More on Lawns

So I come into the living room and see N watching a very loud video on his computer.

“Ah, Call of Duty!” I think.

And then I come closer and discover he’s watching videos about different kinds of lawn mowers. Creepy shit, folks.

Say, does anybody know anything about mechanical lawn-mowers? The ones that don’t have an engine? I happen to have a husband who is do considerate of people that he can’t imagine disturbing the neighbors with a whirr of a lawn mower even when the neighbors rattle on their mowers all day long.

N and I are so different because it would have never occurred to me to wonder if the mower disturbed any one. When I was 6, my music teacher predicted I’d grow up to be a sociopath and a serial killer, so I’m glad my homicidal tendencies don’t go beyond not caring about the noise I might make with a lawn mower.

The Curse of Familiarity

So here is how the system I described in the previous post works in practice. Irrespective of the actual amount of money I make, I always find myself in debt, counting days until the next check, always short of money. No matter how much I get, I always engineer a situation where I don’t have enough. Give me a billion dollars, and I’ll get to the same situation fast enough.

Since this is something that remains unchanged in the face of my wildly different economic circumstances throughout my life, I have to conclude that I need this situation on a profound level, even though I detest it.

And when I think about it, this makes sense. In the USSR decent people couldn’t make decent money with their hard work, so I grew up in the environment of constant worry over money, debt, putting off this payment this month to make the other one, etcetera. So I recreate the familiar feeling because it’s all I know. I detest it but at least it’s familiar. For the psyche, the familiar suffering is easier to face than an unfamiliar joy.

And now that I’ve figured it out, I hope the problem will get resolved and go away. If it doesn’t, I will know that I haven’t figured it out completely and need to do more thinking.

What the Psyche Values the Most

There is one thing that the human psyche values above else. More than pleasure, more than comfort, more than even survival. In fact, the psyche easily sacrifices all of it for the sake of this single, most important thing.

I’m talking, of course, about familiarity. The psyche seeks out familiarity and sacrifices everything for its sake.

The person who was brought up to think he’s a loser and a misfit will keep recreating the situations that will help him experience a familiar feeling of failure. An alcoholic will detest the pain, the guilt and the shame of a hangover, but she will keep recreating them because they are familiar and have accompanied her throughout her entire life. A person who grew up believing he is worthless will have suicidal tendencies because the need to prove the familiar vision of self is stronger than self-preservation.

It’s useless to tell an addict, an anxious or a depressive person, or the fan of catastrophic scenarios to get over themselves and stop. Their behavior is driven by the most potent force inside them.

This is why it is not enough to understand the root of the problem and create healthy structures instead of the familiar unhealthy ones. The new, healthy structures have to become familiar in order for the psyche to accept them. If one spent the first 30 years of one’s life recreating the familiar misery and pain, they can’t be expected to let go of these experiences and slide easily into happiness. In fact, happiness and health might prove too disturbing and painful.

It is horribly unfair that, of all things, familiarity should be what we seek with dogged determination. But it is what it is. The very first step one can make is identify the patterns in one’s life and try to explain them in terms of seeking familiar experiences one has been having since early childhood. The patterns can be both positive a negative. The goal is, of course, to leave the positive familiar structures in place and demolish the poisonous ones.