Preface time; since that’s kind of my thing around here, let me be honest with you. I wanted to write a piece about how people tend not to learn from their mistakes in regard to the latest political and socioeconomic events. I’m told, however, that our audience is more concerned with matters of the heart. And since the e-mails I’ve sent to the Economist asking for a column there have yet to be answered, I guess I’ll have to comply and write about relationships and stuff. Ultimately, whether it’s about voting or dating or everyday life, people still manage to repeat their errors time and time again.
So, recurring screw-ups; they really happen all the time. Approximately 73% of those who have had at least two relationships can tell you that. The other 27% are blatant liars or in denial. Also, 100% of the above numbers are made up, but you get the point. We keep making the same mistakes time after blasted time, no matter how badly we get burnt. Liars keep on lying, cheaters keep on cheating and those poor fucks who get caught up in abusive relationships keep falling for one psycho after the other. It’s just how things are. A leopard can’t change its spots, they say – but we’re not goddamn leopards. We’re supposed to be intelligent! We even have those fancy opposable thumbs! So why can’t we get smart and learn from our errors?
Well, there’s Freud’s scientific approach and there’s my personal, crabby one. They kind of complement each other. Due to him being the founder of psychoanalysis and me being another a-dime-a-dozen internet blogger, I’ll go with his first.
Freud used the concept “Repetition Compulsion” to describe “the pattern whereby people endlessly repeat patterns of behavior which were difficult or distressing in earlier life” and was himself quite baffled in his attempt to explain and justify it. He ended up theorizing that the human mind subconsciously chooses to repeat traumatic experiences, possibly in order to “master” them.
Decades later, contemporary neuroscience and our understanding of how neurons work kinda backed him up on that. I’ll skip the medicaleze and cut to the chase; brain-wise, it’s much easier to fall back to familiar behavior than create new patterns, even if it causes us stress or pain.
Incidentally, this also happens to be a polite way of expressing my own approach;
We’re lackadaisical bums that prefer to skive off and repeat the same mistakes rather than go through the unpleasantness of admitting we fucked up and work on a way to fix that. In fact, the average Joe’s self improvement inertia is so strong, that he usually fails to perceive the recurring patterns of his own shortcomings.
Let me dumb this down for you – we’re too lazy to become better.
So, you get in the wrong relationship, with the wrong person, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. Mistakes pile up and sooner or later all that shit hits the fan. What do you do then? Reflect on your choices and their consequences? Try to fathom where it was that you erred? God no, dumbass! You play the blame game!
Yeah, alright, you screwed up, but somebody else has got to have screwed up more, right? So it’s not your fault, right? Instead of trying to make heads or tails of what happened, you prefer to jump on that somebody’s throat so hard you actually end up actually believing you were not at fault.
At some point you leave that trainwreck of a relationship behind and start looking for a new one. A second shot at happiness, so to speak. Well, guess what, Einstein. Since you firmly believe your past behavior was not questionable – let alone flat out wrong – smart money says you’ll repeat it all over again. Sooner or later you’ll have a falling out. You’ll probably feel wronged once again and start throwing accusations right and left with renewed fervor. So much for that happiness.
Rinse and repeat a couple of times, and suddenly it’s the world that’s to blame. You’re in a state of constant self delusion. All men you’ve been associated with were jackasses, ergo all men must be jackasses. It’s not you that’s shit at picking them – no ma’am. All women are paranoid and jealous. The fact that you’re visibly drooling every time you see that waitress with the killer thighs or that buxom redhead from across the street has nothing to do with that – no sir.
(And your boss is a capitalist bastard like all the rest, it’s not you that spends half your working hours procrastinating. And the guy you voted for is an honest politician, a real revolutionary, despite being neck deep in scandals that are just waiting to be uncovered. And that last carpet bombing was justified, that’s what you get when you harbor fugitives.)
As I said earlier, fan-fuckin’-tastic.
I’ll risk being a tad overly dramatic and tell you this; that denial is what holds us back as humans. That’s our greater plight, that’s what robs us from our happiness, be it of the lovey-dovey kind or not.
It’s the Devil himself, if you’re into religion; “It was not your fault”, he’s whispering in our ear, and that’s exactly what we want to hear.
It’s a vicious circle.
It’s the same old song, playing again and again.