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Sensory unpleasantries

  1. Mar 24, 2004 #1


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    After spilling a bit of coffee just now, I was reminded how much I hate touching paper towels. I know it might sound strange, but feeling the particular grainy texture of paper towels against my hands is particularly unpleasant for me and sometimes makes me want to shudder as if nails are being dragged across a chalkboard. Well, perhaps I am exaggerating the intensity, but you get my point. I sometimes get a similar kind of bothered feeling when I hear certain markers writing on paper-- almost as if I can literally feel the texture of the marker on the paper, and again a sort of nail on chalkboard kind of unpleasantness. On one occassion I had to ask my brother to use a pencil instead of a marker because I couldn't bear it.

    I use the example of nails on a chalkboard because it is the closest thing I can think of that is more or less expressed universally. Although it seems more natural for a high frequency sound to be bothersome than the feeling of a paper towel, it seems to me that there is something beyond just high frequency noise that makes the chalkboard thing particularly unpleasant.

    Does anyone else have these sort of idiosyncratic sensory bothers? I'm just curious-- it would be interesting to see how often they crop up and what forms they can take.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 24, 2004 #2
    I have the very same paper towel thing. It extends to some, but not all, paper napkins, (and also to some fabrics, but I don't know which material. It may be the weave rather than the fiber.)

    I didn't always have the paper aversion. It started when I was in my late twenties.

    Oliver Sacks did a story about an autistic woman (An Anthropologist On Mars) who was very high functioning and who reported that when she was young and unable to express herself she was constantly tormented by aversions to sensory experiences of a wide nature. When she learned to talk (late) she was able to complain and her parents removed as many of the "unpleasantries" as they could, and things got better for her. As she got older many of them became much less painful or annoying.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2004
  4. Mar 24, 2004 #3
    I have similar unpleasantries related to larger-grain things, such as touching sandpaper or hearing people rubbing their five o'clock shadows. Oddly, hearing sandpaper and rubbing my own shadow doesn't bother me. Practically anything with that scratchy grainy sound just irritates the hell out of me. I don't have a problem with finer-grain textures like paper towels or markers though. I've never really been able to come up with an explanation why it bothers me so...
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2004
  5. Mar 24, 2004 #4
    hypnagogue I am right there with you on the paper towel issue especially if it's cheap stuff. Makes my hands so chapped and dry :(

    I also can't stand people touching my hair or having something pulling down my shirt neckline. I need my neckline perfect or it drives me nuts!

    I'm also strange with music. Some people like it as something soft it the background. Not for me, if I can't hear every beat or word then I won't listen to it at all. What really drives me crazy is when someone is listening to a good song in the car and they turn it really low so that the songs almost blends into the background car/road noise. Music is an emotional and inspiring activity, not just background music.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2004
  6. Mar 24, 2004 #5


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    Awh!!!! The sensitive side of men is coming out in this thread :P I used to work in my dad's garage, so handled quite a bit of sandpaper with wet hands (sanding down an entire car by hand).. I still have fingerprints though (which actually quite surprises me)..

    I hope that doesn't apply to your gf ;)
  7. Mar 24, 2004 #6
    actually my gf makes fun of me all the time about my neckline problem and she is disappointed when I growl if she start playing with my hair. Sometimes I am ok with it, but never ever in the morning! I think she does it just to tease me and get me all worked up :)
  8. Mar 24, 2004 #7


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    I am on your gf's side! Poor thing :( Especially with nice manes like yours.. who could resist? :wink:
  9. Mar 24, 2004 #8
    This is a twist I would never have predicted this thread would take.
  10. Mar 24, 2004 #9
    Farther Even!!

    I'm surprised too, zoobyshoe. A thread about "sensory unpleasantries" turns into a debate between Greg and Monique about whether hair-feeling is wrong. Interesting.

    And hypnagogue, I'm right there with you. And it isn't just restricted to paper towels or sounds like Pergatory. My "pet peeve" (if you could call it that) extends all the way to just seeing something with weird grain. I can just look at a newly-copied/printed out sheet of paper and I get all shivery. Touching things makes it worse. I've even gotten to the violent convulsions point with a freshly laundered towel. I was spasming on the floor for several minutes. Not so fun.
    Don't feel alone, hypnagogue.
  11. Mar 24, 2004 #10
    Re: Farther Even!!

    Seriously? Did you lose consciousness or remain aware?
  12. Mar 24, 2004 #11

    Math Is Hard

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    ugh! I hate touching paper towels. It's the dryness of them that's offensive to my skin.
    I also don't care for whistling. I find it extremely annoying.
  13. Mar 24, 2004 #12
    I dont mind the feel of paper towels. In fact, I occasionally use them to blow my nose. Then again, I once thought it was cool to play a (very VERY nasty) F sharp major minor 7th chord on a piano. Setting the keyboard to play songs in that key makes it sound like some ghastly carnival from hell.
  14. Mar 24, 2004 #13
    What the hell is a Major minor chord?
  15. Mar 24, 2004 #14
    My points exactly. Ive never heard of a major minor chord, much less a 7th variation of it. I was looking at the keyboard display and it reported a F sharp major minor 7th. I.. er.. we (a friend) must have combined a major and minor scale together at once (it took three hands, needed help getting it to work).
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2004
  16. Mar 24, 2004 #15
    Do you remember what notes were in it? My keyboard is right behind me, I'd be interested in hearing what it sounds like.
  17. Mar 24, 2004 #16
    Its been a while, but I might remember at least half of it.

    Start off with the F sharp major scale at one time. Then play a minor version of that scale. Put both scales together and take the 7th note of that scale and lower it by 1/2 step.

    The notes should be (questionable here, dont have a keyboard next to me) F sharp, B flat, C sharp, A, and E. I think it may have sound worse than that, espeically if you replace the E with a D or an F natural.
  18. Mar 24, 2004 #17
    Well, the individual chord isn't particularly bad, but I can see if you played a whole song skewing the chords like that it would be a sensory unpleasantry.
  19. Mar 24, 2004 #18
    I was at school doing this science experiment that involved styrofoam cups. One guy in my group picked up a cup, and another guy started freaking out. He had hands over his ears, face all messed up, and he looked like he was about to scream. Seems styrofoam actually causes people physical pain. Weird...

    I hear ya. (but turn up the volume a bit ) When I'm in a car and music is playing, I have to hear every word and beat. Otherwise, it's just plain annoying.
  20. Mar 24, 2004 #19


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    Hey, I was just joking. It's funny how a sensory pleasantry can mean an unpleasantry to the other. The only unpleasantry I have is mint chocolate *shudders*
  21. Mar 25, 2004 #20


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    I'm with you, Monique. Whoever thought of ruining perfectly good chocolate with mint (or fruit flavors, or peanut butter) should be SHOT!!
    For me, it's fingernails on magazine pages. THAT drive me NUTS!
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