|From I, Robopsychologist in Discover Magazine|
I sat on the bed across from my partner, tears in my eyes as I prepared to share with him an insight I'd had at therapy that day. I felt incredibly vulnerable, ready to open up this secret part of me I'd kept defensively hidden, even from myself, for many years.
That afternoon, I had become aware that my aloof exterior obfuscated a deep well of emotion and caring. I had blocked myself off from what would otherwise consume me. I'd learned as a child that if I thought about anyone's pain, I'd fall into the vortex. I'd lose myself in a trippy, altered state of consciousness, and not in a good way.
For example, I once accidentally saw a short video about the maltreatment of animals in the Chinese fur trade, and I couldn't get the horrible feeling or the images out of my head for months. The experience came unbidden, and I couldn't stop imagining what it was like to be those animals. When this inadvertent exposure happens, my only defense is to keep trying to forget, to try to switch off all feeling, to stop caring about anyone. Even as I write these words, I'm fighting off the flood. The result is a hardened exterior, an unfeeling facade, a sort of clinical detachment that I apply to any expression of pain.
So when I had this insight, I was eager to share it with my partner, who always thought I'd been too distant, too cold. Who had encouraged me to try to open up more, to feel more empathy for others.
I opened my mouth to speak…