more on behavioral direction again

Branching off of this post.

Okay I thought of more things to say.

So over there in that post I mostly discussed issues of comparing [effects on yourself] to [effects on others] — but “just because it feels good doesn’t mean you should do it” also applies to weighing [immediate effects on yourself] against [effects on yourself more in general or long-term].  The obvious examples would be matters to do with health, but as I’ve said, I don’t think “health” can cover everything, and I think using “health” to map what everyone Should do is oversimplified and kind of arbitrary and sometimes even harmful thanks to a combination of ableism & the sick role.

Anyway, onto personal cost-benefit analysis.  I’m trying to think of examples from personal experience here.  I’m also very much a fear-based organism, so the examples I can give are going to be very much shaped by that.

Example One: I’m an introvert with depression, so things like staying at home, not initiating interaction, and keeping to myself are usually “easier” than the alternative.  It’s not that it feels good (although it can), but reaching out to people in person or putting myself in social situations tends to come with a degree of discomfort or cost unusual effort.  Consequently, I don’t do either of those very much.  But since I do actually care about maintaining relationships with other people and not being completely lonely, I sometimes push myself to try anyway.

Example Two: Over the course of my life I’ve had this bad habit of overfixating on one person at a time.  Even though I like to have multiple friends and think of that as a desirable state (to have an actual “social network” of various people I’m close to), I have a recurring tendency to gravitate toward just One and then latch on to that friendship pretty hard.  Historically, I’ve had very limited options for friends (in part due to being a recluse, see above), and so finding someone who’s enthusiastic about interacting with me frequently and hanging out together for extended periods of time feels like a special rarity to embrace while I have the chance.

That’s not 100% bad, but even though sinking a lot of my time and energy into a person who reciprocates with the same can be really fun and rewarding and energizing, I also recognize that that can create a bad situation for me — especially when I’m throwing myself head-first into a relationship when I don’t even know the person very well yet, which (surprise) can turn out really badly.  You wouldn’t think (I mean, I wouldn’t think) that just interacting-with-a-person-frequently could create or constitute a form of vulnerability, but it has, for me.  So, knowing that, sometimes I try to pull back a bit from friendships where I’ve gone from 0 to 60 a little fast.  It’s hard, because this happens when I like a person & like interacting with them a lot & am being given lots of successive opportunities to do that, and yet there are times when I will intentionally deny myself that pleasure to safeguard my own well-being.  Because I know, even though it “feels good,” it can also have adverse outcomes I don’t want.

Example Three:  If asked, I’d probably say “I don’t do drugs,” but that’s not technically true, depending on your definition of drugs.  I like caffeine.  I like how it makes me feel.  It helps me access energy and motivation that are usually difficult for me (see again: depression).  It makes my brain feel “faster,” and I like that.  It has nice effects for me.

However, I also have to balance this against consequences.  For instance, tea and coffee have to be bought, with money, so I usually have access to limited quantities in the house at a time.  If I use it up quickly, then by definition, I run out sooner, and future-me will be sad.

I also limit and monitor how much I caffeinate myself, regardless of monetary cost, because I don’t want to develop too much of a tolerance (meaning, having to drink more to get the same effect) and I don’t want to get to the point where I have headaches if I go for a day without it.

So even though it feels “good,” I try not to drink tea every day.

These aren’t what I’d call “moral” decisions.  But they are decisions that illustrate, I think, “just because it feels good doesn’t mean you should do it,” without even making blanket generalizations about what everyone Should do, and while pointing more toward questions like “What are the consequences to you?  And to what extent do you want to take those on?”

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One response to “more on behavioral direction again

  • embodiedinlanguage

    I empathize SO much with your tendency to latch onto one relationship and get in too deep, too quickly. I’m currently trying to relearn how to have the kind of intensely intimate friendships I crave without putting all my eggs in one basket, so to speak. Paradoxically, for me it has involved learning to make myself vulnerable more often, since having just one Person has a lot to do with thinking almost no one will accept me as I am. Telling more people in my life what I’m really thinking and feeling is hard, but it’s a way of challenging that belief and building trust in multiple relationships.

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