I cry at commercials

In Recovery by Emerson Jane Browne1 Comment

One of the effects of having a TBI is that my filter has been stripped from my brain.  I experience everything with a depth and sensitivity almost as if I am personally experiencing instead of viewing something. 

I cry at commercials . . .

. . . but only if they are well done.

I also cry at YouTube videos, and anything else that shows emotion.  If someone around me is tearing up due to emotion, I tear up. 

Note that it is all about emotion.  If  instead the tears are due to a four year old not getting her way (or a forty-four year old) my eyes stay dry.

This filterless way of viewing and experiencing the world is double-edged, or a cloud that has a silver lining.  The silver lining part of this is the depth and sensitivity of feelings, a rawness, an unmasked openness that I have not had in my life before; at least not to this extent.  I tended to protect myself from vulnerability.  Now that is simply not an option.

Unmasked openness . . . that is an interesting phrase for me to use in light of the content of the lecture/video that I was just watching.  Michael Wesch is a professor at Kansas State University studying Digital Ethnography.  I watched the talk he gave to the Library of Congress back in June of 2008.  His work, and that of his students is fascinating.  Much of his work is in studying the ethnography of YouTube.  Wesch states that YouTube offers

a way of connecting deeply without feeling the deep responsibilities of that connection.  So Youtube offers this possibility and what we see on YouTube is people connecting very, very deeply. 

Media do not just distance us, they connect us in different ways.  That can sometimes feel distant, but sometimes that distance allows us to connect more deeply than before. And new forms of community create new forms of self-understanding.  “We’re all learning from each other and about ourselves.”  A lot of people report having this really deep profound experience on YouTube. 

[Showed the Free Hugs video and how it went viral] . . . and the fact that this becomes like an icon on YouTube is important in thinking about what this means for people who are trying to connect, trying to build these strong connections, trying to reconnect with humanity in some profound way.

Wesch shows video clips of people being very raw and open; unmasked openness.  The videos that were especially touching to me were what people wrote on their hands in response to MadV’s MessageUnmasked.  Showing what matters to them; to us; to me.

There is a parallel here of what the TBI has done to me in how I share and experience and what YouTube allows people to do . . . even without a TBI.

I am not alone in this.  Most people with TBIs cry at commercials.  Most of us feel more deeply.  I was recently corresponding with a long-time friend about his experience of having had a serious TBI.  In his words:

A big change in me pre vs. post accident is 1) I don’t sweat the details, and 2) I speak from my heart vs. my head as my heart tends to be much truer.  The positive side to that is that the woman I am married to these past 5 1/2 yrs. is very much in love with the new me and my ex has even said, “Gee, how come you weren’t like this before?”  My son’s comment a couple of years ago was something like… “Dad, I know this had been very hard on you but really, you’ve become the Dad I always dreamed of.”  

Silver linings.

Then there is the other side of the filterless experience.  Often how I experience things is too raw, too tender.  I don’t mind that I feel true emotion more deeply.  But discord, drama, and violence – no matter how fictitious is dreadfully uncomfortable. It is as if I am the person experiencing it.  There is no separation between me and what I see on the screen. 

The lack of filter limits me in what I can tolerate on many levels, but when it comes right down to it, none of them seem terribly important.  I would much prefer to live my real life instead of watching any kind of drama or conflict on TV or in movies.  This may be a bit problematic in meeting people on Match.com.  A lot of men mention how much they like movies; that is a place I cannot go with them, something we cannot enjoy together.  Unless they are funny or touchy-feel-good movies – I am not only out of the room while they are playing; I am out of the house!!

Well, I will end this post now because it is late and I am tired.  Off to dream . . . and cry at commercials.

Emerson Jane Browne

I am Emerson Jane Browne. I write about Brains, Apps, & Productivity, and many other aspects of Life. I speak to TBI support groups, speak and teach workshops at tech, music, and writer conferences. I consult with organizations on strategic planning and building a strong community.


  • nbo

    “Then there is the other side of the filterless experience. Often how I experience things is too raw, too tender. I don’t mind that I feel true emotion more deeply. But discord, drama, and violence – no matter how fictitious is dreadfully uncomfortable. It is as if I am the person experiencing it. There is no separation between me and what I see on the screen. The lack of filter limits me in what I can tolerate on many levels, but when it comes right down to it, none of them seem terribly important. I would much prefer to live my real life instead of watching any kind of drama or conflict on TV or in movies.”

    I totally know how this feels. So that’s how it is with our brains. I thought it was just me. They told me that I’d be more nervous than I already was following the brain injury but they didn’t explain me why and I certainly didn’t have any idea I’d be crying a lot more and very unexpectedly and following all kinds of triggers.

    Yes a baby not getting her way cannot move me to tears too but the slightest feeling of emotion will do it for me: I cannot watch news any longer. I have a very hard time walking by a beggar, ignoring their eyes and acting as if why I had clothe on me and a home and why he doesn’t made sense… These are things that I always have had to suffer dealing with but they rarely made me cry before I lost my filter and my amygdala started wreaking havoc on me.

    So whatever would have made me sad, hurt me or angered me had I not experienced brain trauma now snowballs into an extreme state in its own scale. I am a more extreme version of who I had been prior to my TBI in that sense.

    I find it to be very exhausting. Today I experienced so much fatigue that I slept while crying. It gets harder and harder to endure this pain which once was just some background noise that rarely surfaced when I used to deliberate so as to reflect on my feelings and put them on paper. I used to love writing. Now I cannot even stand it. I either lose track of what ı have to say or I cry… I think this is immunologically challenging. You can feel it is eating away at you and growing weaker by the day… I hope auto-suggestion will establish the better part of the safest way out of this. That’s what I am planning to do. Rely on plasticity and auto-suggestion and perhaps a newly found healthy life.

    Once again, thank you so much for spending the time to share your knowledge and experience on TBI. It is very enlightening.