So Component #2 to this mutual attraction business is much
worse than Component #1. It consists of this:
The suspicion that someone that you actually like actually likes you
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
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
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.
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
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.
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!!!!
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......