Conversation on a Side Channel

So some emotional impairment makes me unable to have a simple conversation with a neurotypical person, which makes all social interactions rather complicated.


Well, perhaps not.


It was sunny outdoors and we were sitting on the couch. I had lowered the blinds slightly to reveal more contrast on the projected image. She had her laptop on her knees, working on an abstract for some conference call. I was lounging with my favorite keyboard and a mouse, playing The Witcher.

She had taught me how to play better (at least, how to stop making a fool of myself in the game) a couple minutes earlier and I was practicing what was taught.

And we talked.

She was working, I was playing, and we meanwhile we also had a conversation about a completely unrelated topic: how to identify, seek and request resources for personal development on the workplace.

The combination of activities was arguably incongruous.

The conversation was definitely not—for all intents and purposes, it felt like the most natural, most uncomplicated and best free-flowing conversation I ever had without the influence of alcohol.

A conversation over a side channel.


Today, two days later, my doctor and I reflected on the event to identify the working system.

I recollected that keeping my hands and my creative brain busy, doodling on a sheet of paper, was helping me focus better during lessons in school.

I indicated that I had figured out how alcohol prevented my thoughts over and around each conversation from getting into my way to social affinity, by inhibiting these thoughts altogether (a separate effect from “liquid courage”; thought inhibition kicks in at a higher percentage of alchol in my blood system).

I also remarked that in contrast, watching a movie usually keeps my attention fully away from whatever company happens to be watching at the same time.

We mused that a video game might keep the intellectual side of my brain focused on a task just enough to prevent it from over-analyzing and over-thinking the conversation occuring on the side channel; a useful diversion, thus, as an alternative to inhibition by alcohol. The effect is also obtained while watching a movie but then my emotional brain also becomes busy, I lose track of the existence of the fellow individual altogether, and conversation becomes impossible.

The hypothesis is appealing.

A remaining issue, however, is that the practical set up limits the reusability of this system to conversations that occur in that particular locale. The only portable video game I know which would also work in that way, I have completed already.

Another remaining issue is that the system is only usable with individuals who are comfortable interacting while my attention appears to be focused elsewhere. This requries some sensitivity and probably some explaining upfront.