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

I Know I’m an HSP Because… I’d Rather Be Barefoot

I’ve always hated restrictive clothing – clothes that cling, clothes that bunch, clothes that bind, lady shirts with sleeves set so you can’t raise your arms above 30 degrees from your side, tight cuffs, and shoes. Especially shoes. I lose the shoes the minute I walk in my front door, and shed additional uncomfortable clothing all the way to the bedroom.

Luckily, the Asian/hippie-inspired 70s, and the mysterious popularity of fragile water-based floor finishes begat a new convention of leaving shoes at the door in many American households, so my barefootedness isn’t weird anymore.

A middle-aged woman in a business suit and bare feet sits and reads a book at the beach

I Know I’m an HSP Because… I Can’t Ignore a Thirsty Plant

No matter what else is going on, if I see a wilted houseplant, I have to water it immediately. And those poor plants in front of grocery stores, tended – if you can call it that – by people who have no concept that they are alive. Don’t even get me started!

I joke about how I can’t stand to hear the screams, but it’s kind of true.

Photo of houseplant dropping leaves with thought bubbles saying "HELP!," "Please?," "I don't mean to be a bother but I'm dying here," and "Literally."

This is not my photo. No plants were stressed for this post.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity (HSP) Research

Here’s a great video of a lecture that I just added to my YouTube HSP playlist.

HSP Marie-Lise Schläppy is interested in using sensitivity as a tool to help in the early identification of gifted children. That is, assuming there is a connection between giftedness and sensitivity, which is primarily addressed at the very end of the video, and not conclusively. Most of the lecture is devoted to tracing the evolution of research on sensitivity, both before and since Elaine Aron’s work, and it is fascinating. I found her description of Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration particularly intriguing. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, right? But it sure describes my HSP journey to a T. Many thanks to Schläppy for synopsizing psychological research in non-academic terms.

The video is titled Part I. Part I includes the entire lecture. Part II, which is 45 minutes long, is the Q&A that follows. It is not always easy to understand the questions, so I found it less interesting, but here’s the link if you want to check it out.

Encouragement

Here’s a Ted Talk on sensitivity you will want to bookmark. Elena Herdieckerhoff’s description of sensitivity as being “in permanent osmosis with everything around you” is so right! Not only is she informative and entertaining (with a charming accent), but she embodies the subtle strength of HSPs. I’ve been feeling it for awhile, but I haven’t found the right word to express the power that lies in accepting ourselves even as we openly acknowledge our lack of armor. Maybe the word I’m looking for is “courage.”

 
Elena’s talk also reminds us that many of the negative reactions directed towards HSPs, whether they be men or women, are firmly rooted in sexism. The notion that emotion and reaction are feminine, and therefore an expression of weakness, is wrong on all counts. Emotionality and reactivity are not weaknesses, there is nothing inherently female about them, and last but not least, there is nothing weak or inferior about women!

But it’s hard to find words that express vulnerability AND strength. Impossible in fact. Check a thesaurus. All of the synonyms for vulnerability reference weakness and/or helplessness. And the lack of a conception of vulnerable strength is as bad for strength as it is for vulnerability. The synonyms for strength reference force, violence and domination. Before the world becomes a better place for HSPs, I think we will have to coin some new terms.

A dewy spiderweb against a background of evergreen boughs

The Black Hole of Depression

scream faceRecently, a fellow HSP blogger raised the question of whether knowing one is an HSP might make depression a little easier to handle. In other words, could knowing you are an HSP help you to take a step back and become conscious of your own reactions and needs, instead of automatically acting them out? Continue reading