Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
This is a bit embarrassing, but it’s bothering me and I really want to do something about it. Since as far back as I can remember, I haven’t been able to pee in public restrooms. Men’s bathroom urinals are all lined up next to each other, exposed, and if someone else is in the room I can’t relax enough to let it flow. I know that no one cares and no one is looking at me, but I can sense them there and just that awareness is enough to impede nature’s progress. Once, I went to a cognitive therapist about it and discussed my thoughts and did relaxation techniques, but it didn’t help because it’s something that is more of a gut instinct than intellectual. I really don’t have a clue. What can I do??? It is really annoying.
Dear J P,
Veterinary research is sometimes years ahead of human psychological studies; you can conduct tests with dogs that you couldn’t with people. But the hardware for emotion in dogs’ brains is similar to that in human brains. That’s why humans and dogs relate so well to each other. Recently, canine research revealed that there are two different pathways for the emotion of anxiety. The first is an oxytocin pathway. Oxytocin is sometimes referred to as “the bonding hormone.” Any form of separation anxiety such as grief, social phobia, shame or fear of abandonment is most likely carried on this pathway. My guess is that your inability to pee in public is based here.
Currently there are no medications that target this pathway. Good relationships, hugs and orgasms increase oxytocin, but these are all a bit inconvenient for the purpose of using public urinals. The other type of anxiety follows a norepinephrine pathway. This is the hormone and neurotransmitter most responsible for concentration, and is reality-fear-based, such fear of being eaten by a tiger. We have many medications for this type of anxiety but they don’t really relate to your issues.
However, here’s an interesting fact: Anger also runs on this pathway and can override it. If you get angry enough, it will stop your fear. Anger can also turn off empathy and override an oxytocin-based fear. Here’s why it might work for your peeing problem: That visceral sense of other people you have is really a form of empathy. If anger turns off empathy, your visceral reaction will turn off too. So the next time you’re in a bathroom and that sense of others comes creeping into your head, just visualize killing them. Of course don’t do it! This is just a visualization exercise. The more graphic and horrible the scenario, the more pee you will have to enjoy.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: My advice to J.P. is if you can’t pee in public, then pee in the stall, for heaven’s sake. Every public men’s room has at least one stall for the purpose of other human excretion needs that nobody wants to do in public. Modesty is not an unnatural thing for any of us. There isn’t a woman’s public bathroom anywhere that has open urinals for ladies, not even in the far east where women pee in floor urinals rather than in toilets. It’s still all done behind closed doors. Perhaps society has an idea that men are not as modest as women. Maybe you are just a bit more modest than most. It’s not a personality disorder, it’s a normal human preference. Don’t sweat it!
Oh, and my comment on Dr. Brilliant’s advice is this: What are you, nuts?