I truly thought it was just me. I thought I was broken, “not normal”, just truly weird. It was not the first time I thought that about me or a reaction I had but this time it seemed like I really had a point. Surprises make me very uncomfortable. Very!
I love the idea that someone, on their life’s journey thought about me. And that they did not stop there, that they persevered and acted upon that thought, either getting me something or planning something nice for me. I LOVE that and it makes me feel humbled and special at the very same time. And here is where my joy ends. I do not know how to react to the actual surprise. Each time someone unveils a surprise to me, offers me a gift, plans a party, I freak out. Really, I do. I have no idea how to react, the gremlins go crazy and start yelling in my head about how I am not reacting properly and how that will show the person who has put so much effort into surprising me that I am ungrateful. It is excruciating and this is why any anticipation of a such a situation throws my anxiety through the roof.
Much like other things in my life, I thought I am just different. And not in a good way. That it must be a symptom of mental illness or an infatuation so deeply ingrained that even I was not able to spot it. That is, until I read this:
“Similar to findings by researchers Sascha Topolinski and Fritz Strack, my team and I define surprise as an interruption caused by information that doesn’t fit with our current understanding or expectations. It causes us to reevaluate.
We can think of surprise as ‘a bridge between cognition and emotion.’ But it’s a short bridge! Surprise is the shortest-duration emotion, rarely lasting more than a few seconds.
In addition to being a short bridge, surprise is often an amplifier. Once our thinking brain works out the unexpected thing that’s happening, we move into emotion. There’s evidence that surprise amplifies subsequent emotion, with more surprising events resulting in stronger emotional reactions.
SPOILER SPOILER ALERT: I’m pretty sure this research explains why I do not like surprises. I’m not a fan of having to manage amplified emotion while in the spotlight. But it’s not just my introversion and the spotlight piece, I don’t like surprises in movies or TV series either. I know many of y’all will find this egregious, but I normally read the entire plot of any potentially stressful movie before I watch it. People assume that ruins it for me, but it doesn’t. I can actually enjoy it better without being thrown off the surprise bridge into amplified emotion. No, thank you.”Dr. Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart, pg. 66-67
Yes, yes and hell yes! Thank you, Dr. Brown! With every book you publish I am reminded why you are my favourite teacher. No surprise there!