Why do we do what we do?


The last four weeks have been the hardest four weeks of my life let’s be honest. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the way I have now; maybe I’ve experienced microcosms of the present but never the full effect.
My own self discovery has been immense during all of this. I’ve waded through a lot of painful thoughts and meloncholy nostalgia in a sea of self-doubting jellyfish all floating around with the same question as mine: What the hell has just happened to me?
As I’ve been floating around this Black Sea, I’ve thought about why we do what we do. Why do people do such stupid and crazy things? Why do we binge on candybars and get wrapped up in crazy addictions and smoke cigarettes and drink and date people not right for us and let ourselves get walked all over and go to college and talk to friends on a bad day and cry and get angry and exercise and go to work and hang out with friends and makeout and surf the web and date and text and watch television and movies and even like movies and even like doing all or some of these things?
I’ll tell you why. There are two reasons: One reason is to fulfill a need. The other reason is to avoid pain.
Everyone has needs. Everyone needs food and water and shelter. Most people need to connect with other human beings in fulfilling relationships, the penultimate being a boyfriend or girlfriend that could eventually become a spouse. Most people want to be listened to, understood, and loved.
Many times there are certain needs we have that aren’t fully or adequately met, and so we find other things that may seem to fill those needs or suffice for a period of time. We may even do things that are harmful to us or others as long as we somehow are quenching our needs, albeit short-term.
Other times, we have prickly emotions that we try to avoid for whatever reason, so we find escapes that distract us. This could be as simple as watching television. It could be developing addictions that seem to bring instant gratification or need fulfillment but in reality do nothing to solve the problems that are causing us the pain we feel. We are beings of least resistance. And we all know the story of the tree with the weakest roots.
I think that this path of least resistance is really a law of nature. Water always follows the path of least resistance down the mountain. A straight line is the shortest distance between two points. All organisms avoid physical pain and exertion when possible. However, we as intelligent beings (a very relative term) have the capacity to choose a different path, one that is difficult and tumultuous. This path may mean coming to terms with a dismal reality. It may mean doing homework. It may mean eating healthy and avoiding high cholesterol. It may mean staying out of deliciously toxic relationships that leave indelible handcart pathways through our brain. It may mean reading non-fiction once in awhile. It may mean saying I’m sorry. It may mean that yes, you really are in fact wrong. Instead of cringing and sneaking into the kitchen for another Butterfinger, we do what we need to do and face the pain. We quit avoiding.
Wisdom would tell us to do things that lead us in a direction we choose. To fulfill our needs in a positive and constructive way, even if it means facing down gunslingers of bad news and conflict. We first need to know our direction or at least carry a compass. We then need to scurry along our way.

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