Power Hits and Love Bites
One way of looking at human behavior is to see it as motivated by the search for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. In this viewpoint there are three types of pleasure that we seek and three types of pain that we avoid if we can.
One type of pleasure and one type of pain are shared in the same way by everyone, so we won't spend much time on them. These are the physical pleasure of relaxing and the physical pain of tension. Our viewpoint says that these are the essences of all pleasure and pain. We'll spend more time on the other two sets in this article.
The other two types of pleasure are the emotional pleasure of feeling effective and the emotional pleasure of feeling connected. The other two types of pain are the emotional pain of feeling helpless and the emotional pain of feeling isolated. These are also shared by everyone, but not in the same way.
People feel effective in different ways for different reasons, and they feel connected in different ways for different reasons. Feeling effective is associated with feeling powerful and feeling connected is associated with feeling loved. But people can make these simple ideas very complicated.
How much pleasure you feel and what kind of behavior you feel it from depends on two factors: self confidence and self esteem. I'll abbreviate these as Confidence and Esteem. The more Confidence and Esteem you have in relation to different areas of your life, the more effective and connected you will feel in those areas and the more opportunities for pleasure you will have. This includes the areas of health, wealth, relationships and success.
By contrast, the less Confidence and Esteem you have and the fewer areas you have them in, the less opportunities for pleasure you will have. And yet the urge toward pleasure is still there. For instance, you might have plenty of Confidence and Esteem at work but not at play, or at play and not at work.
Now I'm going to make up some percentages to make this easier to understand. I have never heard of anyone who had or has 100% Confidence and Esteem in all areas of life, so we'll ignore that. And anyone with 75% is so exceptional we'll ignore them, too. That leaves the 50% group that I'll call "average" and the 25% group that I'll call "below average." The group with 50% of Confidence and Esteem in all areas is the largest in numbers for our purpose.
Whenever you experience effectiveness to any degree in any area of life you feel a sudden rush of pleasure that I call a "power hit." Typically for the 50% group, this happens when you solve a problem, resolve a conflict, finish a task, achieve a goal, win a game or identify with someone else who has done those things in a book, on television, in a movie, or at a competitive event.
It also happens when you gain new knowledge (the "Aha!" effect) and share knowledge with someone who has the same reaction. The "rush" can be so small as to be barely noticed, such as when you share gossip, or so big that you feel wildly happy, in a state of bliss, or transformed, such as when your life is suddenly filled with new possibilities undreamed of before.
In those areas of life where Confidence and Esteem are not so high, power hits can come from criticizing, breaking rules (even those you've made for yourself), seeing others lose, petty revenge, making others do something they don't want to do or didn't plan on doing, or playing tricks on people. In the 50% group these kinds of power hits have a relatively minor effect.
In the 25% group, however, where feelings of helplessness and isolation are far stronger, the need for a power hit can take a much darker turn. Here is where you see vandalism, theft, all kinds of abuse of others, deadly attacks on innocent people who symbolize some perceived evil or who are just in the way of one's rage, murder for hire, extreme exploitation, etc.
This is because the greater the feeling of helplessness and isolation, the stronger the tendency is to fuel the need for power hits with anger, which distorts the means used to feel effective. The decision of what to do comes right after the choice to blame others for one's feelings or to blame oneself. At the 25% level, blaming oneself often results in simple suicide. Blaming others often results in hurting others in anger. But when the feeling of isolation is much stronger than the feeling of helplessness, there is often a dispassionate hurting of others of the kind we see in assassins and terrorists.
The more people feel disconnected from love, friendship, companionship, appreciation, or acknowledgement, the more fearful they feel. As the fear grows, so does the urge to connect, Sometimes it takes the form of trying to stand out in some way, to be different, to be special. In fairly mild cases it can involve bragging, lying about one's accomplishments or connections, engaging in outrageous behavior or dress, or performing attention-getting feats. If enough feelings of helplessness are added to that, the natural urge to connect undergoes a transformation into what I call "love bites." These are attempts at control disguised as expressions of love.
Some examples are any behaviors that have to do with jealousy. A lot of people are under the impression that jealousy is an indication of love, when it is nothing of the kind. Whether it is jealousy of what someone else is doing, or doing something to make someone else jealous, it is really an indication of helpless anger and an attempt to control the behavior of another person.
Along the same lines are demanding that a friend or lover be able to read your mind, and requiring others to do something silly or dangerous to prove they love you. A co-dependent relationship, where one partner is needy and the other domineering, and Sado-masochistic relationships, are all about love bites, not love.
Negative power hits and love bytes are very common, and although they do provide brief shots of personal pleasure, their overall effect is to mess up lives and produce more pain. To diminish the need for them, there are long-term, complex, and expensive solutions. There are also short, simple, cheap and sweet solutions. Here are some of those that we like:
"Bless the present": look for the good in the people, places, and things around you every day and acknowledge them. This will help you feel more connected in a healthy way.
"Trust yourself": give yourself credit for being able to do the best you can in any situation. Not necessarily the best you might have done, but the best you can at any given time. This will help to increase your self esteem.
"Expect the best": because expecting the best opens doors to new possibilities, and expecting the worst closes them. This will help to increase your self confidence.
Of course, some people will think that this is far too simple to work. The fact is, though, that the lower your Confidence and Esteem, the harder you will find it to do this. It will work, but this process requires that you take responsibility for your own behavior and make the choice to change it. Sorry about that. It's very simple and very tough, but the potential for more pleasure than pain in your life is definitely worth it.