Imagine having the kind of confidence where entering a room didn’t trigger your threat analysis mode.
Before we start with this, I don’t assume I’m anything special or exceptional from the norm. Then again, I don’t often talk with others about all of my eccentricities, so who knows? Every time I walk into a room, take in my surroundings. My eyes will dart around and even if I don’t get to look in all directions, I’ll try to get a feel for people in my vicinity. If I’m putting something down, for instance, I’ll do slightly exaggerated movements, or after setting it on a surface, I’ll pivot. Am I nuts? Well we assumed as much already. Is this, however, the central reason?
I don’t have a solid notion of where this habit came from, but I’ve absorbed enough pop culture that I expect misfortune to come from all angles at any moment. If it’s not a ninja, katana half drawn, it could be a co-worker ready to ambush me with small talk or a telemarketer (*whispering* they’re everywheeeeere). Frankly, it’s probably a latent habit from high school theatre. Having your back to the audience is verboten, so you learn techniques for subtle movement and turns. Side-on conversations, etc. I guess at some point I folded this into everyday life. Even, wait, ESPECIALLY at parties I’m constantly taking inventory of where everyone/thing is situated. If I have my back to a doorway, I’ll repeatedly rotate or gesture around me as a way of increasing my vantage. I’ll subconsciously shift or move, according to anything that could catch me off-guard.
It has to be a modicum of control freakism leaking out. As if instilling a belief that you have status in a scenario, when that’s still to be determined. Hell, even the fact that on some level I’m placing an intrinsic status into my interactions should set off red flags. I DON’T LIKE BEING TAKEN BY SURPRISE, ALRIGHT? When you assume everyone’s trying to get one up or wants something out of you, taking steps to mitigate their reach feels not only helpful, but necessary.
The flip side of this is that if two of me existed, I’d be my own worst enemy. I try not to telegraph my presence unless I think it’d seriously worry the other person. I’ll often quietly walk into a shared space (like a kitchen) and begin doing something without saying hi. There’s also the weird trait I developed after noticing that nobody says goodbye in phone conversations. Now if I’m having a benign conversation I’ll quietly walk away when it dies down rather than dropping farewells and niceties. I’d hoped it would make me more enigmatic, but people probably just think I’m an asshole. Not gonna lie, it gives me a little thrill to go unnoticed. Stealth is exciting to me, which is how I wind up matching others’ breathing and steps without any intention of doing so. I’ll be walking down steps behind someone and find my stride matched with theirs. Or I’ll notice the extra focus my body is putting into masking my footfalls.
Like every societal ill, let’s blame video games for that one. Playing through stealth games, sneaking silently often results in avoiding damage. Perhaps I intuitively translated that to real life. If people don’t know I’m there, they can’t engage me in boring conversation. I get to choose whether or not I want to opt into interaction. What could be better than that?
If I was a therapist, I’d have a bunch of easy points to pounce on. This kind of behaviour has to be a response to childhood bullying and its lasting trauma. Or to feelings of inadequacy. Desiring control on this level is less about getting one up on others and everything to do with intended inoculation against further hurt. I’m only human. If you prick me, I’ll probably bleed out in the gutter. Isn’t it better to stay puncture free?