Thursday, February 09, 2006

Who's a hikikomori?

Maybe me, a little bit.

Was reading about this phenomenon in the New York Times Magazine, but you can look it up in wikipedia.

Basically it tends to start with teenagers, but because of the way Japanese society is set up, these kids stay at home, sometimes for a couple of decades. They lock themselves in their rooms and don't interact with anyone, although it sounds like most of them spend a lot of time on the internet.

It's funny because it's more common with boys, but I completely understand the urge. When I'm particularly lost, I just want to spend a lot of time alone, at home. Apparently, the psychologists surmise, it has something to do with the feeling that there's nothing to contribute, that there are no good career paths, and that there has been too much pressure to perform.

Sound familiar, anyone? It does to me.

Again, this kind of fits with my last post- the people who end up 'recovering' do so by being rescued. There are groups that provide, essentially, friends for a fee- the parents pay to have someone of a similar age come and visit, try to get their kid out of the house and back into daily life. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Anyway this really struck a chord with me. Little did I know, there are others out there who, like me, just feel like the system isn't working for us.

I find it very interesting that nobody seems to accuse them of being depressed. Instead, it sounds like choosing to withdraw, to be a 'shut-in', is just a different kind of lifestyle. Very different from the attitudes in this country.

I've often said I would have been quite happy as a scientist hundreds of years ago, puttering away in isolation. I'm with Sartre, and the hikikomori: Hell is other people.

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At 4:00 PM, Anonymous biosparite said...

Hang in there, YFS. Is there any way for you to (1) get out more with people not related to work or (2) take three or four days wrapped around a weekend for a change of scene? As one who has similar tendencies to isolate, I sympathize. I fight it by involvement with non-work-related activity, such as helping out at a local land trust and serving on the board of a 501(c)(3) that is protecting a 22-acre wooded tract from development near downttown Houston. I agendize my weekends to always have something going on with a conservation-related group. I relaize it sounds a little compulsive, but I have to be alert to my normal inclinations to hang out alone. BTW, I am a regular lurker here and am sending silent encouragement whenever I read about your postdoc problems. With luck the good vibes aren't too attenuated when they reach your end (of course Houston is not close to anywhere, so I hope the inverse square of the distance is not attenuating the subliminal signals too much).

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

thanks for the silent- and not completely silent- encouragement! hooray for the regular lurkers!

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Fab adventures of Carlysle Tancha said...

yes, I am tired of being called depressed. I post regularly on science careers and everyone says I am negative--especially people who are clueless about what is going on in postdoc land. I am continually trying to find opportunities through "networking." It appears to be an extension of Barbara Ehrenreich's "Bait and Switch." Check her out--she is one of us (Ph.D. in biology in a former life).


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