I recently found out about this term “hyperfixation” when paired with a context of autism and was like, “Wow, further proof that I’m autistic.” I’m not actually autistic though, I’m just one of these e-fuckers that goes around saying that shit because I grew up kinda weird.
But I also recently discovered that ADHD/ADD kids also experience hyperfixation, and that makes more sense. I was diagnosed with ADD as a kid. Some people think it’s kind of a bullshit concept but all I know is I had a really hard time focusing on anything that I wasn’t absolutely in love with. I ditched my ADD meds in high school and learned that I had to cope with the way my brain works.
One way of “hacking my brain” was to ride the hell out of hyperfixations whenever I got them. For me, a hyperfixation comes in the form of:
Anime, manga, or video game that really enthralls me for some reason (JoJo, Halo lore, SMT, Kojima shit, etc). Usually has to have some deep lore or sense of “legacy” or “lineage” cuz that stuff really activates my almonds as a sometimes-writer like myself.
An author or creator who possesses some knowledge or insight that feels absolutely crucial for me to consume. The funny thing about this one is that I end up being way more interested in that person’s life—their flaws and what I can learn from them—than their actual work. Not uncommon for me to be like “Yeah, in this era of this guy’s life, his work sucked. But THIS work he did here is great. But really I’d just watch this interview with him to get the gist of what he’s trying to say, you don’t need to actually read it unless you wanna…..” (David Foster Wallace, Sam Hyde, various authors, etc).
Every now and then a philosophy or concept will get me, but it’s almost always something I’ve discovered through one of the above sources first.
The thing about these hyperfixations is that I got pretty adept at applying them to other areas of life. I joke to myself that this is actually just mental illness, but it sure as shit works for me. Not only do I learn new things, but when I face certain situations, I try to see them from the lens of one of these fixations. It can be just the motivation or “angle” that I need to overcome a problem, where a traditional perspective would fail me.
Usually if there’s some good habit I’m trying to instill in my life, applying my learnings from a hyperfixation is what gets me over the rut. We’ll go over that bit more down below.
The sad bit is that once I’ve bled a fixation dry, it may or may not retain any hold in my life. I might totally forget about them. But if they’ve made substantial impact on my life, they’ll likely take a foothold in my brain and won’t leave until those ideas evolve into new forms or unless my ideas substantially change.
That Brings Us To Our Latest Hyperfixation
If you’ve been keeping up with me on Twatter or you know me in real life, it should be obvious that my latest hyperfixation is Dragon Ball. Lately I’ve learned a ton about myself through the lens of Dragon Ball, so I’m going to outline some of those learnings.
But First, A Little Intro…
Like many American kids, my first exposure to Dragon Ball was on Toonami. This was in 1998 so I was about 7 years old. I remember a kid at school telling me to check it out, because previously my brother and I were like “anime is gay” and would have never touched it. So we started watching it around the time Gohan was being trained in the Saiyan arc and that’s how it all began. We definitely thought this shit was possibly real. I distinctly remember Piccolo telling Gohan how to sense where the fighting was happening because it’s too fast for your eyes and thinking not just that it was cool but that this must somehow be true or real. Also I remember my brother once trying to meditate in his room and swearing that his muscles got bigger because it was something he saw Piccolo do. Good shit.
Whenever a new arc was about to start they’d always restart from a previous arc and that shit was pretty lame, so I remember falling off the wagon a couple times. I consistently watched all the way up to the beginning of the Buu saga before I dropped off entirely. By this time I think I’d disregarded DBZ as the funny meme show that was only good for nostalgia reasons, or something like that. I think shortly after this point I was on 4chan and getting into stuff like Death Note, so I was in that “wow, anime is so cool and has adult themes” phase.
But DBZ definitely sparked that feeling you can only get from shounen anime—the one about like you having hidden powers and you just have to fight against all of the odds in order to unlock them. I think this had fallen into my subconscious and I’d forgotten that I was first exposed to it in DBZ.
Timeskip to 2021
My brother kept telling me I should watch Super and I was still being a snob. I was like, Hmm, nostalgia show + a comedic tone where they just harp on jokes from earlier in the show’s history? Pass.
Two problems with that:
I’ve made my brother watch a ton of anime over the years so on that reason alone I should have given the show a chance
I’m retarded and wrong because after the first arc that show fucking owns
It wasn’t until we got the idea to have my 2 year old nephew watch DBZ that it all came back to me. I know everyone’s nephew is a fucking genius and stuff, but I’m telling you, my nephew is a pretty sharp kid. We’ve been showing him random stuff and we were like “Is it too early for DBZ?” It was already an unspoken agreement that he had to watch DBZ at some point—even me being a snob knew that DBZ was essential for growing up.
I popped on a YouTube video of Trunks and Goten fighting and my nephew was mesmerized. The clip finished and he remained in the same spot staring at the screen in silence.
“I love this show,” he finally said in his best 2-year old English.
So there we were, me getting a Funimation account for the sake of educating/indoctrinating my nephew and marathoning episodes whenever we all had time.
A couple nights later my brother wanted to watch the Broly movie, so I rented it on YouTube (gross) and we watched it while drinkin some whiskey. My hyperfixation was starting to kick in because this move was adding lore to the series that I had never known before, and also the animation was pretty fucking cool for the most part.
I recognize that this is turning into a fucking novel so let me wrap it up:
In rewatching DBZ, realized how much more detail was put into the storyline than I realized
Still has the good ole shounen feelings of overcoming the odds—displayed really well in DBZ with the simple but effective way of comparing peoples power. E.g. If A is stronger than B and C just defeated A, then you know that C is fucking trouble holy shit.
Fell into the rabbit hole of finishing the Saiyan and Namek saga. Am currently rewatching androids/Cell saga—have to admit the pacing is really bad here, this is potentially why I dropped off as a kid shortly after this arc
Watched all of Super and caught up with the manga
Ended up reading the Dragon Ball manga and some of it where it dips into Z. I understand now just how much filler goes into the anime, it’s not always bad
What I’ve Learned Lately
As alluded to above, latching onto a fixation bleeds into the rest of my life. Here are some practical examples of how Dragon Ball has been making my life for the better:
Pretty obvious connection here. Dragon Ball is all about training. Truthfully though, the training in Dragon Ball is not really something that you can practically transfer into an IRL equivalent. Living your life with weights on your body is actually not good for you, and most of the training we see in the show and manga gets glazed over quicker even than the montages in the 80s movies.
What I took from DB was more of a reason to be persistent with working out. One of the biggest struggles I have in the gym is staying focused. What I mean is something like, I’m quick to get a negative mindset just because I’m not finishing a set of reps like my routine dictates I should. For example if I’m halfway through some pushups and thinking “Wow, I don’t feel great today,” it’ll be easy for me to get discouraged. I also get impatient with myself, thinking “I should have hit these reps already, why am I plateauing?”
One part of addressing the problem was simply going in with a more positive mindset. Being pissed off that you don’t finish your reps is like Vegeta energy—really angry and self-loathing. But Vegeta is always 2nd best and making mistakes, so we don’t always wanna be like him… The real moral of it all is to take that Goku mindset. This is something you get more of a feel for when reading the Dragon Ball chapters where Roshi is training Goku and Krillin; you also see it in the Cell saga when we compare/contrast how Vegeta trains Trunks in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber vs how Goku teaches Gohan when it’s their turn.
It’s essentially a lesson in things we’ve already heard in movies and stories already:
Take rest seriously
Practice hard for the sake of being better than you were yesterday
Have fun doing it
We can hear the same lessons over and over again though and they just don’t stick until it enters your brain in the right way. Same reason why we never listen to our parents at first… Some shit we have to learn on our own or through a way that is compatible with us, and it also depends on when you get that lesson.
The other part that it ties into is the patience. If you’re training for the sake of being better than you were the day before, you have to be patient with yourself and not compare yourself to other’s routines and their progress.
I’ve chosen my routine as something that’s right for my life based on the fact that power lifting fucked me up on account of me being kinda weak all over haha. So I should trust in that knowledge that I’ve accumulated, and not jump onto someone else’s weight lifting routine just because of the results they’re showing. I could probably tie this into DB somehow to make this essay more uniform, but I don’t always have to… You can mix and mesh your learnings from many sources so that they become your own.
Concept of Ki/Chi/Qi
I’m kind of into occult shit. I’m a skeptic, but I’m open to everything. You could tell me of a grand conspiracy and I can get very excited about it, but I’m not betting my credibility on it until I see something that convinces me.
Likewise, the concept of energies and auras and healing are things that my brother and I are very open to. Now that I’m writing this, I wonder if DB had a part in introducing it to us??
After all, the concept of ki is something that DB throws around all the time, and I like that it’s based on a real thing. It’s what, as a kid, makes you think “Could this actually be real??”
I went to YouTube and found a lot of funny videos of dudes pretending they have special powers. Also went into a whole rabbithole of dudes who make 20 minute long videos explaining how they use energy to navigate through dreams and are part of an interdimensional federation. Monetized channel, by the way.
Google would have nothing for me of course, so I did Duck Duck Go searches for these concepts and found some interesting pages… As I continued to read, it was pretty obvious that these guys were taking their information from Dragon Ball Z! Some of the commenters on the blogs were like, “Hi will this make me like goku.” So we were starting to go in circles here… Clearly DBZ had a huge part in the modern day conception of ki.
I knew I wasn’t going to find any info on surface level searches, so I dug a little deeper. That’s when I found Derek Padulla’s “Dragon Ball Culture” series. This guy essentially summarizes all of the Dragon Ball manga while “annotating” along the way, bringing to light all the historical and cultural contexts.
He had a great section on ki in there in “Volume 3: Battle”, including a large history, its origins, and interestingly how the concept was banned by the Chinese Communist Party for it kind of acting like a religion. Fascinating stuff that I am not doing any justice with this brief summary here, so I suggest you check it out in full. But my favorite takeaway from it all was this part:
Here’s an example of the Japanese ki terminology. You can be in poor health from an illness, but still have genki (“vitality”), be in a terrifying battle, yet have yūki (“courage”), and work for a corrupt organization, yet have a sense of shōki (“uprightness”). In a martial arts context, it isn’t an opponent’s physical strength that matters most, it’s their state of ki, because just as Toriyama says, the strength of the body has limits, but ki can overcome them. That’s one of the reasons why an old and short Japanese martial arts master can defeat young men. Or how a woman defending her children from strong attackers seems like a ferocious wolf that causes them to back away. She looks at them with a fierce gaze and draws an imaginary line in the sand, and the attackers know that if they cross this line they’ll end up in the emergency room. It’s this internal ‘thing’ that is focused into a concentrated force that becomes more powerful than their muscles. You can’t see it, but you can feel it.
When you look at in this way, I think it’s pretty similar to the concept of “energies” or “auras.” You might also think of it as the “vibe” that you get from a person. I don’t necessarily mean reading body language or anything you can observe… I mean listening to your instincts and feeling the gut-reaction to a person. The reaction that happens too fast for you to process and apply conscious judgment to.
I reflect on this a lot lately. When you go to the supermarket, how does the “ki” of the other shoppers around you feel? How does your own ki feel at that moment? How does your ki feel when you have to say “excuse me” to someone you pass by? How does your ki feel when someone on the road pisses you off?
The practical application of this comes for me in many places:
When I’m working out and beginning to feel like giving up through a tough set, I think about this idea of regaining control over my “ki”. It’s not very different from doing something meditative like focusing on your breathing, or trying to ignore the bad sensations, etc., but it has helped me stay focused and ignore the temporary feelings of fatigue.
Such as in the the above examples, I’ve noticed that my anxiety goes up when I need to speak to a stranger. It’s something I’ve worked on for years but still struggle with. If I can remember to stop and “control my ki” right before I approach that person, it’s like a gentle reminder to get a grip and let off some of the anxiety I’m building inside myself. I guess what it really is is loosening up, letting go of the tension, and being mindful—but wrapping it all together as “control your ki” is a mental shortcut for me and I like to LARP, so there. The beauty though is that you can apply this to any situation where you have to do something you’re even slightly anxious or fearful of doing.
My favorite example to visualize actually is this one filler episode in Dragon Ball Super. Goku and Krillin go to hang out with Master Roshi, and he has them to go this forest where they start tripping out imagining that their old enemies have all been resurrected and are fighting them. Goku is stoked to fight because he’s nearly on the level of a fucking god, but Krillin is losing his shit because half of these guys have killed him in the past—he keeps comparing himself to Goku and focusing on how far Goku has exceeded him.
Long story short, the enemies are illusions that are feeding on his energy, so Krillin figures out that he has to CONTROL HIS KI, come to terms with this fear, and then the baddies all start disappearing. Summarized, it’s a simple thing: Encounter a challenge that makes you anxious -> get mindful -> loosen up -> proceed forward. It’s the same concept that cured my anxiety years ago well before I ever thought of it in this Dragon Ball context.
Alright well I’m getting into my lunch break writing this so I’m gonna stop now. Hope you enjoyed all this. Byeeee