So what are the reasons why jellybeans stim, and do they really need to?
1. RELEASE is the first reason. Let's try a very simple TIP. Imagine a pan of boiling milk on the hob, merrily boiling away, keep an eye on it otherwise it will boil over, smell revolting and go all skinny and horrid, yuk, yuk. Put the lid on the pan and it will spill over leaving all that residue around the pan and lid, more yuk, yuk.
In order to avoid that situation you have to observe it carefully and turn the heat down to simmer mode or simply switch it off completely. Now imagine your little jellybean, they already operate on super-fast and we've already established they're hypersensitive little souls and although they give off this brave image they are all shaking inside. Uncertainty and vulnerability are sure ways of them cooking their sensitive little shells. They release their worries and pressures by stimming. Its a release valve, and it's for once in their lives not on at full speed all the time. Their repetitive little fidgets give them comforting and continual slow-release.
There can be HUGE releases, too! Some of you may know how it feels to Screeeeeam from the top of a hill, or run and run and run until you drop exhausted. Among the HUGE releases a jellybean might have are spinning around like a top. I bet you didn't know that they never get dizzy, like marshmallows! That's why they often love going on the Waltzers or any fairground ride that swirls you round and round.
2. FOCUS. Just try to imagine you're standing at Paddington Main line Railway Station. It's a busy place, people scurrying around everywhere, noise in abundance together with the tannoy announcements, the arrival and departure boards along with the incoming and departing trains all going to different corners of the country. It's confusing and if you don't get it right you could end up on the wrong train or even worse miss it entirely. It's sometimes scary and overwheming to have so much going on. That's whats it's like in a jellybeans brain, especially if he's in a classroom.
Understandably its not too difficult to see why a jellybean's brain is so busy, trying to process all those different noises, smells and most important of all what train we have to be on. Jellyoverload. Having to cope with so much all at once is too much for the jellybrain. Is it any wonder that our brains resemble scrambled eggs?
The problem as I see it, is that there is just too much sensory information coming into the brain too quickly and none of this can be filtered out by a jellybean. When this happens, our brains just temporarily shut down, we lose concentration. Jellybeans become restless and distracted eyes wander, and the brain decides to have an early lunch break.
It's like, have you ever seen those movies where someone is transported to an alien nation and then returned back to earth? What's the first thing the guy does when whoosh! he finds himself back in his own high street. Think about it. Let your visual memory work. Yes - that's right - he touches himself all over. It's a way of finding out if you're REAL. Like pinching yourself. And that's exactly what a stim is. By wriggling and fidgeting, your jellybean is kind of pinching himself and reminding himself he's real, and that he needs to get back to work and to FOCUS.
3. FEEL-GOOD FACTOR. Stimming can be a way for your jellybean to comfort himself, too, and this could be the reason why my son ate his way through his bed on his nightly journeys to sleep! Some stims produce the feel-good hormones, endorphins, which don't always pump out very efficiently through jellybean bloodstreams. If your brain's tuned to "scared stiff" most of the time, that's fairly understandable, isn't it? Scared stiff produces the other kind of hormone, cortisol, which is basically a feel-bad-and-get-ready-to-escape hormone. Too much cortisol give you those wriggly squiggly tummy worms feeling, and it's not much fun.
But if you can do something that makes you feel SAFE, the good stuff comes pouring into your little jellybean mind. It's pure pleasure. Jellybeans can get this feeling from some stims, especially if they're rhythmic and repetitive, like lining things up and looking at them. This puts things in order and makes them, and your jellybean SAFE. Playing on a games' console where your fingers have to move in a certain way to keep it going, also makes jellybeans feel SAFE and happy. Computer games or surfing on Google obsessively do the same thing. So does rocking. It lets you set the rate of your heartbeat, as sucking does.
And even staring for hours can do this comforting act on a stressed-out jellybean. Watching the flickering of the fire and trying to work out the SYSTEM behind the pattern, watching the washing going round in a washing machine, watching the patterns of clouds in the sky, all this is very deeply soothing and SAFE. Marshmallows sort of do this sometimes, but not for hours on end, and they call it zoning out. Jellybeans really like to zone out.
When hotter and more flamboyant jellybeans want to make themselves happy, and show that they're happy, they may even do something that marshmallows find a bit weird. You may find that if your jellybean does this he immediately causes raised eyebrows and careful avoidance from marshmallow mums and their pointing kids in the bakery section of the supermarket - jellybeans flap their hands to excite themselves and to express excitement and even squeal as we're doing it. Yes, even jellybean adults can do this, a sort of wild happy-flappy frenzy that people describe as "odd". But why (and thanks to that brilliant American Amanda Baggs for pointing this out) do people think flapping to show happiness is weird, and yet accept that marshmallows bare their teeth to show that they're happy? It's called a smile. Hand-flapping is a jellybean smile, BIG TIME, so please flap back to us if you want to!
But there's something I should mention here, and I'll come back to it. Feel-good hormones are addictive. Sometimes they can be dangerously addictive to a jellybean who's searching for somewhere to rest his scared feelings and doesn't get much happy-flappy on a daily basis. We have to be careful not to get too stoned on fixating.
4. BRINGING US BACK TO LIFE. Jellybeans are notoriously lazy if we want to be. In the jellybean nation there are two main modes - super-still, and super-hyped. There's not a lot in between. We can swing like King Kong jellybeans through the jellymallow jungle, but you're just as likely to find us secretly asleep in some little jellyhammock, when we're supposed to be scaring Tarzan.
That's us all over. We're either on Fast-forward or Stop.
Stimming is our way to bring us back to some kind of acceptable level of activity. If we can worry our worry-beads, and do a bit of eye-flicking, and a few growls and scratches, and sort out our CD collection in alphabetical order by artiste, we can be up and swinging through the creepers again. Stimming helps us to be a bit like, well not like marshmallows exactly, but to give a good impression of wanting to be like you-hoo.
So please, think of stimming as a kind of alarm clock, a SAFE and gentle one. Thank you and goodnight...