematics in general, geometry in particular (strangely, even many people who like mathematics still dislike the subfield of geometry), being different from those around me, darkness, the color black, night, the physical sciences, evolution (which happens, like it or not), enclosed spaces, heights, flying on airplanes, women, and Muslims. I have also struggled with phobias, working (with professional help) on eliminating them, one by one, but they tend to be less common. Examples of targets for my current and past phobias include light, especially sunlight, to the point where I actually have to take vitamin D supplements; as well as voice calls on cell phones (human voices coming out of small boxes freak me out); death; the life sciences; insurance; sports (and related events, such as pep rallies); loud noises; efforts to control me; and, since my mother died, last November 16, the 16th day of any month, especially at, and after, six months after her death.

I’m a teacher, and it’s the 16th of July, and I simply do not have the option of falling apart on the 16th of every month when school starts again next month, at a new school, with new students, for, as the saying goes, the students will arrive — whether I’m ready or not. That’s no way to start a school year.

I have much to be optimistic about, for I will be teaching in a different building, but on a much-improved schedule, with far fewer different subjects to prepare for each day than I had last year. When I fell asleep last night, after completing four full days of training to teach Pre-AP Physical Science for the first time, starting next month, some part of me knew that mental health improvement — before the 16th hit again, today — was essential. Was that something about which I was consciously thinking? No. I apparently rewrote my mental software (again) last night, an ability I have worked on developing for over thirty-five years. When this brain-software-debugging process first became evident, a few years back, it was happening in my sleep, just as happened again last night, and it took some time for me to figure out exactly what was going on, and how my ability to rapidly adapt to change had improved. 

In Part II of this post, I will analyze, mathematically, the inverted popularity of my phobias, compared to the most common phobias, ranked by incidence among the population. First, however, it is necessary for me to explain what I mean — and do not mean — by the word “philia.” There is a serious problem with this word, in English, when it appears as a suffix, and that is due to an unfortunate linguistic error: the incorrect application of a Greek idea, and word, to the horrific, disgusting, and criminal behavior of child molesters, as well as those who have sex with corpses. The ancient Greeks, as is well-known, used four different words for different kinds of love, and “philia” (φιλία) referred specifically to fraternal, or “brotherly,” love. This was not a word the ancient Greeks used for any type of sexual act. The words “pedophilia” and “necrophilia” are, for this reason, historical anomalies. Both terms are misnomers, meaning, simply, that they are messed-up words, and their existence creates the potential for misunderstanding. A philia, properly understood, is simply the opposite of a phobia. Phobias are better-understood, of course, and require no detailed explanation. 

One example of what I mean by my own philias should suffice. I have, for many years, had an abnormally strong fascination with spiders. I like them — a lot — so much so, in fact, that I actually have a tattoo of a spider, and often wear a spider necklace, to express how much I like this one biological order, the largest within the class of arachnids. Despite my strong affinity for spiders, however, I have zero sexual interest in them. It is accurate to call me an arachnophiliac, which is the opposite of an arachnophobe.

It is now near 9 pm on Saturday, November 16, and Friday night’s sleep therapy gave me the energy to work on the needed improvements to my mental health during the day today, by using reflective writing as a therapeutic technique. I also have a new appreciation for sleep, which will come soon. Part II will be posted soon, but it will not be written until after I have enjoyed a full night of sleep — starting, hopefully, in a few minutes. Goodnight, and thank you for reading Part I.

[Update, July 17: Part II is now posted here.]