- Mental Health
Inability to Please Others and to Be Pleased
Not about Our Bedroom Behavior
I hope the title is not misleading you into expecting something from pages of a sexology book. And I didn't really use it to grab your attention with such apparent alluding to it; while I couldn't think of a better one to depict the theme of this article.
As you are about to see, I am going to say something about an obvious and rather peculiar phenomenon in our ways of interacting with each other---displaying itself from our childhood on, and stretching over our social, even global coexistence.
However, don't expect a clumsy imitation of a boring scientific study, as I find the theme quite revealing if not downright amusing, while we could easily recognize ourselves, those close to us, and this whole species of ours.
Namely, out of my notoriously inquisitive nature came noticing how for some reason or a bunch of them this mankind keeps proving itself to possess an awfully low capacity to please others, as well as to be pleased. So I started asking myself some questions, as I always do, and what follows are my observations about it.
A Selective Intelligence
It could have started with my amazement over the fact that we are capable of rising some architectural marvels like Dubai or Las Vegas right from a desert, not even to mention outlandish high technology in electronics---but then we seemingly can't use the same intelligence to establish a harmony on this planet.
By harmony I mean a state in which we could all somehow blend with our fulfilled expectations from each other. Don't you ever wonder, how come that those brainy folks like scientists, doctors, university professors, even shrinks often have crappy and dissatisfying relationships?
Indeed, why can't intelligence, so well applied in one direction be applied in all directions? Why is it so selective?
Likewise, why those smart leaders with a bunch of even smarter advisors "have to" resort to something like a filthy diplomacy or even wars? These and other discrepancies made me come up with certain conclusions, and I found the starting thread of it in our early childhood.
In my view there are two fundamental things at play here. One has a lot to do with our basic biological egoism. We don't eat, breathe, sleep, wash, and so on to please anyone else but our own needs of survival. Then it may even stretch over our sexual habits with a neglect of the poor partner.
When you look at the toys of toddlers, they don't involve others for a play, and don't suggest "sharing". They are strictly meant to please the little selfish individual because it seems like he insists on it that way. Try to grab one toy of his, and he will quickly reach to take it back, if not give you a tantrum.
So, even at the very start of our life we are not much in a mood to please anyone but ourselves. While we may not be aware of it, it stays with us into our adulthood, no matter how much we want to mask it with our "altruistic" intentions.
In a Way---Still Toddlers
After the age of toddlers comes a quick development of social skills, which basically means a painful collision between what we "want" to do and what we suddenly "have to" do, or "must not" do.
And it stinks, as we learn very early in life. As a matter of fact it stinks so much that as we are getting older we are bound to prey for any little crack in our social makeup to claim the primacy of our suppressed biological egoism.
Funny as it appears, we become pretty crafty at presenting our covert egoism as something that's for the "common good".
"Honey, don't look at the price of that dress, I know you want your wife to look better than Steve's wife tonight, don't you?"
Or: "Dear fellow-Americans, my vision is the one of America being great again"---or---"Together we are stronger", you pick the slogan sounding better to you, while both of them merely say: "Hey, you suckers, you'd better vote for me because it's been my dream to become better than any of you."
So, here it comes a little more clear why we are incapable to please others---we often make it look like we are doing it for ourselves. On a certain level it is that "third root of honesty" derived from the crude fact that we wouldn't even help a blind dude across the road if it didn't give us that good feeling.
While many unselfish deeds are pleasing others, so many more are a transparent case of a covert "taking care of the No1". And that, my friends, doesn't make us qualified to be likened to a Mother Theresa.
Blame It on the Negative Feedback Mechanism
Then, there is that flip side of that same coin called "basic biological egoism", and it's saying a lot about our reduced ability to be pleased by the actions of others. It stems from none other but our King Fear---the main character in the theatre of all our dramas, soap operas, and tragedies.
Fear may take many forms, from fear of violence all the way to envy. But what it always does is taking care of our psycho-physical survival one way or another. The antenna of that fear is its function called negative feedback mechanism, with which we detect anything---real or only "real"- by-association---which resembles a threat.
It wouldn't even be such a bad thing to have, this default radar, if it didn't have one lousy tendency---to go autonomic with a mind of its own after a continuous use. What basically happens is that over a time we may become literally addicted to looking for "bad" things happening around us and in this world.
It's not anymore possible bears chasing us in National Parks, or possible muggers lurking from dark alleys, or terrorists planting bombs at public places---now it's just about anything which we ably interpret as "bad".
The more we are noticing things that are not in harmony with our tastes, wishes, plans, interests, intellectual preferences---the more trigger-happy becomes our negative feedback mechanism.
Guess what happens with our capacity to be pleased. You got it, it becomes harder and harder to please us, for no other reason but because we get wired in our brain to interpret everything as carrying a seed of something threatening to our psycho-physical well being.
Addicted to Complaining
That's the point at which so many of us may turn into controlling or complaining freaks, agonizing to squeeze some satisfaction from others, but not able to---just like a person whose sneeze always gets cut short and he can't make it.
In a certain sense we assume a hypochondriac's mentality, "only feeling good when we are feeling bad", as that comes more "natural to us". For an example, it becomes so sweet to gossip that some of us "just can't wait to tell...", and we are "dying to find out..."---some of you may be able to replace dots with certain personal experiences.
Before we know it, it has become a national pastime to be pissed-off at something, and what makes it so amusing is the fact that after a while it doesn't even matter what it is---as long as we have something to bitch about.
Now guess who is laughing. O.K., beside myself---it's the mainstream media laughing all the way to the bank, while making complete sheep of the public with any story that comes to their imagination.
As we know it, journalism got so encouraged by our sheepish mentality that they will "report" a complete lie, while knowing that a good mass of folks will buy it as factual.
Indeed, fear is so close to our survival instinct that you can scare a dude much faster than "persuade" a kid to have an ice cream on a hot day. And it's worth repeating that with an excessive use of negative feedback mechanism it develops a mind of its own, now getting triggered by anything at all.
For a caricature of it, let me tell you about this grumpy dude I used to work with, who would regularly answer to "Good morning" with : "What the f...k is so good about it?" Or, if you told him to "have a nice day", he would say: "Please, don't tell me what kind of a day to have, O.K.?!"
We Don't Have to Stay That Way
Those experts who had nothing better to do but measure the percentage of our daily negative thoughts say how during the course of our active day even in so-so "normal" circumstances we produce some 80% of crappy thoughts, most of them echoed by crappy feelings.
Now, what gives even more delicious food for my satirical sense is the fact that on the surface all of us appear very interested in "having it better" one day---but then miserably sabotage any prospects of finding it satisfactory even if it should turn out that way.
Just look at those armchair political analysts badmouthing this or that politician or policy or even hypothetical turnouts---like some prophets theorizing about the calamities to befall us because of this or that happening in the political arena.
They are all so eloquent with those slogans and phrases picked up from the media, and one would think that they know exactly what's the best for the country. But then, as the history is attesting, even if the next president is exactly the type they "wanted", they will not sit back, now relaxed and pleased with the change---they will find so much bad to say about him or her again.
Indeed, some folks you simply can't please, no matter what. They are wired in their brains to generate dissatisfaction.
But then, not to paint the whole humanity with a broad brush, yes, there are those who may need just a little nudge to wake up. They may have that intuitive, gut sense which enables them to even turn their well played-in negative feedback to their benefit.
Namely, such folks may get tired of their own bitching, their negative feedback reporting to them the pathetic truth how it stinks to keep noticing things that stink.
Somehow, that adage about "Counting our blessings---not our curses" start being so relevant in their lives, and with a little practice they retrain their nervous system into a mode of functioning where they can easily be pleased.
From that point on, we also start finding so satisfactory and amusing the whole massive soap opera played by those who are still waiting for a miracle to yank them out of their persistent nightmare.
Well, it's really all up to us, not up to the outcomes of current events around us or in the world---how good we may become at pleasing others by making our good gestures more genuine; and how easily we can be pleased.