Have you ever had chocolate instead of sex? Oh come on, who hasn’t?! Or are you a chocolate virgin? If so, congrats. You’re the first I’ve ever met…
Yesterday, I talked about relieving tension when we feel something uncomfortable — the urge to replace the discomfort by something else and, in the process, doing more harm than good as we aren’t dealing with the discomfort. We are putting a bandaid on a wound that needs surgery. It temporarily feels better, but the wound is only getting worse.
But we also usually seek to relieve tension when we desire something we don’t have. Be it sex, intimacy, love, intellectual stimulation, etc. These are natural urges. All good in their own right. But how we relieve the tension when those urges aren’t fulfilled, isn’t always great. For example, you’re bored at work (you desire intellectual stimulation), but as you can’t have it as you need to finish the darn Excel file (never let me touch an Excel file), you check your Facebook. Other times, we have sex with one person, when we desire to be with another. We may also eat ice cream instead of having sex, or go for a run. Anything to distract ourselves from that burning desire.
Sometimes it’s good to relieve tension. When you’re sexually frustrated, going for a run isn’t a bad idea. It will help you get fitter. It will release feel-good chemicals. You’ll get your high. Eating a ton of ice cream, on the other hand, may not be so helpful. A long run and then a piece of chocolate, or a little bit of ice cream, is a better idea. (That said: there are days when a whole pint of ice cream is totally justified, depending on the brand of ice cream. If you’re eating shit ice cream it just won’t work.)
In the beginning of this year I met a friend of mine for coffee. I was upset. I felt like crying. I was mourning an acquaintance who’d committed suicide. A man I never got to know properly, because when he reached out to me, I was too scared to get to know him, even though I felt drawn to him. You see, in my mind various scenarios played out and I settled for the worst case scenario.
He could be someone I’d get to know and nothing. No connection.
He could be someone I’d get to know who’d become a friend.
He could also be my soulmate.
And he could be depressed and end up committing suicide, whether we have a connection or not. So it’s probably best I don’t go near him. Don’t explore him. I’ve created enough drama in my life as is.
The week he committed suicide, I was planning to reach out to him about something. He died before I got around to doing it. And once again those scenarios were flashing through my mind. I felt a sense of regret I’ve never felt before. I felt sure God was making some sort of joke. That it was all wrong. That I’d wake up the next day and he’d still be alive and I’d talk to him to find out. Find out if we had a connection, or not.
When I met with my friend in the coffee shop, feeling like an emotional wreck, he didn’t react at all like I’d expected. Simply, because I’d never expected him to say he was jealous of me. He was jealous that I felt something so strongly, because it’d been years since he’d done that.
The other night, when I came home, I felt pain. This time about someone else. I didn’t want to feel that pain. I thought about speaking with one of my neighbors. I thought about talking to a friend. I thought about reading a book. I thought about doing an array of different things to distract myself from the pain.
Then, as I was sitting on the toilet, because as we all know, that’s the perfect place to sit, I thought to myself: I’m feeling. This is what it means to be alive. And in that moment, the pain dispersed, because I allowed myself to feel it instead of holding onto it while fighting it.
By that I don’t mean to say that all the sadness went away. It didn’t. I was told I looked like a wreck the next day. Always charming. But I was still ecstatic about life. I knew other experiences would follow. Good and bad. I knew I was alive, because I was feeling something.
Life is a journey of ups and downs. Good and bad. Happy and sad. If we numb the bad stuff, we also numb the good stuff. And if we numb the bad stuff, it doesn’t go away. It just gets stuck somewhere and we have to keep numbing it. Keep fighting for it to stay away from the forefront of our mind. But by fighting we hold onto it.
Relieving tension can be good. The day after I was sad, I went to see a friend. Took in some rays. Sat by the beach, getting hugs. It was nice. It took my mind in different directions. Getting stuck reveling in something isn’t good. Be it sexual frustration, or the pain of losing a loved one. You need to purposefully focus your mind on things that move your life forward.
In short, if you feel a strong desire, or pain, watch out what you do to relieve that tension. If you want to create a great love life, for example, it’s better joining an online dating site than fucking your neighbor. Fucking the neighbor will bring instant satisfaction, but you’ll wake up without a great love life the next morning. Joining a dating site may feel like a mission and bring no instant rewards, but in the end, it’s likely to take you closer to your goal.
Lastly, sometimes it’s good to do nothing. Hang with the tension. The obvious path forward will reveal itself if you are just willing to wait for it. Stay with what you’re feeling until you find the obvious thing to do that will propel you in the direction of your dreams. That’s to say: the direction that will fulfill your desires and remove your pains.
In short, if you can, hang with the tension without for that matter reveling in it. If you need to relieve the tension, think of good ways of doing so — ways that take you closer to your goals. If you can’t come up with any, put on a pair of jogging shoes and run for your life or do P90X till you want to kill Tony. Scrap that, you always want to kill Tony. Do it till Tony is killing your body. Then bliss out on chocolate. Or pasta. Or both. (And FYI it’s been scientifically proven that the ups and downs of love addiction, i.e. the highs and lows you have in a relationship, can be counteracted by exercise and carbs. And if it works for love, it must work for other things too.)
No running shoes, no problem…