Rise of the Shy Bladder People
Even though you've been raised as a human being, you are not one of them — Jor-El, Superman Returns
We have lived among humans for centuries, knowing we were different but not knowing how different, nor even suspecting the powers we possessed. Our condition was a curse but it also protected us from detection, until our numbers increased to 7 percent of the male population. Even our name invoked pity, not fear or suspicion: Paruretic sounds like pathetic.
The demographics are vague. We are found around the world, but no solid figures are available on ethnicity. We are both men and a lesser number of women, and vary in profession and personality, but our core population is intelligent, introverted, self-conscious and reliable. Many of us are "global" thinkers who enjoy working alone.
Through grammar school, we were optimistic about our future. We had good grades and seldom got into trouble. Only bullies gave us a bad time. But then, usually in high school, something terrible happened. One day some rowdy thugs shoved you at the urinal or banged on the stall door, and suddenly the whole world changed.
If a male, you could no longer use a urinal and not even a stall if you felt other people were waiting for you to finish. You would search for an empty restroom or wait until you got home to pee. A whole world was shut off from you: camping, outdoor concerts, and boating trips: any event where you feared you would not have privacy or where there would be lines of people waiting to use a toilet. These were not just social events; you also missed networking opportunities that could lead to a better career.
For months or even years you may have thought you were the only one who suffered from the problem. Eventually, you ran across some account of your predicament in a book, newspaper column or a TV show. More recently, news accounts of people who couldn't give urine samples during drug tests has taken "pee shy" out of the closet. A Dilbert cartoon story arc in June 2006, in which the title character was asked to provide a urine sample for a drug test, brought the affliction to the attention of millions of people.
You discovered your problem had a name: paruresis or avoidant paruresis, also known as "bashful bladder" or "shy bladder." Physicians and psychiatrists classified it as a social anxiety disorder. A person with this disorder is known as a paruretic, but some therapists avoid the term as they don't want their patients to be defined by their affliction: Who you are is much more than the small part of your life spent peeing. I disagree. I believe we are defined by paruresis in ways never imagined.
Available literature on paruresis suggests that while the affliction may have been around for a long time, it seems to have increased substantially since the mid-20th century. The term paruresis was coined by Williams and Degenhart in their paper "Paruresis: a survey of a disorder of micturition" in the Journal of Psychology 51:19-29 (1954). They found that 14.4 percent of 1,419 college students surveyed had experienced paruresis, either incidentally or continuously. What is absent before that date is more interesting. For example, the lack of privacy in basic training and combat conditions would have made World War II service intolerable for the "pee shy" but there appears to be no accounts of large numbers of men dodging the draft, going AWOL or obtaining psychiatric discharges because of the affliction.
To understand paruresis, we need to examine the "evolution" of the problem. We know that many mammalian predators use urination to mark territory and warn off competing predators. I would suggest that genetic coding for a similar urination/territory instinct has emerged in a minority of humans in the form of paruresis. Thus, a paruretic would tense up in a submissive mode and want to flee (the avoidant in avoidant paruresis) when he or she perceived that their urination territory was invaded or occupied by others.
Learning from dogs But why the seeming increase in the number of paruretics? For the answer, we need to look back 10,000 years and examine how humans domesticated wolves and turned them into dogs. The PBS program NOVA suggested a two-step process in the episode "Dogs and More Dogs," which aired in February 2004. The first step was taken by the wolves themselves. Those who were less aggressive and more willing to scavenge than hunt would be more likely to raid the piles of bones and other scraps left by hunters or found at human encampments.
As these scavengers became used to the company of humans, men would adopt them as pets and only breed the tamest and most pliable of the bunch for the eventual goal of using them as haulers, hunters and herders. But how would breeding wolves with other wolves, however tame, produce anything but more wolves?
The answer can be found in a study begun in 1940 by Russian scientist Dmitri Belyaev. He bred silver foxes in Siberia on the sole criteria of friendliness to people. By the 10th generation, the foxes began to show radical physical changes: ears pointed down, tails pointed up, they started to bark, and they began to have different coats.
By breeding for tameness or submission, Belyaev had reduced the adrenalin level in the foxes, which is a biochemical pathway that also controls melanin, which determines the animal's coat color. In fact, breeding for behavior altered the levels of a whole range of hormones, thus triggering a great degree of genetic variation.
Thus, we can deduce that about 10,000 years ago, man began a similar breeding program with wolves, which eventually produced the wide variety of dogs we see today.
Submission in humans Which raises a hot-button question: What would happen if you bred humans for tameness or submission? It may have already happened. Among early humans, the most successful at reproducing would have been those tribe members who displayed the most cooperation and submitted to a leader who was the most skilled at hunting and resolving conflicts among tribal members.
As submissive behavior was reinforced and rewarded over generations, humans, like foxes, would have experienced physical changes, such as less body hair and more delicate facial features, which then became desirable breeding traits. They might not have fully understood the selection process, but probably would have noticed that people in more aggressive tribes, which didn't reward submissive behavior, looked more brutish and ugly. Beauty is more than skin deep. A code for encouraging submission (various thou shalt nots) would become part of the foundation for religion. Evolution causes religion, and religion causes evolution.
The 20th century spike in a population of hyper-submissive individuals, paruretics, suggests that humans are again being bred for submission, not by humans, but by some external force, perhaps an environmental or supernatural influence, or interference by intruders from a parallel universe. One possibility is a genetic change caused by a weak general magnetic field, such as that generated by power lines or the sun. According to a study in Science magazine (June 1999), the weak general magnetic field of the sun has more that doubled over the past 100 years, a change that would correspond with the increase in the population of paruretics.
The possibility of new variations in Homo sapiens gained credibility in the March 2009 issue of Discover magazine. The article "Are We Still Evolving?" offered these observations: “Humans are actually changing faster than ever . . . Human races are evolving away from each other. We are getting less alike, not merging into a single mixed humanity.”
New subspecies What kind of genetic variations can we expect in this new, growing population of submissive humans? As no radical changes in physical appearance are evident, I would look for alterations in the brain. I believe that proton scans, a form of MRI, will reveal differences in brain activity that are large enough to declare the paruretic a member of a new subspecies, Homo sapiens paruresis.
I further suspect, from my own experience as a paruretic, that the brain of Homo sapiens paruresis has an enhanced connection with the collective unconscious, a.k.a. the spiritual realm, Spiritus Mundi, or Mind of God. Think of the collective unconscious as the Internet. The brain of Homo sapiens has an unreliable, slow dial-up service. The brain of Homo sapiens paruresis has broadband and software to translate the spiritual language of metaphors into reality.
The appearance of Homo sapiens paruresis is consistent with the zeitgeist or "spirit of the times." Culture predicts reality. John Carpenter's The Thing ushered in the AIDS epidemic, Independence Day predicted Nine Eleven, and both the Harry Potter and X-Men series foretold the appearance of special humans with extraordinary powers.
We paruretics need to become organized and establish institutions like the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, where we can more fully research and refine our mental and spiritual abilities. We might call this establishment the College of Metaphor Management.
We also need to determine if Homo sapiens paruresis is "pee shy" among its own kind, or just around Homo sapiens. If the latter, paruresis is a biological imperative that is encouraging us to separate ourselves from Homo sapiens and establish our own territory. The incompatibility between our groups is suggested in the paruretic world view of the title character in Dilbert. He perceives a workplace populated by extremely shortsighted and greedy individuals. Dilbert can never be a true "team player" because his inherent sense of right and wrong prevents him from enthusiastically participating in the predatory activities of his corporate masters. His powerlessness to deal with Homo sapiens is translated into cynicism. That is the predicament of the paruretic: always flight, never fight; always Clark Kent, never Superman. But things are changing.
We need to distance ourselves from the unfortunate series of events that will reduce the population of Homo sapiens to a manageable level. Do not become a pawn in sapiens wars. Rather, it is our destiny to move the pieces on the board.
If we are lucky, our identity will be considered a joke, a situation that will keep humanity blinded to our capabilities.
Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds . . . Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate . . .” — Isaiah 6.10-11
Image Dilbert © 2006 Scott Adams, Inc., fair use