Monthly Archives: August 2012

Addiction

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Addiction is something I have always had trouble understanding. I have always prided myself on having control over my thoughts and behaviors, and I didn’t think my ability to control myself was extraordinary. I had always told myself that I could never have an addiction, because I am aware of my body and my behaviors and I would be able to stop it before it gets out of control.

The product of this, unfortunately, is my systematic prejudice of everyone who has an addiction.

Although I always thought I would never have an addiction, I am very prone to obsessive binges. If I find a new thing that I like, it is common that I go overboard and have this thing in excess until I get tired of it and find a new thing. For instance, I discover a new cheese I like, and I buy and eat this cheese every day for a week. I never considered this addictive behavior because after that week, I wouldn’t eat it anymore, or I would eat it in moderation. I am aware of this compulsion even when it is happening, and if it interferes with my life I control myself.

When I meet people with addictions, I try to understand that there is a psychological problem behind the addiction, and I don’t understand why they can’t get out of this problem. I don’t want to be so harsh, but I can only know my own thoughts, and I can never know how other people think, and why they cannot work through their problems.

I’ve always thought with enough self-control, one can give up whatever they want. I used myself as an example in my journey to give up all caffeine from my diet. When I was 19 I started to get panic attacks and since then I have been searching to relieve myself from them, as it is a horrifying experience. I hated the side effects of medications so I wanted to try to find a natural way. From then I decided to start reducing my intake of caffeine. It was difficult at first and I relapsed a few times on chocolate binges, while deeply regretting it later. It took about four years, but I finally was able to say no to all coffee, tea, chocolate, and soda (I love sugar, and you don’t realize how much chocolate is used in desserts until you start to read all the ingredients!).

When I refuse any caffeinated product, I do it with pride. But looking objectively at myself, I never really liked coffee, tea, soda, or chocolate. How would I do giving up something I really love? Have I ever successfully given up something I really enjoy but that I can recognize is harming me?

There is a silly thing I do, that is always in the back of my mind: cleaning my ears with q-tips. I started to do this when I was a teenager, before I knew the damage it could do. I cleaned my ears so much, whenever I got out of the shower or felt any kind of dirt inside my ear, it would be unbearable until I stabbed it with a cotton stick. Sometimes I just wanted to feel the massage of the q-tip so I would clean two to three times a day. After many years of doing this I now experience extreme pain in any cool wind, and riding a bike on a cool day is a nightmare if I am not wearing ear muffs. Yet still, when I feel some water or dirt in the ears, or even just to relieve some stress, I poke my ears. So stupid! I recognize how ridiculous this is. When I have tried to stop, I last a miserable few days before going back on the ‘tip. It is especially bad when I am under stress and I need my moment of massage.

I try to rationalize by saying I haven’t dedicated myself to quitting, and if I did, I could stop. But something is preventing me from dedicating myself to quitting. The truth is, I don’t want to stop getting the nice feeling, I just want the pain to go away. But I know the pain will not go away. I guess the pain is not interfering enough with my life to give the issue a serious thought. Now the joy outweighs the pain. When I think of my life, I never want to be comfortable in my pain. I always want to strive to change things that are not good in my life. So why not the ears?

I am not so naive that I don’t realize my comparison of the urge to clean my ears is nowhere near a heroin addiction. But since I have never used hard drugs, this is the only thing in my life that I can use as a reference. Although it is a heavily muted desire compared to a hardcore addiction, I can possibly begin to understand the feelings of an addict, and why it is so difficult to stop doing something that gives one pleasure.

Gay Marriage: the other side?

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I believe that all humans have value, and they deserve to be treated as such. It’s silly to think that because of some invisible man-made borders, or slight differences in facial shape or which shade of brown a person’s skin is, there is some fundamental difference between humans. In every community there is the brave one, the comedian, the outcast, the nurturer, the gossip. I think many people can agree with me on this idea, and it is not so radical to make such a claim.

I also try to constantly understand others. If someone has a belief that I don’t agree with, I find it incredibly intriguing to find out why they think that way, and maybe they have some facts or life experience that help me in my journey of knowledge.

Even as a child I believed that homosexuality was “okay.” Maybe because somewhere in my childhood, the first thing I ever heard about gay people was something like “Sometimes men like men, and sometimes women like women, and that’s okay.” Even though my immediate family was not as open to homosexuality as they could be, somehow I always had heart for gay people. Maybe it was because I grew up with the value to love everyone, and I felt extreme empathy for anyone who was ridiculed. Even today, when I see that someone is in pain, it is as if I can also feel that pain. I am not sure if this is something I have developed consciously or unconsciously, or rather it is a trait I was born with, but it really helps me to relate to people and show grace and understanding.

Although gay rights is something that I “know” to be right, I still want to try to understand why some people do not believe it is acceptable. I have been thinking about this for awhile, with a concentration of thoughts over the past few days, so I am hoping that by writing my thoughts it will give them some sort of order.

There are many contentious issues in the world today, as always, although I particularly don’t understand why some people are fighting so vigilantly against gay marriage- a thing that I believe would not affect their lives in the slightest. If they are worried about the message it would send to their children: preventing gays to get married does not prevent the couple from being gay. Either they are gay and unmarried, or gay and married. And there many examples of children being aware that gay couples exist and do not turn out to be gay or immoral people.

But as I become more and more frustrated with these people, it does not help me to understand them. Because it becomes clear to me that this issue goes beyond pure reason. If everyone used purely rational thinking, I believe this wouldn’t be a problem. So I must try to identify which emotions are at play here. The most prominent one I can recognize is fear. Fear is a very scary and legitimate emotion. I have fears every day: little ones like when I fear looking silly for saying the wrong word in Swedish, or big ones like driving on a rural Italian road. My constant philosophical/worried thinking produces several fears on a constant basis. I deeply understand the power of fear. Will this help me to understand the fear of anti-gay activists?

When I started to write this post, I supposed that I would end up talking about lack of education being the cause of anti-gay thoughts, but my fingers directed me to go in another direction. I want to touch on this subject for a moment though before I continue because I think it is an important idea. By lack of education, I do not mean formal education. We have all seen ivy league graduates in powerful positions expressing anti-gay views. Additionally, we have seen young children who know a gay couple and have learned that there is nothing wrong with it. This dichotomy of views is likely passed down through the family, but I believe it is not static. In an anti-gay family, if a family member is brave enough to come out, it has the possibility to change the views of the family in a positive way (unfortunately this is not always the case).

I have a new theory through which I have been working, so it is still fresh and ill-defined. There is this idea of “the loudest”…you know, where people only pay attention to the loudest ones and see them as a representation of the whole. It is shown in the case of Muslims, with radicals being the loud voice, and the peace loving moderates get pushed into the background and are not seen. It could be this reason that people have the wrong idea about gay people. They see representations of lesbians in porn films or in the stereotypical tom-boy dress and think that lesbians are only over-sexualized or bull dykes. They see the attention seeking “fabulous” gay men making out during the gay pride parade and think all gay men are horny transsexuals. Any gay distant relative or co-worker that does not fit this stereotype is the “exception” and is ignored as a piece of evidence against their idea. They have no time or desire to research otherwise. Therefore, they are content with their negative view of homosexuals.

What many do not see, are the “average” people who do not shout to everyone “I am gay!” because it does not define who they are as a person. I think when homosexuality started to become okay in society, it was because of those loud individuals, and therefore they are necessary for the cause, but they are only part of the whole.

Maybe I can write more on this later after I’ve developed my thinking. But back to fear.

I can suppose there are two main arguments against gay people, which are either tied to religion, or that it is “unnatural” and “gross.” Perhaps the people who have religious-based opposition have the ultimate fear of going to Hell if they allow homosexuality to become acceptable. For The Bible says that no man should lie with another man; when this action becomes a part of our society there is Hell on earth. I cannot argue with this person, for their irrationality goes far beyond a simple explanation of gays being okay. For the person who thinks homosexuality is unnatural and gross, I can imagine their fear being something like having to witness public displays of affection, or that a homosexual person of their same sex would have sexual feelings for him or her. As someone who has experienced unwanted sexual advances, it is something very uncomfortable, and has caused me to avoid certain situations out of fear of this happening. Although I think it is uncommon, I don’t doubt that someone has misinterpreted a situation to believe that it is okay to begin flirting with someone who does not want it, and I can understand this fear. Perhaps they are afraid if they become sympathetic to gay people, they themselves will be considered homosexual and receive unwanted sexual attention. Even though I am an advocate for gay rights, it took me some years to not get immediately offended if someone asked me “Do you like girls or something?” (Maybe because I was shocked at the inappropriateness of the question.)

Anyway, this seems like it is becoming more about gays’ right to exist more so than the initial goal of talking about gay marriage. But it is always interesting where my mind ends up when I do stream-of-consciousness writing.

This topic is becoming a bit tired, because I feel annoyed that it is even an issue. To me it is so obvious that gay marriage should be okay, and it is obvious that homosexuality exists and shouldn’t be condemned, and I am feeling out of energy to hear arguments about it anymore. It is for this reason that I feel anyone who is arguing against it cannot be changed by shouting louder than them or giving them facts because the facts are already there and they refuse to look at them. Its deeper than facts. All I can do is continue trying to understand individuals and their situations and live my life in peace.