Blog, Kink

Vulnerability Like a Mantis Shrimp

Color has always been a resonating analogy for how I understand and interpret the world. People have colors- not like auras, but there are characteristics that I associate with certain colors. Most people are either red or blue. Occasionally, someone is purple. In very rare cases, someone is green.

It doesn’t mean much of anything except that it’s a useful means for me to understand what types of energies are present in my life. Chances are, if we’ve spent any time together and you’re someone I see as blue, you’ve heard me grumble, “fucking blue people,” in a half-exasperated, half-endearing tone.

In oversimplified terms (not being an optometrist), the human eye is made up of photoreceptors broken into two types: rods and cones. Rods control our ability to distinguish shadow and movement. Cones allow us to differentiate color.

The human eye has three cones, which allows us to see red, yellow, and blue (primaries) and combinations thereof (secondaries). A dog, on the other hand, only has two cones, but they have more rods than we do, which means they have less color input, but better night vision in distinguishing movement and shadow.

Butterflies have 5-6 color cones, meaning they can see and interpret color outside of our capacity to understand. Mantis shrimp have 16 color cones. This blows my mind every time.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about color interpretation and vulnerability lately. And it occurred to me recently that energetic connection and vulnerability feel very much like color cones in some sensory part of myself I don’t know how to name.

I talk sometimes about seeing people. There are…certain people that I can look at and see in a very specific way. I see the cracks in armor. I see the weak places and the broken spots. I see the things they try to keep hidden. I see the insecurities and the vulnerabilities and the places that are well-guarded.

It’s not everyone, but it’s most people. And when I run up against someone I can’t read, it feels like sensory deprivation, like I’m blindfolded and relying on senses that I don’t often consciously exercise.

So I’ve been thinking about the people I can’t read, the people I used to not know how to read (my partner is one of these; when we first met, I couldn’t read them at all and it was infuriating), and the people I can read as effortlessly as breathing. And I think of color receptors: 2, 3, 5, 16. And I think about the ways that we express and the ways that we interpret vulnerability in others, and it comes back- like many things do, with me- to color.

I think of my capacity to input what other people are showing me as working on a color spectrum. I have the cones to interpret certain colors; I lack the cones to interpret others. The same is true in reverse: I output in certain colors, and some people have the capacity to input the spectrum I project; others do not.

Related: the colors we output may be totally different than the colors we input. I believe this is often true for me, since I very rarely have a good grasp on how I appear and how others perceive me.

Also related: I think the color spectrums I work on to interpret how others react, feel, and respond to me are significantly more limited than other input receptors I have. It’s part of why I am so terrible at understanding affection when it’s offered, why I am prone to believing that those around me see the worst and think the worst about me. I have not figured out how to nurture those input receptors that allow me to accept certain types of care and affection. You’re outputting in reds and golds, but all I see is black-and-white, and movement.

I’m a mantis shrimp that has reduced its vision to a human’s. I somehow restricted the growth of the cones that allow me to input a range of emotional sensation and vulnerability, and when I’m asked to work on those spectrums, I am working blind, and frustrated by the lack of something that otherwise comes so naturally.

I can read my partner like a book now, in everything except in relation to me. When I pointed this out the other day, they agreed, and noted that I am usually spot-on correct in everything I see and understand about them except when I am trying to understand a response they are having to me. In those, I am often dead-wrong.

Unlike how our eyes actually work, I think that it’s possible to nurture and grow the cones to see a range of color beyond what we currently have. It’s a little bit of a fake-it-till-you-make-it exercise, a conditioning in which we come to understand and associate output with intention. It’s beyond what we would normally see, but if we choose to believe in its existence, then we slowly comes to see the tangible results of its presence.

I don’t know what color spectrums I work in, but I am keenly aware that there are spectrums I am blind to, and many of those that I am able to see are conditional: I can see them peripherally, so long as they are not directed at me. When they are, it’s like staring into the sun: all white light with no differentiation.

I want to be able to see vulnerability and openness when it’s offered, as it’s offered. I want to understand what color spectrums I am outputting so that I can understand them and perhaps adjust them to be seen and heard more fully. I want to be able to see someone’s vulnerabilities in the ways that they experience them. I want to be able to understand what someone is outputting at me, towards me, about me without working on a restricted spectrum that can only input doubt and uncertainty. When I see nothing, is it because they feel nothing? Or is it because they are working inside a spectrum that is so far from my expectations that there is no overlap, and no matter how radiant they shine, all I can see is darkness? Uncertainty and not knowing fills me with doubt, but the deficit is in my ability to input, not necessarily their ability to output.

I want the emotional vision spectrum of a mantis shrimp, the capacity to see vulnerability in a range of color I can’t even imagine right now. I want my input receptors to mature and flourish, to see beyond primaries and secondaries and ultraviolet and infrared to sensations that we don’t even have names for yet.

Forget reds and blues. I want vulnerability spectrums that rival the vision of a mantis shrimp.

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