Sensation Amnesia

It may seem strange, amid oodles of food analogies, but it occurred to me recently that I could craft a better analogy for my own experiences by comparing them to how I experience pain.

Just hear me out.

First of all, it’s not clear how universal this is, so I’ll explain my own relationship to pain piece by piece: when I, say, stub my toe or burn my finger, the sensation feels “sudden” and enveloping.  And afterward, after the sensation has dissipated, I might remember to be more careful or adapt my behavior around the possibility (ex. don’t touch hot metal!), and I remember, vaguely, that pain is a thing that exists and that I can experience.

But I can’t actually remember it itself.  I have a hard time remembering pain.  I have a hard time conjuring the memory enough to really put myself in those shoes again.  Even when I picture something painful — which is unpleasant — I cannot actually remember being motivated, in the same way or to the same extent, by that feeling.  The thought feels extremely distant.

And lately I’ve located a huge parallel between that dynamic and my experience of attractions and repulsions — of being gray-asexual and quoiro and arcflux.

When I’m in the midst of one strong sensation, like sex aversion, sometimes I can’t imagine feeling any other way.

Other times, when a feeling is over (yes, over), I almost have a hard time reconciling the idea that the person feeling that thing was me, and is me, and I am that person.  Because it feels so alien to whatever my current experience has moved onto.  And I can’t imagine feeling like that ever again.

Sometimes, when I relate to that feeling that motivates people to use the word “sexy,” it feels as random and as disconnected from my selfhood as getting a splinter stuck in my foot — which can be bracketed as “experiencing pain,” yes, but that doesn’t mean I’d associate my experience of life with the experience of pain in the same way as someone who has a chronic pain disorder.

And then there’s times when it’s like the only word for pain in my vocabulary is “agony,” and it seems excessive and inaccurate to apply it.

And then there’s people asking and wondering what my experience of pain is like and wanting me to tell them what it feels like.

And I can only shrug.

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12 responses to “Sensation Amnesia

  • Yoonede

    Pretty thought provoking, and now I’m trying to conjur a specific memory of pain and trying to feel if it’s a real memory or a presently-induced thought that I’m believing in. Hmmmm. It reminds me of a memory issue I have. I have something called facial agnosia, meaning that I can’t remember faces or recognize people by their faces (it’s so bad I can’t recognize my own family members by face alone). I can’t hold the memories of faces i my mind at all, no matter how hard I try. I have trouble holding most visual images in my mind (which means I’m terrible at art), but faces are the worst.
    Memory is such a funny thing.

  • epochryphal

    yes this yes this. very very arcflux and grey resonance.

  • Siggy

    Aside from pain, there’s also hot/cold sensations. When it’s cold, I just want it to be hotter and hotter, and the idea of things getting too hot is unimaginable. And vice versa.

  • R.

    Dunno if you’re into the ol’ Myers – Briggs typology (you know, the 4-letter personality, cognitive function thing), but that theory defines this phenomenon as “extroverted sensing” – primarily feeling physical sensations only during the here and now. Someone who uses “introverted sensing” would be able to recall physical sensations naturally. I’m in the former camp. Every time I get sick it’s like I’ve never gotten sick before and I’m going to die.

    • Coyote

      Huh. It’s hard to imagine introverted-sensing folk existing.

      • R.

        It’s a gross simplification on my part, but from what I understand introverted sensing is closely related to memory, so I would assume that being able to intensely remember physical sensations as well as events would be part of that. But who knows?

  • thetechnicolorace

    “When I’m in the midst of one strong sensation, like sex aversion, sometimes I can’t imagine feeling any other way.

    Other times, when a feeling is over (yes, over), I almost have a hard time reconciling the idea that the person feeling that thing was me, and is me, and I am that person. Because it feels so alien to whatever my current experience has moved onto. And I can’t imagine feeling like that ever again”

    This resonates with me so much. I think it’s also part of why I had so much trouble figuring out what romantic attraction was – I wasn’t experiencing it at the time and I just couldn’t remember how it felt or if I’d even ever experienced it. Now that I’m experiencing it again, I can’t imagine ever having forgotten. And romantic attraction is a relatively clear-cut experience for me, whereas feelings like sex aversion and sexual attraction are much more fleeting (and in the case of attraction hard to pin down, too). One day, or even one minute, I can experience one of them (or sometimes both at the same time, which is.. well, interesting), and the next it can be gone and I can’t even recall how it felt or imagine I’ll feel like that again.

  • Linkspam: April 15th, 2016 | The Asexual Agenda

    […] Coyote compares ir experiences of being gray-asexual and quoiro and arcflux to sensation amnesia. […]

  • Melrocks92

    This is so me. I can’t believe someone finally put into words how I feel because, as you said, I can’t access the feeling so how do I know I felt it in that way?? Thank you so much for this!!

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