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The Unification of Want and Need


I’m becoming quite certain that all of our problems arise from the fact that we are deeply confused. What do I mean by this? Good question.

Hesitation, doubt, consideration (of the evidence), plans, or anyway taking time to make them– these are the hallmarks of our unwieldy, bipedally-locomoted, erectly-postured skull-contents. Other animals, I’ve noticed, when they waste time, they do it with a purpose.

Plants, fungi, bacteria, I know I’m missing another one. Viruses? Anyway. When you get right down to it, everything falls into a few different patterns. Anger is a pattern. On the one hand, we have biological processes, hormones, blood pressure, thoughts– it’s a whole-body response. Now it’s easy to get lost in the details (he stole my food from the fridge,) but that’s all just a surface phenomenon.

Another avenue of confusion is more mysterious. Repression is an unsatisfying concept. Yet it’s clear that we get trapped in habitual patterns of anger. For example, a person who always seems to be looking for a fight. On the inside, that person is probably perceiving insults and aggression all the time, even when others don’t intend it. Another standard example is the person who is always beating herself up, taking blame even in situations where she bears no fault.

A fairly common way of explaining all this is trauma. The general idea is that if a threat to our survival is severe enough it leads to long term problems. People seem to disagree about who or what is responsible for these long term problems. Is it repression of trauma? Identification with the oppressor? Holding the trauma in the body?

I have some thoughts on this. I don’t think any of it is true. I think believing these things just helps us deal with our lives. Which I can’t prove. But no one can provide evidence for any of these theories either.

That massage can help people heal does not mean we hold trauma in our bodies. Same goes for talk therapy. It may be effective, but that doesn’t mean it’s all in our heads. And as for drugs, whether they be psychiatrist-prescribed synthetics or illegal magic mushrooms, we can experience all of those symptoms in other ways. That includes the benefits and the drawbacks of using medication.

What’s tough for me is that I can see how dissatisfying these explanations are. Yet all I have to offer to replace them is more “just-so” stories that are ultimately equally fanciful. As usual, it’s a lot easier to tear down than to build up.

It seems like we need to believe. What we believe is not so important as the process of belief. That’s how it looks from here, anyway. And while I can’t prove this theory, and I do believe it to be true, I am open to new insights that will lead me to choose to reject it in favor of something better. It appears I need this theory in order to function.

Maybe because certainty makes us feel comfortable. Or perhaps it gives me a working assumption that allows me to at least try different tests and then re-evaluate later. Probably both of these as well as many more facts one could offer as explanations are true.

I’m not sure we really need to know why. This thought is terrifying, unsettling, depressing, you name it. Perhaps also liberating, joyful and deeply satisfying. I am absolutely certain we don’t need to know why.

I think we’re going to keep learning more about it, though. It’s our gift. Not curiousity. But understanding.

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