A number of years ago there was an excellent profile done on a news magazine about a man that would simply disappear from people’s lives. I missed the first part of it but I recall enough to tell what is important enough for my purposes in this piece. He had suddenly left a family in Maryland. He was to our surprise not a low profile figure. He was well known at least in a midlevel professional circle. If I remember right it was in administration. I believe in community college circles. He had moved to Arizona and was not active. He had run into someone who invited him to the local campus and one thing lead to another and he landed a job. He ended up with a small circle of friends and remarried. A few years passed. Let us say five. My accuracy is not essential here as the point is the type of incident happens all the time the reader can fill in the details. That is the point. The point of psychology is to go from the particular to the general, to extract and find unifying motivating principles.
So what happens next? All is well with the world. This seems to be the problem and one of the problems with many people, when things are going too well, watch out.
One day his wife comes home and he does not. He never does. There is no sign of him. Nothing is missing. No signs of foul play. Finally the airport is checked and his car is there with the keys in it. The reporting was excellent as there was follow-up. Connie Chung made the effort to locate the man. He did not do an on camera interview but did talk to her and what was remarkable was he told us exactly why he did what he did. He said it was the excitement of it. And remember this was not the first time he had done it.
So we are motivated and “pushed” to do things by powerful forces. Some call this the unconscious. But when looked at in turns of powerful emotions/feeling or what some of us call “affect” it can take on a very clear and “pure” kind of meaning. It can be also frightening because what does it then mean to simply be driven and overwhelmed by “excitement” which we feel is “interest” taken to the extreme. In this case taken so far that it will destroy everything around you?
But so it is. And so we think it is for many emotive forces. The flip side of interest is shame. Shame we feel comes when our interest is not achieved. Shame motivates use to curl up and hide or to kill. But we also do not realize it can reignite excitement in the way this man experiences it. We have to understand that he first “withdrew” from his community did he not? Then he had to replace it with something and that something was “excitement.” The excitement of the new chase? But eventually we get burnt out.
So it is with so many scenarios in life. This can be played out in relationships over and over the person that constantly conquers the pursued only then to leave them for the next conquest; the businessman or broker who seduces with good intentions only to feel deflated once the “mark” is made and then moves on. They themselves always wondering what went wrong never realizing the interplay between the healthy interest the ensuing shame and the toxic excitement.
The question is what is always getting in the way? Why can’t the “good scene” continue. Why can’t the relationship continue, the deal be completed the job be sustained. Why do “I” end it before others do.
And that is the subconscious trick and the answer? “I” end it because I “know”, “I know” that it is going to end so why not end it myself and at least get it over with and at least I can go and have some excitement trying to do it again. We don’t have a clue. Wish we did. Do we now?
Shame and Humiliation
http://www.squidoo.com/thinking-feeling-doing (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)
Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.
Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nathanson Paperback (March 1994)
W.W. Norton & Company; ISBN: 0393311090