Sunday, April 7, 2013

Instant Gratification, Guilt, Shame, And Romantic Love

Not only among catholic priests, but also in the whole "spiritual community", whatever that may be, the impact of our culture of instant gratification is often lamented. And when it is, it often has to take the blame for our fragile, serial-monogomous relationships.

Now, I don't think that this is entirely wrong (and I don't think that monogamy is the only valid relationship concept, either).

One obvious issue with this argument is that the ideal of romantic love predates consumerism, capitalism, self-help and all the other nice features of modern globalisation by about 2 centuries. Sure, things might have taken their time to catch up, but is that really convincing?

My main contention, though, is that I feel that this is only one part of the whole picture.

I think that, yes sure it is about us not getting the pleasure we think we deserve, and always hunting for the next emotional kick - but I think it is also about us judging our own feelings as not good enough, not strong enough... not enough.

I think we measure ourselves against a romantic ideal that reality just can't keep up with... or that can't keep up with reality. We expect our feelings to guide us in our relationships, and we expect ourselves to "love" our spouse in one very specific way, with one very specific set of emotions being the sign that "everything is okay". And when those emotions wane, not only do we feel sad and lonely, but also guilty.

As if we had an awful lot of control over our emotions!

It's a double-bind of sorts. We are trained to expect love as an overwhelming force, and then when that same uncontrollable force decides not to overwhelm us any more,  suddenly wer are supposed to be able to change that. We can't, so we get frustrated. And then we kill off a perfectly healthy, reliable, wholesome relationship just to get off of a bad trip.

It's so crazy it's decidedly funny, as long as you're not stuck right in the middle of it.

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