Come on, you know you do it. You meet someone interesting at a political rally or a museum or a zumba class (the key word here is interesting; specifically interesting to you, not necessarily to anyone else). You find out their name or something identifiable about them – they were the first woman winner of the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest*) and as soon as you get home you’ll be Googling your brains out. What’s up with that?
Well, it turns out there’s a lot up with that, most of it neurobiological. And much of it unconscious for most of us. But none of this will make sense unless you first accept a fundamental premise: within each of us “healing wants to happen.” Another way to say this is: “Broken brain wiring yearns to reconnect” – disconnected parts want to rejoice and rejoin together to make an increasingly happy whole.
Another thing that will have to be accepted is this research and a lot more like it that indicates that the bulk of our brain’s ongoing daily activity is processed unconsciously. We are essentially … Strangers to Ourselves.
To Stalk or Not to Stalk
First showing up on the stalking scene most often is your brain’s Narrative Confabulator, you know – the part of your brain that does “scenario planning” day in and day out. Give it a little morpet (something between a morsel and a snippet) of something interesting and off to the races it will go, spinning one fantastic, made-up tall tale after another. After which your brain will begin working overtime in order to convince you it’s all true.
You used to be guileless at this when you were four or five. Remember? Now you’ve learned to be somewhat circumspect, usually editing for your audience. Which is, more often than not, only you (my own brain once got triggered by a woman working in a bookstore when I was in my thirties. I recruited several friends to go into the store to check her out. None of them could figure out what the draw was with to a rail-thin, bookish, crone type. Guess which of my parents she clearly resembled).
Similar to bookstore lady, something about a person I decide to “inquire about” sets a few network fibers in my brain atingling. While I’m often unconscious about it, the way a person looks, the feel of their energy, the way they speak, smell or taste, will activate action potentials (electro-chemical energy pulses) in my brain. Once, a woman I was standing behind in line at a Starbucks made a gesture with her arm that immediately grabbed my attention. Curious, I waited and watched until she did it again. In a flash I realized who she reminded me of – again, someone I had unfinished business with (contrary to popular belief, not all unfinished business is with mom or dad) – my best male friend in junior high school who betrayed me by stealing away my first puppy love after I’d confided my feelings for her to him.
Familiarity Breeds Connect
And that’s what seems to drive all of my stalking impulses. Somebody shows up in my life, triggers “familiarity circuits” in my brain and bingo!, off I go searching to find out more about them to see (again unconsciously) if they might be someone who can detonate buried memory explosives in my brain and bring them to the light of day for healing integration (which, more often than not, fails to actually happen, unfortunately. More is needed).
If you want to explore your own stalking fetishes further, Jane Wheatley-Crosbie does a compelling job of explaining the unconscious drive towards integrative healing in her fine article, “Psyche’s Return from Soma’s Underworld.” Even more importantly she suggests ways that we might actually engage in processes that stand a good chance at activating and repairing those buried memory networks. It’s probably a more prudent path to take than continually showing up as a stalker and unnecessarily triggering decent people’s threat-detection circuitry. You don’t want to be the weirdo who gets reported to the police needlessly, do you?
*In case you don’t want to look it up, the Nathan winner’s name is Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. Where in that slender body she managed to put all those hot dogs defies all belief, the laws of physics, and biology.