Teachings of the Bubble Shooter

Screnshot of a half-finished bubble shooter gameLife lessons can come from unexpected sources – snippets of overheard conversation in a public place, serendipitous discoveries while channel surfing, surprising insights from acquaintances who didn’t seem to be paying that much attention.

And then there’s the bubble shooter. Bubble shooters have everything I like in a game – color, shape, matching. And they avoid most of what I don’t like. Despite the shooting, nothing gets hurt. The bubbles don’t even break.

But the best thing about bubble shooters is that they cut right to core truths that should have been obvious but weren’t. Here are a few things bubble shooter games have taught me.

That deer in the headlights is me.

I wasn’t really conscious of just how disabling time pressure is to me until I started playing with bubble shooters. It stops me cold. I become flustered, make mistakes and miss opportunities. When I ended up stuck for months on levels where decisions must be made 100% swiftly and accurately to advance, I realized I hadn’t paid enough attention to the impact of time pressure on the rest of my life. I switched professions (and found some non-timed bubble shooter games).

Some things in life are harder, and that’s OK (within reason).

Check the reviews of any bubble shooter game, and you’ll find people complaining about how the bubbles don’t go where you point them. This is intentional, of course. Easy levels are fun and affirming, but if they were all easy, there would be no sense of achievement. After awhile, success without effort would become boring. On the other hand, if every level was difficult, the game would be arduous and dispiriting. I have sometimes wished for an obstacle-free “rest” life when the scales were tipped too heavily towards adversity, but I ultimately discovered I need a balance of accomplishment and challenge to be happy.

Get your priorities straight.

What bubble shooters revealed about the randomness (and ineffectiveness) of my tactics shocked me, but it did explain a lot. I have spent most of my life feeling confused about priorities. Or so I thought. Actually, my priorities were fine, I just lacked the confidence to follow through on them. I never realized how badly this messed up my life until I noticed how frequently I chose an action that would end a game instead of one that would continue it, even when I could easily predict these outcomes. This was not so much self-sabotage as cognitive dissonance between my behavior and my goals. Bubble shooters taught me to become conscious of my top priorities, and properly weight them to take precedence over everything else.

The ad-free version is worth the 99¢.

I played a favorite game for years, fuming at the distracting, annoying, and sometimes outright offensive ads, ranting about them in reviews, even downloading other apps to try and suppress them. The ad-free version was only 99¢, but I was damned if I was going to be harassed into buying something. Finally, I really looked at that decision and realized how bizarre (and more than a little control-freaky) it was to view paying a buck for something that gave me hours of pleasure as losing a power struggle.

Sooner or later you will conquer even the hardest levels.

This is the most telling lesson of all. I have been stuck for weeks or even months at the same level, playing it hundreds of times, often with steadily diminishing hope that I would ever make it through. And yet, I always did, eventually. When I learned to regard failure as an essential stage of generating new strategies, I finally found one that worked.

Overlapping circles of color against a pastel background

How to Avoid Being Psychologically Destroyed by Your Newsfeed

A woman sits at a table in front of her laptop with her head in hands, which cover her face Here’s a blog post by parenting columnist Ann Douglas that will speak to a lot of us in these distressing times. She draws a very useful distinction between staying informed and feeling obliged to be immersed in disturbing news, which is especially apropos for HSPs. I would even go so far as to say we may need to actively avoid news, when exposure to it becomes immobilizing. It’s not like we are in any danger of becoming indifferent to the plight of others. We aren’t built that way.

Her article also mentions the therapeutic value of moderate political action. I underscore moderation because it is not a strong suit for HSPs. The sense of urgency when people are suffering is a terrible taskmaster. But it is far more effective to be moderately active over time than to fling oneself full throttle into activism, only to crash and burn in short order and need a lengthy recovery. There’s a long haul ahead – we have to pace ourselves.

Projection

OMG, I thought I was the only one who had a hard time parting with the colored paper clips!

This is a lovely little video that every HSP will want to bookmark for those days when there is just too much of everything going on, and you catch yourself wondering wistfully how the other 80% lives.

To see more of my favorite videos on sensitivity, visit my YouTube HSP Playlist.

Finish Lines

I ran two races at once to win lives that were precious to me. My opponent was Death.

Death had a head start.

Sometimes I ran strong, hopeful and determined. Other times I faltered, exhausted, confused about where to go, feeling I had already lost. Always, whichever race I was running, I felt myself falling behind in the other.

In the end, Death won them both.

An animated calico cat runs across the screen

Life is Weird

So, after two months of no activity whatsoever in my newly chosen career, I suddenly have two clients this week, and both seem promising – that is, both will be good to work with, and need ongoing services.

This is also a week when I’m completing a project that put me in a highly stressful construction environment for the past few months. With the jackhammers shaking the building, and constant voices of workers shouting to each other over the racket day and night, I’ve felt like I was in a war zone.

It’s great to get away from that, but there are endless closing details to manage. If I could, I’d have chosen to do nothing else this week. Instead, I’m doing everything else! I wasn’t sure I could, but I am.
Busy woman at desk with 5 arms, typing, filing, and answering the phone all at the same time
And that’s a general theme of my life lately. I’m scrambling to keep up all the time. Continue reading

What You Don’t Know About Depression Can Kill You

In the wake of my post last week, The Black Hole of Depression, the Huffington Post obligingly published a highly relevant first-person account:

When You’re Depressed, You Can’t Pull Yourself Up by Your Bootstraps

Or as I put it, ” If the problem is that your brain doesn’t work correctly, can you think your way out of that… with your brain?”

Remember, you read it here first :)

A couple of points about the Huff Post column:

1). Not caring about anything as a symptom of depression. “Things that you used to enjoy no longer interest you” is a commonly listed symptom of depression, and was certainly true for the columnist above.

(If you are curious what this might look like, check out the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Extreme Risk” from the 5th season. Oddly, there was another episode during the same season in which yet another crew member grappled with depression. Note that violence therapy, which was presented as the recovery “bootstrap” in both episodes, is NOT a recommended treatment plan!)

Indifference does not occur in everyone with depression, however. It certainly should not be depended upon as an identifying indicator. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, there is no “before” to compare with for people who are chronically depressed (or at least, not one they remember). And some people experience extremes of emotions, rather than no emotions – I certainly did.

2). He felt “overwhelmed.” HSPs are familiar enough with that, for sure! And from his description of what was going on in his life, it seems like a reasonable reaction, right? But the important thing to note is not what he felt, but what it motivated him to do. It didn’t spur him to rethink or delegate, it immobilized him. That’s a perfect example of what I mentioned in Black Hole, about normal “negative” emotions not functioning the way they are supposed to when someone is depressed.

So does feeling too overwhelmed to function mean someone is depressed? Not necessarily. It could mean having unrealistic expectations of our own capacities because we’re HSPs and don’t know it (or men, and can’t admit it!). But if you stay that way, it’s a possibility to consider.