Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gravitational insecurity?

I've never heard of it. Read here.

I felt all of these things as a child, and most of it I chalked up to my double vision, but, in retrospect, that didn't explain all of it. I was called an "oversensitive" child over and over again, and I believed I was a fraidy cat, or just a wimp in certain regards.

As an adult, what I see is called "gravitational insecurity" (an odd term, and one that I'd argue with), well, it doesn't affect me much. People aren't forcing me to engage in activities that I find upsetting or even terrifying.

I have vivid memories of being cajoled, yelled at, made fun of (etc etc) by adults for not wanting to do a somersaults (all kids like somersaults! what's wrong with you?!), not being able to jump over a stick (why was this so important? I'm not a dog!), refusing to learn to dive, refusing to walk on to a diving board, being terrified of getting on a horse (never mind riding one), and really not liking any activity where I'd have to remove my feet from the floor. I preferred to sit on the ground and still do. I'm very short, and often my feet do not reach the floor when in a chair, which I find disconcerting, not just uncomfortable. Though it's neither "ladylike" nor particularly "adult", I will often put my feet up on the chair. I can't do that in an office environment or a job interview, so, in those situations, I realize now, I may feel more uncomfortable than the "average person." I've never given this much thought. Seen in a new light, however, it's downright fascinating.

You might have asked yourself, "What's this with the jumping over a stick?" It's call the "long jump." Don't get me wrong - I wasn't traumatized by trying to participate in "track sports" but if I do think about those experiences, they were simply awful. The long jump scared me beyond measure, and I couldn't understand it. I would run up to the bar and then stop dead. I could not bring myself to jump over it. It was simply impossible. I could not wrap my head around how to move from running to jumping, and I wanted someone to explain to me how it was done. It was unfathomable, and therefore impossible to do. I didn't feel fear while running, nor was I upset afterwards. I just couldn't do it, and I would stop dead before that bar every single time. I could do a standing jump, and thought it was rather interesting. However, I could think while standing, not while running, and somehow I could think my way to performing what seemed an absurdity. How does a human being jump? I truly puzzled over this question as a child.

Running and jumping, and jumping, in general, seems to be assumed to be the "natural play" of children, so children who don't participate in these activities are considered strange. I grew up in a time when it was a-okay to yell at children who didn't comply with things they didn't understand or were afraid of. Ah, well, it's still okay, but we're beginning to learn not to and realize that all children are not the same. I was quite angry that I was being forced to do things that I didn't want to do and seemed to have no relevance to learning. I was not going to grow up to be a gym teacher, nor would I ever be a track star, so why should I be obliged, cajoled, and made to feel less-than for not wanting to engage in superfluous activities? Wasn't it enough that I was a straight-A student (with the exception of gym class)? Not only did I "fail" at gym, I always received the black mark of "U" next to my grade, even when it was a D or better. "U" is for "unacceptable behavior." Like Bartleby, I preferred not to, and I said so. This is not acceptable.

The fictional Borg say, "You will be assimilated." Our society says, "You should assimilate." Read these words carefully:
"Gravitational insecurity is an over-reaction to movements or changes in posture, resulting in an apparently inexplicable fear of movement or of postural changes." The word "over-reaction" is judgmental, just as the word oversensitive is. My pointing this out is not because I desire to be oh-so politically correct, but a desire to point out yet another way we stigmatize kids (and adults) with words that convey a sense of being wrong, instead of merely different, as we all are merely different and therefore the same.

I still don't understand why not feeling comfortable jumping off the ground is called "gravitational insecurity." I've looked at definitions all over the web, and none of them explain it. The explanations are all descriptions of behavior. I am not afraid of floating off the earth, nor do I feel insecure that gravity exists. I have never felt insecure about gravity nor wondered if I might not be subject to it's law. Yet, all the behaviors described are the ones I exhibited as a kid. Well, I never put much stock in labels - this new one will not be an exception. Still, I find it fascinating to read about, and I haven't thought about this subject since I stopped being forced into compulsory activities.

Image note: "Dreams of Flying" Duy Huynh. I have never had a dream in which I was flying. Now I can understand why. *I have never understand the desire to fly, nor why experiencing it or imagining it is considered so wonderful. Also, when I googled the word "jumping", I found picture after picture of people "jumping for joy", another activity that seems totally mysterious to me. I really do like keeping these feet firmly planted on the ground.

*Additionally, in my childhood dreams (and some as an adult), I would run with both hands and feet on the ground. Has anyone else dreamt of this? Perhaps that seems embarrassing to people, as babies crawl, and imagining oneself as a crab does not have the same romance or majesty of imagining oneself as an eagle or a hawk.

Addendum: More about gravitation insecurity here. This information reminds me that indeed I had an "irrational fear" of my head being below my feet. I clearly remember thinking this, and thinking "please do make me go upside down!" I hated having adults pick me up, not because I didn't like to be touched (which was assumed), but because I was primarily afraid they would swing me around, lift me too high off the floor, or cause my feet to be above my head.

So, is it possible that I had some problem that was not "psychological"? The answer is a resounding yes. I became car sick within 20 minutes of riding in a car (and treated as if I could control this!). I could not play on swings for more than a few minutes, for this, too, made me nauseous to the point of being sick. I became dizzy quite easily, and as no one likes this feeling (does anyone enjoy vomiting?), I avoided any activity that would induce this state. Why is that so difficult to understand, and more importantly, why is it a problem?


Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg said...

Hi Julie,

So glad you found my blog! Just a note that you've linked at the top of this post to a different article than the one that talks about gravitational insecurity. The correct one is at

I share your bewilderment about the term. All I can gather is that when I can't figure out the position of my head in relationship to the earth, I'm not feeling the force of gravity pulling me down toward the earth at that moment. When I tip my head backwards, for example, I get very disoriented. Apparently, other people can feel gravity indicating where the earth is, and at certain moments, I can't.

Dick Fischbeck said...


Not to be confused with dysgraphia. No hits on google for it yet.

Dick Fischbeck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ezs said...


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Dick Fischbeck said...

Is it Dyspraxia ?

Julie H. Rose said...

Thanks, Rachel, for pointing out my mistaken link. I had too many tabs in my browser, and I had been reading your wonderful blog for hours before I wrote this post!

I have to say, "REALLY? People can FEEL gravity?!" I must ask, "Are you sure other people can feel gravity?" Anyone want to answer who does?

As far as I know, it's not dys-anything, but "gravitational insecurity", which does in fact NOT sound like any scientific term.

Thanks, ezs. I'll check out your blog asap.

Fabianna said...

Sure, I can feel gravity. I am not afraid of taking my feet off the ground but I´m not a HUGE fan of foot - ground separation either. It only seems logical that the two should be together. We have evolved from tree climbing primates and our feet lost their "hand shape" for a reason. We also no longer have prehensile tails (if we ever did have them, I´m not up to speed on evolution. In any case, we didn´t develop prehensile tails, another indication that we are supposed to be down here.)

Even so, it is pretty cool that we can fly if we want to. It is now a choice not a requirement to being human.