Testosterone overdose

Men in the US increasingly take testosterone supplements. This can lead to impulsive decision making. Hypo-gonadism, causing low T levels, can make a man fatigued, and uninterested in sex, which can be cured with T; but men with ordinary T levels are taking T. What is the effect?

Men and women were given the Cognitive Reflection test, which is a series of maths or logic puzzles with an intuitive, wrong answer and a need to think carefully to get the right answer. Eg, a bat and ball cost $1.10, the bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Not 10c.

Men and women given a testosterone boost are less likely to analyse carefully. They care less about what other people would think. They are more likely to think they outperform others. In simulated asset trading, they were more likely to overprice assets, and slower to recognise that prices were falling.

I got all that from the NYT, and recall a factlet from something I read some time- after watching a football match, fans of the winning team had increased T levels, and fans of the losing team had decreased T levels.

More impulsive decision making could be worthwhile in a leader. Where are the mammoths we need to hunt? If our best way of working it out is magic with mammoth bones, it’s better to just guess. We need a decision and it almost does not matter what that decision is. Other people will be grateful for leadership.

In the more complex modern world, good decision making takes account of a wide variety of expertise, and a testosterone-inspired random plumping may be sub-optimal. The problem is, only the women notice.

If high-T males rampage through life damaging things, and women trail in their wake, fixing the mess, the man might never realise he had made any false steps. However the research does not prove that high-T is a bad thing, just that a sudden change in hormone levels can discombobulate a person. I knew that already.

I am the Monkey-mind

It seems to me that I am conscious and rational, and that I make decisions. The illusion is so perfect, it is hard to see how anyone ever sees through it. You want to believe, and can rationalise almost any evidence against, after the fact.

So, I became aware of the emotional being underneath this conscious self, and still thought I could make the decisions. I just have to cajole it a bit. I am, after all, the adult. Rather than telling it what to do, so that it goes in a huff, I would persuade it, show it why, and it would come round.

It’s like riding an elephant, except I don’t know if I am the Mahout, fully in control most of the time except when the elephant gets Really Annoyed and stops responding to the reins, or just riding along. Like a child in Mummy’s car, with a toy steering-wheel, imagining I was driving the car.

Or the elephant is God. Sometimes it deigns to explain things to me, and sometimes it just expects me to work things out, and does nothing about it when I fail, because I will work it out eventually. Forty years later I begin to work it out, and it welcomes me; because it could not give me any clues, just will me to succeed. It was doing its best to look after me.

I am still planning and scheming. It will do what I want, I know it will, there must be some magic reins or steering wheel that actually work, I have the brains and the intelligence and the silver tongue and the command of language and the persuasiveness and the sane ideas of what it ought to want so that I can get it to DO MY WILLLLL

Possibly, it is in control and gets me to think something through occasionally. That could be my purpose. Here am I “thinking”, all the time, much of it just rehashed stuff from before and irrelevant stuff about all those bits of the world I know about but will never see or affect, or imagining future heavens or hells which have not the slightest chance of coming to be or connection to reality, and then it wants some Slow Thinking done, and it gets me to do it. Or that is all subconscious too, and the words in my mind are just the echoes of it.

I am the monkey-mind! I am as much use as a pet monkey?

Which part, conscious or subconscious, is the Writer? I like to hope it is both of us.

Who I am now

I am not a vegetarian. I know factory farming and the meat trade are cruel to animals and to people made to inflict cruelty on them, and do environmental damage, greater than that from arable farming; and I recognise that it is good to reduce demand for meat, and that I can do that. I craved meat after eating vegetarian meals, before, and that may be something to do with being accustomed to it, or to the balance of the meal- more recently, I have not craved meat. I know some people become revolted by meat, and that is possible for me. I like the taste and other sensations of eating meat.

I would need to do more work to become vegetarian. I would need to learn new recipes, and probably some information on balanced diets which I have not really looked in to. The omnivorous ape can get by on all sorts of weird diets.

I am not aspiring to be a vegetarian. That is a moral position which I judge would involve greater work towards it than I am doing now. It seems to me that I make decisions other than by such conscious means. Consciously, I might say that I want to be a vegetarian- but then, why am I not already? Because I see problems with it. I may never advance any further towards that goal. As I do not know whether I will advance further, I cannot say that I aspire to vegetarianism. However last year I started buying filled pasta without meat, rather than filled pasta with meat, and this year I started frying mushrooms more. I have two or three meat free days a week, except when I don’t. I may eat more meat in the winter.

I love the word “velleity”- it is a desire so weak you never act on it. I never got round to hang gliding, and probably never will.

I am not a writer. I might be writing my book, right now- I pour out words, I refine ideas, and I have written over a million words here, but I might never distil them down to 70,000 for a book, or have any way of organising them into a coherent argument or narrative. I don’t really have a conception that I like or accept of what that might look like. So I am left with something like Casaubon’s notes for his Key to all Mythologies.

I have a small pile of magazines in a book case, which have words by me in them.

Your transition may be going something like this. Your dress sense and makeup skills get better, you go out regularly as your true self, but you have not yet gone round a supermarket dressed female. You are experimenting with telling people, but have not told anyone at work. You know what you must do and possibly at some time you will do it, but you have not yet. You could make a timetable for yourself, perhaps. What about starting beard removal? Have you seen a psychiatrist yet?

It would be reassuring to make stories about these things, but all I have is the evidence of what I have done, and the failure of stories I had before. I am not the adventurous hang-glider. Or, I could hold contrasting stories in my mind- “I aspire to being vegetarian”. “I am aware of difficulties in being vegetarian, and with other difficulties in my life and my way of approaching difficulties I am not working on them right now.” Or possibilities- I may reduce meat consumption, I could explore other meals I could enjoy. Who am I now? I don’t know, or not in the way of these reassuring word-pictures, which disappoint so when they turn out to be wrong.

Of course I desire to be vegetarian. I would not be writing about it here if I did not, or even if I thought there was no chance of it. Nothing is certain.

Charisma

Four people in a circle, chatting. Across the circle, we are not facing each other, but turned towards one of the group- three people are an audience to Her. It’s not just when she is speaking, and anyway in groups like that you tend to turn your head, not your whole body, to pay attention. It is that she is completely fascinating. That may be part of the strong hostility expressed about her by another woman. I have noticed this more than once with this woman, and in my own response to her. I want to spend time with her.

I fear I may have that quality myself. Charisma. People notice in others the qualities, good and bad, that we share. It can be a way of getting to know the Shadow.

I fear it because I also have this strong motivation to hide in the shadows away from scrutiny. Such as I have an understanding of myself which includes charisma, it is that charismatic behaviour was strongly discouraged when I was young. So I am self-conscious and second-guessing when I use it, and I do not have the experience to use it properly. And my presentation is not consistent- successfully charismatic persons tend to dress better than I can afford. People are used to a particular set of signals together, and one without the other surprises and feels wrong.

Charisma without other qualities backing it up is a problem. Rather than just being I think about how I may be.

Or, I have a delight in showing off without necessarily much to show off.

I spoke in a dominant (so objectionable) way. H suggested that people objected because they saw me as a woman. Women interrupt less, are interrupted more, and are objected to when they show dominant traits as they are supposed to be conciliatory. It is such a pain- I am only “treated like” or “seen as” a woman when that’s a bad thing for me!

Yet- fear it? It is a gift. It is beautiful. It is something to learn to use. As with anything else, suppressing it only creates malaise.

It is only possible, not certain, to me that I am charismatic. And it is a way of conceptualising my responses as Good independent of their effect. A person does not like my manner or what I say, and I say they are wrong, rather than my manner was ineffective. Or I should learn to better use that Gift rather than restrain that offensive trait. Tomorrow- how I am “ingratiating”.

I asked facebook, and friends reassured: “Am I charismatic, do you think?”
Very
Ooh yes 🙂
Blimey not half!
Not half
Yes very
Uniquely so
Er, yes!
In a quirky way


This is the only Evelyn de Morgan I can recall seeing the original- now at “Queer British Art 1861-1967” at Tate Britain.

Courage II

If you were not unemployed, would you have a car? Would you maintain the simple lifestyle?

“A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength.” We value living simply. “Oh, no, no, no, not at all,” I said. I would have a car, I would spend my income. I do not like claiming virtues. Would I hit anyone? No, but not for restraint or pacifism- for cowardice or confusion.

And yet now I am having more meat-free days, even three a week, as I experiment with various combinations of mushrooms, peppers, onion, tinned or fresh tomatoes with rice or spaghetti. It matters to me that factory farming is cruel, and abattoirs are cruel to the animals and to the people, too, who are paid little and desensitised to their heavy, stinking work; and meat uses more acres per calorie than arable crops. Not enough to make me vegetarian, says the inner critic, and I say, well, I am working towards it, I have to relearn to cook and to balance a diet. And I am not even thinking of giving up dairy.

I have craved a bacon roll after a veggie lunch with the Quakers, but I find that if I use a lot of olive oil I don’t need meat. I will proceed cautiously, as always, not identifying as vegetarian, perhaps as aspiring to being vegetarian. We discussed this in the Labour party campaign office- we are nice people, so we want to be vegetarian. One tells me you can do lovely curries with lentils. Well, I will get on to lentils soon enough.

It is not a question, for me, of how I am seen, but how I am. I do not like to be part of this system of cruelty to animals, so I am reducing my impact on them. I am doing it slowly and carefully, for that is my way.

Sometimes people say to trans women, “Oh, you’re so brave!” And we tend to deny it. It was what I had to do to survive. I would still say that, no matter how much I feel it would be better to live as a soft man, a pansy, than bother with all the effort of transition. It was the best course I could see at the time to be myself in the world, when my play-acting was becoming insupportable. Faced with two unbearable choices, I choose the less unbearable, and then work hard to make it work.

It would not have been brave to kill myself. It would have been a matter of icy self-control, against disgust and the survival instinct. And transition was brave.

I have tenacity. I keep thinking of getting that doctor sacked. It is one of the things I am most proud of. It took months. It took a lot of effort, and continuing through setbacks. Then the second one I did not proceed with, and I wonder about that, but what with transition and other stuff I was broken by the pressure. I kept on until everything was too much for me. I don’t give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope. In Cardinal, Canadian police drama, the sergeant observes that when told to stop investigating a missing girl, one officer will go home, kiss his wife, have a beer, come in the next day and work on something else; but Cardinal will chew on it and obsess over it for months. And, repeatedly, people say the conventional consoling thing, and the other dismisses it contemptuously- how can it be consoling if it is not True? In the end the woman sits with her son in hospital, and she is not full of gratitude to the police officer who saved him, but resentment that he did not catch the killer after his previous victim. The world is an unforgiving place.

My courage, tenacity and commitment to doing the right thing may not be enough. My understanding is great, and not always enough. And I have these qualities. I have achieved a great deal, considering the obstacles I have had to overcome. I will celebrate my beauty, and my every achievement.

Have a good solstice. In London, the day is seven seconds longer than yesterday.

Hero awaiting the return of Leander

 

Heat

Sweat beads between my breasts, trickles down my cheek, glistens on my shoulders.

I cycled to Meeting in the sun, in air brought from Spain by weather currents. It seems to me that I should calm my breathing, so I make that effort. If I can slow my diaphragm and heart, they will make less heat. Still, when I get there, my face is scarlet. It is as if a birthmark quite covered it, and I went to run my head under the cold tap. H runs marathons, I will ask her. Half marathons, at the moment, she corrects me. “I felt I was going into a panic.” You make a rhythm, of heart, breathing, stride all together. I like the island climate, a comparatively small range between our hottest and coolest. Today is 29°, which is unusual, and it is rare for several nights together to be below freezing.

Facebook. “I don’t like the heat,” she says. What? Why were you in Tunisia? “He does.”

So I wondered, do I like the heat? I don’t know. Yes could become a pissing contest- nothing lovelier than noon in Riyadh in July. I take precautions to keep my flat cool, drawing the curtains on sunward windows, closing the windows against warmer air outside. I could be happy on holiday, going round tourist attractions or jumping into a pool, enjoying time away from routine with friends. Or, it is pointless to complain about the weather, and I will not indulge in that. But the sensuous experience of being outside in the heat, simply for itself?

You could like the light. The sun at its highest, the brightness on the water of the Lakes. That it is also beautiful washed through mist, land across the valley getting steadily less distinct, does not mean the colour and the contrast of full sun is not glorious too. I could take my camera, but do not want to be thinking of framing images; I want to perform the experiment on myself. Do I like the heat?

I walk down and round the lakes. The mud is dry and cracked. The corn is still green, its long stamens turning into seeds. I don’t want to walk so quickly or so far as usual. I pause several times by the river, and try to connect with the experience, shorn of words or ideas about it. Do I like the heat? It is bearable; there is just enough slight breeze now and then, wafting my light summer dress, though the wig is a pain; but bearable is not pleasureable.

Going into shade of trees suddenly, I know that I like the shade.

I suppose I like experience. I understand life with words. I plan, analyse, conceptualise with words, and it is good to lay down the burden of words- I! a Writer!- for unmediated experience. I am here, by the river, sensing with eyes, ears, skin, open and not judging, and I like that.

It is good to be open to experience. I am in the heat, and it is not a horror I must shun, but an environment I can flourish in. I do not run from it, and that is empowering. It might create problems which I would deal with, different problems from colder months. I don’t particularly like to sweat. It is good to appear to be civilised, above that sort of thing, and it is a status symbol to not need to be troubled by it; but then I am an animal, and sweat is natural. I need not appear out of sorts.

I don’t see many people in the park. There are a few cyclists, and some families by the adventure playground, picnicking in the shade of trees. I will ask this woman, walking towards me by the hedge.

Do you like the heat?
-Hmmuhh? she says, surprised by the question.
-Do you like the heat?
-Yes, I suppose. Better than being cold. (I had her exact words in my mind, all the way home, but forgot them before writing them.)
-Thank you.
-Have a nice day! cries into the distance.

Physical emotion

Perhaps every move we make is prompted by emotion. All non-verbal communication, such as eye contact, mirroring or a shake of the head; the walk, confident, cheery or broken down. I must use this joy, I thought, feeling it, putting it into my walk, wishing to look confident because I am worth it. The joy can be channelled into movement.

As can anger or fear in fight or flight. Thoughtful, contemplative, I am not analysing in a series of syllogisms but sensing my feeling. Turning outward or inward, hoping or fearing, seeing possibilities are emotional moves.

If you and I see a poppy, do we see the same thing? Or, if you and I see a poppy in the garden of the Meeting house where we both have worshipped for years, do we see the same thing? Does it matter that you are red/green colour blind? There is a reality that we both experience, and though the experience we bring to interpreting it differs there is some commonality in our shared experience of it.

The ways we function differ, even before damage or trauma is considered. To Myers-Briggs’ thinking/feeling, introvert/extravert, judging/perceiving, sensing/intuition, I would add internally/externally focused, irenic/polemic- how much you value Being Right or Getting Along; libertarian/authoritarian, controlling/easy-going, and how much you value free collaboration. That is, like most of my blog, off the top of my head, though I see introversion/extraversion has six “facets”, which are not always the same for all “introverts”. Underneath all this are emotional reactions.

Desires may be programmed in, or come from the heart. The programming works in me through fear. I fear for my own existence, and decide I want what I ought to want, to preserve my own existence. Then what I really want conflicts within.

I wonder if you can know all your feelings, especially about things you cannot control. I have not met the new neighbours, but there were grown men pounding on their front door and then running away, then kicking a football against the front door, and then I heard angry shouting though could not make out the words. The music from there has been particularly loud and horrible. I thought of going upstairs to the other neighbour, to- not sure, ask him to intervene, perhaps, or just reassure me, or ask if he had met them. I am perturbed, but the more chaotic neighbours tend to leave quickly. I was watchful. There was little I could do.

I phoned the benefits office. There was a long explanation that no enquiry may be made by phone for Universal Credit, you have to check on line, which is tough on people who cannot afford broadband or a computer, and a long explanation that if your phone company charged ridiculous amounts for the call you had only yourself to blame. At 3 mins 15 the hold music started, and at 15.30 someone finally answered.

I thought, surely they will behave reasonably, then realised what is “reasonable” depends on whether you think benefit claimants should be given a break because they are vulnerable, or screwed as hard as possible because they are cadgers who will always push it as hard as they can and need to be forced to behave well. After the phone conversation appeared to indicate everything was OK, at least for a week or so, and I rang off, I started shouting swear words at my empty living room. I was mostly calm with the woman, though I found her controlling, asking impertinent questions.

My underlying emotions appear to be perplexity rage and terror. These are great when they make me do what I need to do, dreadful when they make me freeze.

Common sense

I hate common sense.

Why would anyone kip down during the day at Pimlico station on the Victoria line in a sleeping bag, a sheet of cardboard as insulation from the concrete below? That’s the way to Tate Britain, so I see people there because I pass there. Perhaps people give them money. Perhaps they have homes to go to, they are just panhandling. I don’t get a feeling of benevolence giving to them, just of guilt. It is a fabulously small thing to do.

I get the arguments. I heard them in Cardiff when Social Services told Cytûn the late night soup run was doing more harm than good. If you make it possible for people to live on the streets then you keep them in that misery. There are better things to do for them. In Edinburgh at one time you could buy breakfast tickets for 50p from a particular charity, and give them out instead of money. The charity got your money, if the person did not need the breakfast he would not go, you were giving real food rather than money for alcohol. Social Services are doing what they can. Though under the Tories, Society’s response gets less helpful- fewer houses for homeless people in priority need- and more punitive- squatting is now a criminal offence; and the Australian method of providing a payment card to pay for goods with benefits rather than cash, so that claimants cannot gamble or buy alcohol is humiliating and mean, not high-minded, and the government knows it.

Why would the Pope want to give them a quid if asked? Because there is not much I can do as an individual- vote Labour once every two or five years, or give them a quid. I am not doing much harm- you can’t get that much extra strong lager or whisky-flavoured alcohol for a quid, and they might just buy breakfast with it. He said, look them in the eye, show love and respect.

What could I do if I disagreed with a Quaker about this? What Quakers do: listen to each other. I know you are not robotically unloving just because you do not agree with me on giving to beggars; I hope you know I am not completely out of touch with reality. Or something, or know I am not an enemy because of a disagreement.

I hate common sense because it is out of touch with reality, because I sought safety in common sense, in doing the good, right or sensible thing, and it did not work. Common sense is therefore a way of thinking which is less than necessary. I want holy foolery instead- not that I imagine I have it.

I am not sure I have adjusted to agriculture, I might be better as a hunter-gatherer, though that also required a great deal of preparation, thinking ahead and deferring gratification: all that work creating stone spear points or axes and leather tents. Maybe the Green Party will enter government and institute the Universal Basic Income. Maybe one of the impulses which I find more compelling or enticing than common sense will actually lead to something profitable.

Leave Common Sense to the Aspies. There’s Richard, constructing a hugely detailed map of the world and his place in it, asking me about wind energy because that was his interest at the time and he wanted to know the vague generalisations I knew about it- sort of an info suck rather than an info dump. He might be better to learn to find what a person is expert in- everyone is expert in something- and suck that. Common sense fits him because he loves it and it works for him better than anything else.

Common sense is what I have worked out already, and nothing I have worked out already works.

Common sense is the Sin against the Holy Spirit, she declared, sententiously: letting go of the Leadings of the Light within in favour of plodding logic. Though I hardly know anything I imagine might be a Leading. I mean well. There is some love, there, sometimes-… ?

Common sense v Leadings, I say. Is that the same as Hadley Freeman‘s freedom v fundamentalism? No, but I may be groping towards similar ideas.

Fear and bravery

I am allowed not to make sense, but do not always realise that.

Recent experiences have been pleasant. I was out leafleting for Labour last night. We met in the car park, and chatted for a bit, then I got my road group and cycled there. A man in his garage took my leaflet, and said he had voted Labour already. A woman in her front garden encouraged her toddler to take my leaflet from me. I had put the lock on my bike but not locked it to anything, and worried that someone would pinch it or hide it. That would require particular malice and nastiness, and there are few people walking round that corner, even on such a lovely midsummer evening. I cycled home and met two other leafleters- we chatted pleasantly for a few minutes. The whole experience was Nice. I remain afraid of the world.

I was too hot in the sunshine when I got to Swanston, and walked to the tea-shop with my wig off. So, sometimes I show fear, and sometimes a lack of circumspection.

It seems to me that if I show any vulnerability Enemies will pounce.

I leave my house, walk to the bus stop, and have to go back to check I have locked my front door, because I cannot remember and therefore imagine I have been an idiot, not locking it. I am capable of such idiocy: when I went to Portugal I left my electric blanket on, and though that was more likely to fuse it than to start a fire, I feared my flat would be burned out.

It is liberating giving this fear a voice, even though it is not sensible. Telling it to shut up and not to be so stupid has not worked, is not loving and shows no self-respect. So, give it a voice. I have been seeing my fear as a problem, but it is a part of me, needing loved and integrated. Love “drives out” fear, and soothes the fearful. I have wanted to show my fear it is wrong, but that shows no self-respect either.

I had thought work would be safe if I stuck to the rules, except it wasn’t. I feel my fear is my parents’ fear too.

I have very little knowledge of my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather, Mr Butt- only his surname, and only 90% certainty of its spelling. He drove a hackney carriage. At one time he owned three and had an arrangement for others to drive two on his behalf; but he lost the other two, through drinking. And, he would wander home drunk taking stuff from shops; the shopkeepers would let him, knowing he would be back to pay for it when sober. Stuff he did not need and could not afford, perhaps. I have the feeling my relatives felt as I feel about this, half disapproving, half admiring.

There are all these bits of myself I cannot admit because I can’t accept them. You haven’t said much today.

-I’ve been contemplating you contemplating your humanity. You can’t integrate without acceptance. Your need to find order in this.

Possibly I need to find order too much. I objected to a Labour volunteer calling the candidate a “young girl”. Women object to this. I wondered if it might make her seem more approachable, more “One of us” so more likely to get votes; or diminish respect for her, less likely to get votes. Probably the effect either way is too marginal to bother with. I do want order though. It seems safer if I can understand.

-You can’t show bravery without fear. Foolhardiness, perhaps.

I treasure this comment from over a year ago: I think you are extremely brave.

-I noticed you equate forgetfulness with idiocy.

Well, it was silly to leave the electric blanket on. “Idiocy” might be a bit strong. I need to be sensible and clever. I am clever, just not sensible.

-Perhaps that is a mercy not a curse, she says.

Useful questions

How could I know myself? Should I even try?

I was suicidal because I was in pain and I wanted the pain to stop, and that was the only way I knew how. But I did not kill myself because I wanted to survive. I argued myself out of it thinking I must not wrong anyone- you could crash your car at 60mph head on, that would probably succeed and appear to be an accident, but you would murder the other driver and passengers. Arthur Miller’s Salesman tried to crash his car into a wall, but bottled it, crashing too slowly to kill.

At least, that seems a reasonable explanation of it. I think of the two moments I decided to take action to kill myself, and the thoughts about it in between. I thought about it a lot. I did not kill myself.

I thought about hitting someone, and decided I did not because I was confused, because the rules had broken down. I decided I seek safety in rules. Then I remembered I always thought of myself as Antinomian, rejecting others’ rules, especially with relation to transition. So, I live by rules, until I do not- or I reject others’ rules, until they seem to be my source of safety. I could not make a useful statement of how I respond to rules to predict my behaviour in any situation.

Why would you want to predict your behaviour? Because I don’t trust myself. I want to be assured that I will behave sensibly or usefully in any particular situation. Or, as with the procrastination, I want to know why I do it so I might stop it. Or, even, stop expecting too much of myself- energy and motivation is a finite resource, this is as much as I can do.

It might be good to trust more. These questions are useful: what delights me? What do I want? I want to be safe- yet I am still alive, I have always bimbled on, rarely comfortable but safe enough, though I have not always recognised that.

I could see my wrestling with thoughts of suicide as progress. I wanted to die, I argued myself out of it, I don’t want to die any more. That teaches me nothing beyond my ability to change. All the past shows us is that things change.

Or, I could see it as evidence of my ability to learn and progress. I have done so before, and can now. I encouraged people- “You have accomplished huge things before: you learned to walk and talk!” Perhaps because you did not recognise that you might not manage- or there was no reason not to try. Each achievement, each fall onto carpet on a padded, nappied bottom, passed and you kept trying. Now, you have all that experience of success and failure- can they balance out?

“I see only the past”- ACIM lesson 7- means that I do not see so much potential.

We see the future in our mind’s heart and we take the small next step that will enable us to get there together. This is the activity of radical hope.

– Deena Metzger