A Lesson From the N Key

May 13, 2007 at 1:43 pm 7 comments

Earlier this week I got a new keyboard replacement, so I have a working N key!!!  Believe it or not, for a while there I actually struggled more with the new keyboard than the broken one!  I still kept hitting Ctrl-V out of habit and I started to have to consciously think about hitting the N key.  I had used the N key since high school.  I had only used Ctrl-V for two weeks.  Yet Ctrl-V was my default keystroke.  It is amazing how the human mind can change its behavior and habits. 

This may sound like a trivial example of a behavior change, but do not underestimate the power of precedence, no matter how small.  In fact, it was small examples that helped me feel equipped to change my behavior towards vomit.

In 2002, I started to see a cognitive behaviorist to address my emetophobia (fear of vomit).  This seemed like a daunting task– an impossible task.  My brain had two decades worth of training to react with fear and anxiety.  I spent two decades worrying about food poisoning, the stomach flu, motion sickness, morning sickness and even drunk people puking on me.  How could I possibly undo behavior that was so engrained into my being?  Infeasible!  Then I remembered I had done it before… on smaller scales. 

From my 4/14/2002 Journal Entry:

One thing I realized is that I can teach myself new behavior.  I taught myself running – to become a running person even though I’ve hated it all my life.  I taught myself to love fresh brocolli.  And here’s an interesting one.  I taught myself to change the way I write the number two.  All my life it has been like this:


One year when I was doing Christmas cards I made myself make my twos in a different fashion because I thought it looked nicer.


I had to think about it for a while and make myself do it, but now it is so natural to do it.  In fact, drawing those other twos felt weird now even though that format reigned for two decades.

I have in the power of my mind to change my behavior and you know what.  I think this [, tackling my fears,] can be done.

I was right!  It could be done!  I didn’t happen overnight (more like 12-18 months), but eventually those incumbent reflexes were replaced by fresh reactions.  Just like with my 2’s and the Ctrl-V N, it took conscious thought, practice, time… and the mind’s natural ability to retrain itself.

It was frustrating at times this week, when I went to type an N and I found a whole paragraph of clipboard text inserted in its place.  But overall, I celebrate those mishaps.  It reenforces the lesson I needed so desperately in 2002.

I can change.

Entry filed under: behavior change, Emetophobia, keyboard.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. spugbrap  |  May 14, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Hmm. While I agree with the overall message of this post, and it’s cool that you’ve achieved some behavioral changes, I must express my opinion about the 2’s. I think the old way was much more readable! The new way is way too easy to confuse with Z’s. In fact, I’d like to see what your capital Z’s look like. How bout a sample? 🙂

    While I would not expect you to go back to the old way based solely on my opinion, maybe others will weigh in on that as well. It might be an interesting experiment to see how fast you could train yourself back to the old style of writing 2’s!

  • 2. Clint  |  May 14, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    I agree with Spugbrap, for the most part.

    But then again, I often cross my Z’s where confusion may result.
    I also cross my 7’s frequently.

    I actually now write my “2”s in a way that could end up looking like either. It’s possible to simply not care, and sort of do it halfheartedly, so that sometimes it’s one, and other times it’s the other, depending on if you succeed at the loop or not.

    basically, tho, i hate writing with a pen.

  • 3. tgaw  |  May 15, 2007 at 9:07 am

    As luck would have it, a few years ago, I made a TrueType Font out of my handwriting. I’ve placed a picture on Flickr with all the letters and numbers. You are right– the 2 looks very much like my Z!!!

    My Handwriting Font

    If you have the urge to type like my handwriting, you can download the TrueType Font at:


    It may assist with some pranks with Carolyn. A few years ago I typed her a letter. I called her after she received it and asked if she noticed anything weird. Even when prompted, Carolyn didn’t realize the letter was typed and printed instead of hand-written. When I told her about the font, she was then able to notice that my letters were slantier than normal.

  • 4. tgaw  |  May 15, 2007 at 9:12 am

    And one more picture from Flickr

    Dave is Right

  • 5. Clint  |  May 15, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    That’s really awesome that you have a TrueType font!
    I want one!!

  • 6. tgaw  |  May 15, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    It was pretty easy to make. I wrote all my letters and punctuation marks on a piece of paper and scanned it in (I think grayscale). Then I cropped each item into its own little bitmap file. After that I used a free program to convert it to the font.

    I wrote down the free program on a piece of paper somewhere. Do you want me to try to find it for you?

  • 7. Clint  |  May 17, 2007 at 8:14 am

    Nah, if I was actually going to go through the effort I could probably google such a program 🙂


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