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Thursday, June 10, 2010

on becoming a woman (2)

One final quick caveat. There is an easier way to do this. Unfortunately if you're reading this it's probably too late to pursue, but I'd suggest reading the Bardo Thodol and watching out for that smoky red light next time around.

The day I was born, about 2 years ago from my present 12 year old perspective, ( which is a bit better than the 10 year old one last year when I was 56 ), I can remember a couple of things clearly.
The first was, in early afternoon, looking round the room I was in and thinking mf, mf, mf. As a diagnosis I quickly discarded it, after all it had been over a decade since I'd taken any drug of an equivalent strength to mescaline, and I never have flashbacks. I think the comparison was down to being aware of a kind of sensual vibrancy, especially centered on sight, and a kind of heightened awareness of energy flows. Then I started looking at people passing by and then things got REALLY interesting. Looking back, I tend to interpret it as being made aware of the death of my male self and the start of the female journey. At the time, though, it was first of all an intuitive understanding of male/ female ways of seeing each other and a bewilderment that I'd been on the planet for so long without working it out.
NOTE This was totally atypical for me in any drug state. I don't do realisation like that at all.
In effect this was seeing a difference in the focus of consciousness between genders, something that I initially saw as relating to mutual attraction but which gradually widened to embrace the totality of world views. That night I went to sleep in the knowledge that it was rather doubtful if I was male any more on the simple intuitive ground that if that were to still be the case then I'd have been unable to see men in the way that I now could.
Initially, however, the notion that something had happened to my sense of gender took second place to the notion of brain damage. In many ways this was my greatest fear with ESLD, the possible state of 'confusion' due to ammonia compounds penetrating the blood/ brain barrier and possibly leading to coma and death in a few months. I really hadn't worked out how to confront that. So a lot of the next couple of weeks were spent trying to come to grips with what was actually happening. I went into a whole set of activities trying to map any changes in cognition through a number of tests, puzzles and interactions. Within a week or so, the idea of liver induced mental confusion was demoted to the status of an extremely unlikely possibility. Basically virtually none of the normal symptoms applied, and no-one, doctor or other, since has proffered the possibility of any other form of neural damage. On the other hand something relating to gender and hormones became far more likely. Given that I'd had a lessened,spironolactonised sexuality for a few months and favoured tops that concealed my budding gynecomastia it wasn't the most far out hypothesis.
Anyway, initially testing myself in straight recall, concussion type stuff, no change really from normal that I could find. There was some disruption and change in higher level mathematical, verbal and strategic performance.
Reading and chess were interesting. In terms of reading speed my performance was down some 50%-65%, but that was partially due to concentration. The other part I put down to pattern recognition disruption, a view I've since partially altered. Bear in mind that my reading had been such as to be able to read 3 standard paperbacks a day of some reasonable standard. It's since partially recovered.
Chess, at my best, was good club standard in the UK and is an old friend in terms of being a cognitive performance measure. A mild overall improvement together with an enhanced tendency to find tactical nuances easily, was odd. Games in general were variable in performance, though word games were generally the same or better and maths puzzles often worse, though I feel that difference more task related than to do with the nature of the material.
Sadly I lacked the foresight to have recently preceding comparable results to hand under controlled conditions, but I exercise my mind in a number of standard such ways, and feel I'm a fair observer in this regard.
In the first couple of days of the process, though, in ways that relate both to psychology and art, and more sketchily to phenomenology, I was thinking of figure and ground as being core descriptive. And these particular questions became more and more important and central to the early development of the model that I was trying to construct. If the figure focus is determined by perceptions whose structure is gender dimorphic, what does that mean for individual cognition ? To what extent are there at least two systems of consciousness that spring from two radically different modes of information processing, on a level of perceptual quanta, that we can term gender ?
This was given added significance when, in the first few weeks I became aware of a truly surprising change in the ways that I was able to surprise myself. It concerned those things one says because one knows them, and only realize during or after the saying that this was knowledge that one had adduced by some set of unconscious processes. They started to vary in kind. Most of my life such utterances would be relating to delineating a frame, an overarching pattern, but now they were far more likely to comprise a direct linear analysis.
I wasted a lot of time trying to get a Jungian thing to work, with the vague notion of anima and animus exchanging places. I suppose it does have some explanatory power, but not really within cognitive psychology, which is where I was centering myself. So I didn't want to have to deal with much psychoanalytic baggage.

Am going through a period of intense lassitude at present, (it's a cyclic ESLD thing), so I'll pause here for a week or so.

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