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The very important Bubble of Delusion....

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So Component #2 to this mutual attraction business is much worse than Component #1. It consists of this:

Component #2: The suspicion that someone that you actually like actually likes you back!

Oh god, aaaaggghhh! Scream, run, put a bag over your head, run, run, run....

This is the really terrible part of mutual attraction.

At first this doesn't seem to make sense. Because having someone like you back would seem to be a good thing, right? So then why do so many of you get cold feet, completely lose your minds, do really stupid things, and suffer through the agonies of terrible suspicions the minute you suspect someone good likes you?

The answer is because you are complicated. And since you are complicated, we are going to have to give you a complicated explanation. We are going to have to step back from the immediacies of the roller-coaster of attraction and delve into some Crackpot Theories. Now, we are extremely skilled here at taking very complex human systems and laying out them very nicely and logically so that even people who are in a relationship or contemplating one can understand them, even though relationships inevitably lead to a certain amount of intellectual impairment. So don't worry. But do be prepared. Because here we go.

The primary reason for your Agonizing Suspicions and Absolute Hell is the primary human importance of the Bubble of Delusion. Hence this is the Bubble of Delusion Theory for those of you keeping score at home.

Okay, so let's back up and explain the Bubble of Delusion. It starts with the reality that there are more than a million billion things that could go horribly wrong for you during every single minute of your existence on this planet and you can't possibly worry about all of them at once. Asteroids from space, deadly bacteria, bad love affairs, planes falling from the sky, heart attacks, huge earthquakes, death of loved ones, little splinters getting into your feet, disfiguring skin rashes, sudden house fires, home invasion robberies, and on and on and on and on. The universe is made up of an infinite number of components, any of which could explode at any moment or possibly just fall on your head and give you a nasty bruise. You, as a tiny human being, have only a limited number of resources with which to worry about these things. You have only as many resources for worry and preparation as your body can muster and therefore you must allocate your worry resources for functional effectiveness. You cannot possibly worry about every single germ in the environment, every single chemical, every single potential natural disaster, every single safety issue, every single possible annoyance all the time. You absolutely positively must walk around the planet operating under a Bubble of Delusion that a certain percentage of the terrible potential things in the universe simply Can't Happen To You, for no other reason than somehow you just kind of can't believe they would.

Every time you get into a car your chances of dying increase dramatically. But you can't think about that every time you go to the 7-11 or you'd never be able to get milk. Somehow or another you just instinctively believe it can't happen to you. This is vitally necessary. Let's take a couple of examples. I live in California where there are occasionally large earthquakes. Large earthquakes that can kill people, hurl freeway overpasses on to their heads, squash parking garages onto them and just otherwise potentially damage them, injure them or mess everything up. No one in their right mind who lives here has anything even vaguely resembling an earthquake emergency kit. If you have one, there's something wrong with you. The desire to have an earthquake emergency kit lasts all of 45 days after the last really big one and then it goes away. And you discover that you really just can't worry about earthquakes, when denial is so incredibly much more practical and so much less work. The human mind requires denial - earthquakes are one of those things it just doesn't work to have any attitude about other than denial. And so you drive the freeways, park in parking garages, live in a house, have shelves, and just generally pretend it can't happen to you. Because honestly, it's probably not fucking going to anyway. And if it does - well you're history, so what good did it do you to have an earthquake emergency kit when you have just been squashed like a bug by a freeway overpass. None! This is how the human mind reasons and while it's not entirely sensible, by and large, yeah whatever it works okay.

If your mind screws up and you become obsessively worried about some everpresent danger like earthquakes or germs or faulty pilot lights, you will become non-functional. This occasionally happens to people. Phobias and obsessive-compulsive worries take an incredible toll on the people who experience them. They just don't work. Denial and It Can't Happen To Me do. Of course, you are free to worry about all kinds of things, but fortuntely, thank god, most of the time, you have a Bubble of Delusion that protects you from understanding the full scope of danger you are always in and this keeps you operating. This is a good deal. This is why people tell other people who have experienced some sort of trauma like seeing someone shot in front of their eyes that they have to move on, it's not going to happen again. The traumatized person who can't think of anything else but it possibly happening again is reacting perfectly normally and everyone else who tells them that they have to move on, it won't happen again, is too - even though they are competely wrong and it most certainly could happen again. You just need to be wrong to be able to live. EVeryone knows this. It could happen to you and somehow you just have to believe that it can't.

So this is straightforward when it comes to germs and so on. But you need the same thing and even more vitally when it comes to Other People. Other People are simultaneously dangerous, complex, everpresent, and necessary. Somehow you have to believe you can survive amongst them even though they can do terrible things to you at any moment of the night or day.

What you need is a Bubble of Delusion that overestimates how kindly people think of you by a factor of about 20-30%. In order to navigate the world without sinking into depression and non-functionality, you just need to believe that people like you somewhat better than they actually do. It is very very very important that you not develop the ability to read minds and start accurately assessing what people really think of you or what they are saying behind your back. If you do this, you will not feel safe or loved or confident or hopeful or optimistic or happy or strong or any of the other things you need to keep going and hold your own amongst the swirling masses of Other People that populate your existence. One of the classic clinical indicators of depression is an accurate assessment of how people feel about you. This is bad! Depressed people are much more realistic about the world and their place in it than you are and they really suffer for it. Do not develop a realistic attitude about how others see you! Don't! Guard your Bubble of Delusion as the precious life-saving survival resource it is.

Okay, back to your romantic problems. So here's the deal. The moment you start thinking someone else you like actually likes you back, you threaten your vitally important Bubble of Delusion. Because believing that someone likes you naturally and logically brings up the alternate possibility - which is that they don't and you are wrong.

It is this terrifying specter of being wrong that makes thinking someone likes you so incredibly agonizingly frightening. It is this fear that produces the Suspicions. You can probably already kind of see how this works but let's walk through it.

The human mind organizes itself by opposites. This can be a rather annoying feature for those of us that have human minds but that's too bad, opposites are what it uses. This is why the old psychological word association test has the damn psychologist say black so you will say white. If you don't automatically say the opposite, you are schizophrenic or something. So...when you start thinking someone likes you, your mind automatically creates an opposite organizing thought - which is that possibly they don't and you are wrong. It does this to orient itself, this is how it knows that someone liking you is good. It sets up polar opposites, establishes one end of the spectrum as good, the other as bad and then it can make decisions. Fair enough. And no big deal.

Unless! you have previously experienced a Bubble of Delusion Breach.

A Bubble Breach is a terrifically unpleasant and really quite amazingly painful injury that many of us suffer somewhere along the line. You think someone or some people like you and won't hurt you and then you discover in a sickeningly shocking way that you were wrong and they don't and they will. It happens with a group of schoolmates, with a best friend, with your parents, with your longtime girlfriend, with your cheating wife or your cheating husband, or That Abusive Boyfriend or where ever and when ever. It happens. It happens to all but a relatively small percentage of people who built up such incredibly strong and pliable Bubbles of Delusion that Other People can take after them with hacksaws and still nothing will damage that damn bubble of self-esteem and the sense of being loved that they cart around with them like some badge of security. But that's a rarity.

For most of you, there is some moment or some moments when you experience the awful realization that someone doesn't like you as much you thought they did and they have just really hurt you. Youch! Youcharooney! Big double ouches! Yai-yow-ow-oh! And so on. It's just a really bad feeling and you don't like it at all. You really really really hate being wrong like that, getting blindsided, being really hurt and feeling awful. And you want to avoid it in the future.

So here's how the process works - magically - to fuck up your future love life. Your body reacts to this kind of social injury the same way it does a physical one. Because your social survival is just as important and probably more relevant to your daily life than fending off sharks and bears and so on. When you experience a sudden physical injury, frequently you will scar as you heal. The reason you have a scar from that big gash on your face when you fell down the steps when you were 10 is that your body treats a major breach of skin like that as an emergency. So it does a very quick job of patching up the breach. Unlike its normal skin-generating process, which is a miracle of orderly and efficient construction, it races to the scene of the accident and throws some skin up there slap-dash to stop the fucking bleeding. It sacrifices beauty and organization for speed. It doesn't do a thorough job, it does a quick one and thus that part of your skin looks different.

When you develop a sudden social injury, you scar as well. Your Bubble of Delusion has been horribly breached, so it races to the scene of the injury and frantically attempts to ease the pain and build some rapid but unorganized scar tissue around the injury. So if you fall in love, believe the other person loved you back, later realize in a bad way that you were horribly wrong and they didn't really - your body races to cover up that tender part with some unorganized scarring thoughts. And from that point on, it is extra-protective of that sensitive scar tissue. It tries really really really hard to prevent you from having that kind of experience again. Thus, you develop Agonizing Suspicions specifically designed to prevent you from believing that person loves you. Your body does not want you to experience that Horrible Wrongness sensation again.

And it's really not kidding about this. From its point of view, the moment you start thinking someone else might really like you, you are exposing yourself to a life-threatening danger. If you are wrong - then your Bubble of Delusion will be breached again, most likely in an already compromised and injured spot, and you run the very real risk of becoming horribly depressed, non-functional, and committing suicide. You may think I'm overstating the case, but your body is very serious about this. Depression is a real risk with this kind of Bubble Breach and it's exactly the kind of depression, social functioning depression, that leaves you vulnerable to suicidal thoughts. Your body is not a fool.

This is why the Agonizing Suspicions in your head are so loud and so agonizing. As soon as you approach a potential Bubble Breach situation like this, your body's alarm systems go on red fucking alert and start clanging like hell. DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! All that clanging can really give you a headache. You refer to this. It's not exactly a blood vessels are swelling up and pinching my nerves headache, and it's not exactly a muscle tension headache - it's a the DANGER WARNINGS in my head are so loud that the clanging is driving me nuts and it's in my head and giving me a headache and it's hard to think and oh god this is killing me headache. I mean it, the warnings can be really really loud - because this is, as far as your body is concerned, a life or death situation. Potentially.

So...since the danger is so great, and since the danger stems from a potential inaccurate over-optimistic assessment of how someone feels about you, the noise in your head is going to be specifically directed to issue this warning: BE SUSPICIOUS! WARNING! BE SUSPICIOUS! RED ALERT! BE SUSPICIOUS! I'M NOT KIDDING MOTHERFUCKER, BE SUSPICIOUS!!!!

Thus, agonizing suspicions designed to protect you from being wrong. A really huge spectrum of the population experiences this to some degree. Some people really strongly, some people more sneakily, some people are too afraid to get close enough to the issue to face it, and so on. But it's there.

And so now we have babbled on for 2 solid pages without giving you any practical advice on how to deal with this. In order to do that, we are going to have to walk through the realities of how your mind organizes social relationships so that at each point you can take the appropriate intervention action and stop that godawful DANGER clanging in your head.

Thank god - what a relief that's going to be......


And now we cautiously approach Reality and the Other Person Who Apparently Likes You....


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