Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Neurotica, A Nation's Guilty Pleasure

The body always asks for what it needs. When we ignore its cries, it gets louder and louder, until it eventually behaves in the same way as a baby left to cry it out. It shuts up. Not because the need miraculously ceased, but because it has given up.

Why, as a society, do we embrace ignoring our needs? We don't just embrace it, we elevate it as a measure of worth. If you pull all-nighters on a regular basis to squeeze in extra work, then hit your daily grind running on fumes, you get bragging rights for your work ethic and commitment to your future (that thing which is always somewhere other than where you are).
If you go on and on about how hungry you are because you are denying your body fuel, you have willpower. If you are holding yourself hostage in a shitty relationship,  you will get lots of kudos for all of the crap you put up with, your ability to stick it out for the long haul, especially if there are children involved.

The body may have stopped making a lot of noise about what you are doing to it, but it hasn't forgotten. You are angry and don't know why. You cry at the drop of a hat, or worse still, can't cry even when you feel like crying. Headaches are just a part of your day. Eventually you get sick, or crazy, or you simply drop dead prematurely.

No wonder the self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar racket. In one of my local used bookstores, this genre, which I not so lovingly refer to as neurotica, occupies more shelf space than any other. I wouldn't feel such irritation with it if I actually believed most of it did anything to actually move people towards helping themselves, but that seems to rarely be the case. How many people buy just one, read it, apply it, and then move on with their new and improved life? Maybe once in awhile. Usually what I have seen is quite the opposite. I see people read one, try some of the techniques for a few days or a few months, go back to what they were doing before, buy another, repeat the process, on and on until they have a nice little library that cost them a nice little chunk of change... and a life that looks exactly the same.

Would all of this be necessary if we stopped jacking each other off about how fantastic we are for abusing ourselves? What if we stopped praising people for these things and called it what it is? Alarming. Masochistic. Fucked up. It may sound harsh, but I think it is actually much more loving.

If you are tired, go to sleep. If your body is hungry, please feed it. If you need more hugs, or sex, or help around the house, or to be spoken to more respectfully, spend the time you are inclined to gripe to people other than your partner working with them to improve the situation. If it is beyond that and you know it, leave. Just stop. It isn't working, it never has, and it never will. Anyone who tells you otherwise has an investment in your suffering. Is that really where you want to go for advice?

You already know what you need. Get honest about that and you can burn the books.

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