Why people put ketchup on everything (a post about emotional addiction)

I think that human beings can become addicted to almost anything. Drugs and sex get the most attention, but there are an infinite number of other addictions. Indeed, addictions are as numerous as the sensations which we experience. One can be addicted to uncomfortable feelings, or to types of conversations, or even types of people. In some ways, our personality is the sum total of these addictions, gross and subtle.

The subtle addictions are individually less problematic, but if there are many of them they can become so. For example, if one is addicted to "accomplishment" or "completion", it can be a problem for such a person to simply let go and relax. With effort, such a person may be able to relax, unless of course they are also addicted to "confrontation", or perhaps "debate".

Some may be puzzled by this use of the word "addiction". How can one be addicted to confrontation? That means, fundamentally, that one is biased toward confrontation in any situation, and may even generate it out of thin air. Some people enjoy confrontation because that's a mode of interaction which they feel they've mastered. Most human interactions (actually all human relations that differ from our animal cousins) exist purely in the abstract, and are therefore very sensitive to subtle variations in mood and perspective of individuals. It is possible for an intelligent human to manufacture emotional atmospheres that he or she is most comfortable in, even when they are not appropriate for others or for themselves.

Indeed, I believe that this happens all the time. We act unthinkingly to create the same circumstance that we've experienced in the past, even if it was negative. And why not? This is a not-too-shabby survival instinct for the intrinsically chaotic and unpredictable environment of mind. Repeating the "mistakes" of the past is the minds first-order attempt to impose order on chaos, and actually it works. It may be that religion, or perhaps morality itself, is a (much more successful!) attempt to bring order to the chaos our sentience brings.

What's the problem? Imposing an emotional atmosphere on every situation is the equivalent of taking a large ketchup bottle with you to every fine restaurant you go to, and smothering the food with it. The ketchup keeps your palate is safe from potentially unsavory foods, because all you ever taste is ketchup. But you risk many negativities, not the least of which is upsetting your relations when you "ruin" their carefully prepared meal with indiscriminately smothered ketchup. But also, in a purely subjective level, ketchup really doesn't taste that good and you'll probably have a better time experiencing the good, and the bad, without the condiment prophylactic.

To some degree I think everyone brings along their own condiments to every interaction they have. It may be ketchup, or mustard, or Lee and Peron's, or Worcestershire's sauce. Not only do they hide the true flavor of the food, but because we are all eating off the same mental/emotional plate, they often don't mix well together.


1 comment:

Alexandra said...

It's funny, the most profound understanding I ever got about humans and their relationships wasn't from the Tao, it was from Dr. Phil! I was reading a book he wrote called "Relationship Rescue" because I was in yet another doomed relationship (this was the one who got the vagina) and I was waiting for the part where he would tell me that my partner was AWFUL and that all I needed was to learn to properly manipulate and nag them into being a better person (I've read so many self-help books, I know the formula) when he said something that changed my life. It was along the lines of, "Okay, you are miserable, your parter is awful, your relationship is terrible, no one cares about your feelings.... so what are YOU getting out of it?" I'd spent my whole life with the idea that bad things happen TO me. I don't MAKE things happen in my life, I don't CREATE negative situations they just happen over and over again. But it was all bullshit. The instant that I realized that I was creating the drama around me and manufacturing the bad relationships I found myself in, I started asking myself that question alot. I didn't like the answer.

ANY attention is better than none. Even negative. That's what I learned about myself back then. I would rather fight all night for no reason than be ignored. I was awful and self destructive and self centered and self defeating... pretty much everything but self-aware. The idea that I CHOSE my life and could STOP choosing it was the most amazing revelation I ever had. Did you know that if you just state your position in a non-threatening manner and let the other person make their choices it is EXACTLY as effective (if not more so) than badgering them and fighting and crying all night? Did you know that if you stop forcing negative attention from people who don't have your best interests at heart that you can start using that time to look for positive attention from people who do? I know, crazy, right? Never occurred to me. Not one time did I even consider that I HAPPEN TO MY LIFE. I know its crazy and stupid, and I KNOW what people say about Dr. Phil (I couldn't really say one way or another if it's true, I never finished the book). The two pieces of information that changed my life were only half-way through; that I actively contribute to the situations I involve myself in, and that I can choose ANY life I want so long as I am willing to own that choice. I can be a victim... but I have to admit that it is my CHOICE to be victimized. I can be a martyr... but I have to admit that it is my CHOICE to be martyred. How hard is it to really say to yourself, "I choose this way of life" when you aren't happy? How hard is it to really OWN a life you don't want?

It's changed the way that I deal with people. I have more relationships with better results. When I'm not happy, I'm just not happy instead of being miserable. I don't fight with people all the time. Disagreements aren't some sort of personal insult like they used to be. I don't depend on the person next to me to be my everything. I've learned that if you won't give me what I want now, then I can wait and look for it somewhere else, instead of trying to take some pale replacement by force. Most importantly I learned that inside this type B, laid-back outer shell is a type A control-freak, and the only way she was ever going to be happy was to learn that the only thing she can control is... say it with me boys and girls.... herself.