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Workspace Tuning for Tactile Defensiveness

TL;DR: Setting up a space to provide optimum productivity by knowing the theories behind TPD, or Tactile Defensiveness.

My desk is made out of a table top I’ve had since the 90s. My mom found it at a garage sale when I was a kid and it had all the scrapes and stains of use as a workspace. The front lip has become rounded from my wrists resting on it as I type. The legs fell off a long time ago but even if I had another desk, I’d put this on top of it for a better surface. I never really thought about WHY I liked this desktop. It just followed me throughout my life.

Last year the finish became rough to the touch. That really bothered me. I couldn’t concentrate on work. I sanded it down. But that made it worse. I spent about a month learning and experimenting with woodworking. I figured out how to sand, finish and seal the wood, and the finished product is now perfect once more. I moved on with my life and didn’t think about it, except to be disappointed in myself that my productivity slipped during this period.

Then I learned of Tactile Processing Disorders (not really a disorder, yet. It’s not in the DSMs). Basically, I can’t stand the feeling of synthetic fabrics, sand, certain textures. Apparently there is a part of my brain that can’t ignore these sensations and even stimulates the fight or flight response. It interrupts my train of thought the way having a rock in your shoe might.

A solution might be Heavy Work (Proprioception). Although that article was addressed to helping children, aren’t we all children at heart? Maybe that’s why I prefer the feeling of my IBM mechanical keyboard. Perhaps that’s why I installed an expensive standing desk system so I could stand or sit depending on my needs. I’d rather bang on a piano than a flimsy synth. I’m just learning about this stuff. I’m not a doctor. But like all of us, I am an experimenter. And I’m not going to be disappointed in myself for taking care of my physical needs.

Next up, I’m going to try eliminating visual distractions from the work place… if I follow up on this article, you’ll know it worked! Otherwise I’ll probably be distracted by something in my office and spend the next few weeks finally repairing the pile of old music gear in the corner… hmmm.