I have numerous rescue animals-barn cat siblings whose mother was eaten by a bobcat, dogs cast off from puppy mills, and horses purchased by the pound from slaughterhouse meat buyers. Years ago I rescued a small breed dog that impulsively bit people including me and my family numerous times throughout the day. He bit without warning and without cause. To break him of this habit I would hold small treats in my fist and he would smell my fist voraciously. When he stopped and sat patiently, I would reward him by opening my hand and giving him the treat. The exercise, repeated over time, taught him to control his impulsive behaviors – to control himself.
This monotonous and uncomplicated training method either does not work on humans or we are generally uncomfortable asking our loved ones if they could hold a cheese doodle in their palm and release it to us only when we stop acting like an idiot. Many of us too trusting souls practice running into metaphorical brick walls the way Ghandi must have practiced yoga. Wikipedia says this about addiction, “The term addiction is also sometimes applied to compulsions that are not substance-related…(and is) used to describe a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences, as deemed by the user himself to his individual health, mental state, or social life.” The user himself knows it is harmful to his mental state or worse yet social life but chooses the behavior anyway? Thank you sir, may I have another?
We take chances and let people into our lives that our better judgment tells us are a risk- we make friends too quickly, share too much, offer our trust too soon, or extend our consolation to someone who becomes an emotional vampire. For some, repeating these destructive behaviors and expecting new and positive outcomes is an addiction. I would argue though, that those who fall into this category at their core, altruistically just want to believe that the world and those in it are intrinsically good. As the old cowboy saying goes, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.”
It would stand to reason when following the above model that the consequential pain would be diminished in that it was expected and to some degree earned. Astonishingly its sting is keen and the ache heightened. This is likely the result of disappointment in ourselves combined with an authentic hope that the person we had put our misguided faith in would meet our expectations or perhaps just show us some mercy on an occasion or two. Remember the classic Bugs Bunny skit where Bugs and Daffy Duck are arguing over whether it is duck season or rabbit season and, referring to Bugs, Daffy implores Elmer Fudd to “shoot him now”? Daffy gets pitifully lost in his own defense and inevitably gets his bill blown sideways every time. Life can be much like that.
The wise among us can see destructive people coming a mile away and proactively veer off the path while others of us call out “here kitty kitty” to the approaching panther, and are then found scratching our heads in a pool of our own blood wondering what hit us. Nevertheless, the best part about those who live life in such a way is, once recovered, we get miles out of the story about how one time we went a few rounds with a panther and lived to tell about it.
Life is tough and even the most well meaning among us get blindsided sometimes. But as a wise father once told his son, “always put a smile on your face so even if they are running you out of town, you’ll look like you’re leading a parade.”
Now where did I put that crash helmet?