Thursday, 13 January 2011

Losing the Internal Traffic Light

I have reached the unfortunate conclusion that I suffer from periods of internal daltonism. I must firstly stress that this cothurnal condition of internal colour blindness is a complete invention and holds no scientific merit. It assumes the presence of an internal traffic light that monitors when thoughts are eligible to be expressed. When the internal traffic light is red, the thought is inappropriate, rude, irrelevant, aggressive, inflammatory, trivial or simply horrifically embarrassing. The red light prevents this thought from erupting from my lips and keeps it safely contained from causing damage. At the other extreme, when the thought is interesting, mindless, caring, intelligent, mildly witty or simply harmless, the vocal cords are free to vibrate at their preferable frequency and words can stream freely. The difficulty arises when the traffic light is amber, when the thought’s effect if vocalised is ambiguous and therefore difficult to determine. This is where the arrogant, careless, stressed or impatient drivers hurry forward, desperate for their thought to be articulated despite the potential risks.

In episodes of pain, my internal daltonism manifests itself. I am unable to prevent the expression of the pugnacious thoughts from the kind, the hateful from the loving and the intolerable from the tolerable. I am internally colour blind, incompetent at distinction and the words that erupt can be those capable of spontaneous combustion. The loss of my internal traffic light is a loss of oratory control and it is potentially more emotionally damaging than the loss of my physical control.

Temporary internal daltonism is a state that affects every individual at particular instances, and affects certain individuals to a greater extent. During these afflictions, we say what we ought not and what we may not even truly mean, and then have to struggle with their consequences. Our words have the power to bully, to anger or to upset and often they even contradict sentiments expressed on other occasions. One source of comfort, for me, regarding the hasty, insensitive, rash and unrefined extravasations that have occurred to loved ones is a line by Blaise Pascal,

“Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.”


  1. I feel like the fact you can recognize that this happens is something that sets you apart from many people anyway - as opposed to lashing out or impulsive - impatience driven actions being justified as, "Well, it's your fault!" or whatever else people say are the reasons they lose control. I don't know what the loss of physical control would be like, but I think the loss of either physical or emotional scare me equally. I can't imagine parting with either. Then again, my traffic light is embarrassingly often red, and that's my own problem to deal with.

  2. What an insightful and brilliant observation! A potential cure for 'verbal diarrhoea' perhaps? 'Traffic light thinking!' - just love it! *smiles

  3. Been there - done that! Constant pain has a way of wearing down the nerves (not the spinal variety)that would normally be well able to deal with the days little annoyances that would normally not phase you at all. I compared my self to a pressure cooker and sometimes the pressure was just too much and 'steam' slipped out that you didn't want. And steam scalds anyone standing too close. People, and more precisely the people that matter, will understand. Still wishing you the best. Elaine.

  4. Thank you. I am so grateful to you for sharing your mind and your journey. I think you are a truly gifted writer and you have inspired me to continue my own - though I have yet to make mine public. Will you understand when I say that I will be intention-ing healing thoughts for your surgery, recovery and a post-op that is purely pain-free? The very best for you! Emma
    PS - Stephen Fry sent me :D