Gratification’s dysfunction

Imagine a metaphorical circle around your person that is indicative of the extent of your present capabilities. Your influence, reach, talents, resourcefulness, the lot. It’s summerised as X and symbolically represented as the green circle below. When you edify your hunger, X increases, when you gratify your hunger, X decreases.

X vs Y

Picture another, larger circle, next to X. This is Y. This represents the resources we have access to. Generally speaking, we always have access to more resources than we require to continue functioning or could possibly ever perfectly utilise. Y will always be bigger than X: our access to resources will always be greater than our capabilities, or our capacity to effectively utilise them. Of the resources we can access, we don’t actually require 100% of them to maintain ourselves. We (especially 1st world citizens) nearly always have access to far more resources than required. As long as none of us are perfectly utilising everything we have access to, our access will remain immeasurably bigger then our capacity since we always have far greater access to resources than capacity to utilise them, but the illustrations here are more easily viewed when not to scale.

The size of X determines the size of Y: Increasing or decreasing our capabilities cannot occur without simultaneously increasing or decreasing our access to resources. Our capabilities determine the extent of our access. The more capable we are, the greater our access, while our incompetence or incapabilities are also simultaneously limiting our access.

Yet it doesn’t work as well, the other way around. Our access doesn’t have equal influence over the extent of our capabilities. We would hope as our access to available resources increases that our capabilities would automatically follow suit but that largely depends on the method and quantity of increase. Slow and steady increases often provide us the time and opportunity to learn how to effectively integrate the new-found resources into our existing systems and capabilities etc. Fast and chaotic or alarming increases however, can end up being more burden than benefit.

If we want to increase our available resources, we should first prioritise increasing our capabilities. Prioritising access first, can result in flooding ourselves with options, distractions and responsibilities that we’re just not yet capable of managing. Especially when we’re unprepared or don’t have a clear-cut goal in mind that would allow us to filter out unhelpful resources, we can too easily drown in that flood of abundance. However I’ll talk much more about this in detail, later on. In short: The larger the gap between our capabilities and our available resources, the more likely we are to end up wasting resources, failing to utilise them effectively, therefore gratify ourselves.

When we experience ‘hunger’ (physically or any other metaphorical hunger) it’s usually due to some requirement or deficiency within ourselves, our capabilities. We’re regularly finding ourselves running low on energy, hope, motivation, love and a plethora of other things. To even maintain the status quo, we must access our available resources in order to fill the hole in ourselves: our capacity, capabilities and function. Failing to do so will always eventually begin limiting us, decreasing our capabilities and making us increasingly dysfunctional.

When we aim to edify, we filter what we need from our available resources before consuming it, ensuring we’re improving or magnifying our function and capabilities. When we gratify (or don’t care to edify, which is the same in nearly all cases), we’re being filterless, consuming our available resources in self-detrimental ways, therefore diminishing our own capabilities and function. The difference between edifying our hunger or gratifying it is ‘filtering the available resources we choose to consume’ as well as ‘in what way’. Depending on the answer to those questions, we might have done our capabilities a service or a disservice, once we give consideration to the long-term consequences.

Gratification then also goes on to create additional/previously absent hungers as we find ourselves not only ‘wanting’ in the regular way, but we’ve also created an additional need due to the previous gratifying event consuming some degree of our function. Even though both edifying and gratifying scenarios started with the same respective quantity/value in both resources and function (X and Y), the gratification creates a new and additional deficiency in our capabilities (X), and therefore an increased need for additional resources (Y). We end up needing more of our available resources than we did previously, being more dependant we are less capable, and the cycle continues. If one gratifies their hunger repetitively, they can exponentially grow both hungrier and less able to feed that hunger, each and every time they do. Wants become needs yet the more we need the harder it is to feed.

Insatiable self-consumption. We’re eating into ourselves, our own capabilities and function, and the more we do it the more we blindly want to continue doing it. Addictive self-destruction.

This isn’t a hard pattern to identify, once we’re consciously looking for it, but most of us aren’t. One method of identification is simply asking ourselves: “how many ‘needs’ do I have that aren’t actual needs?” We all have many but those of us in first world countries, likely have many more. We “need” our sugar hit, our daily coffee, our netflix wind-down at the end of the day, our spouse to listen even when they don’t want to, our kids to clean up after themselves, our clients or employer to better appreciate what we’re offering offering, our body to stop breaking and shutting down, our family or friends to be less selfish, and the list could go on.

Despite nearly all of these things not being inherently bad, there’s always going to be some root need, some core requirement, some basic nutrient that we’re trying to feed through these “needs” that in nearly all cases, can be supplied in more edifying ways. Ways that are less dependant upon the decisions of others. Sugar cravings can be dialled back by better eating, chocolate, coffee, even netflix are all things that we can fast from until we genuinely feel freed from their cravings. Spouse, kids, clients, employers, family, friends (anyone really) who isn’t giving you want you need might be a downer, but if we’re dysfunctional due to their failure to provide, we have unquestionably been making gratifying choices that lead us there.

Our function, our capacity to deal with all aspects of life in a helpful and productive manner, shouldn’t be dependant upon anyone but ourselves. Their helpful contributions are a gift, no doubt, but they shouldn’t be relied upon. If we are reliant on them, we can go back to the root needs and start making more edifying choices to be sure we’re taking complete responsibility for our own function. The reality is we don’t need any of those things, we just want them. We could function just fine without them, but to the extent we don’t, it’s mostly likely due to a long history of gratifying choices, making us more dependant on things we wouldn’t otherwise require. There’s a big difference between actually needing something and having grown a dependence upon our wants. The more anxious we are about getting those things, or perhaps an even better indicator: the more dysfunctional we become after not getting ‘our wants’, evidences how increasingly dependant upon additional resources we’ve become.

Addiction to substance abuse is of course one of the easiest examples to demonstrate this principle. As we pursue the ‘hit’ to fill the need, our hunger temporarily feels ‘satisfied’, yet in reality their gratification is enlarged, making the next time the ‘need’ comes around even more desperate than the last. Ironically, we end up eating more and more of our own function (X), due to failing to filter our consumption of available resources (Y). Eventually we can end up consuming the entirety of our own capacity to function, becoming purely and entirely dependent upon external aid and simultaneously incapable of utilising that aid effectively as we no longer have the internal function required to make any use of any external resource.

Because it actually costs some degree of function (X) to even access and begin utilising our available resources (Y), those who do so to merely chew into their own function are obviously working against themselves in the long run. When instead of gratifying ourselves, we even satisfy ourselves (neutral outcome), at the end of the transaction we end up with the same amount of function, having spent our Y without decreasing our X. When we edify we’ve spent our Y increasing our X (net profit). But we can’t gratify, we can’t spend those resources chewing into our function, without the end result being a decrease in our available resources. It’s kind of like re-feeding syndrome, where in the process of becoming desperately in need of food you’ve become increasingly incapable of eating it.

Gratification’s careless consumption leads to being overcome with useless ‘matter’ that doesn’t contribute to the growth of the individual. It’s literally like eating garbage food, that fills our gut and temporarily removes our hunger, but leaves our body with a giant processing and clean-up job with very little reward for doing so. For this reason, personal capabilities are decreased. We become sluggish, tired, slow, mentally inhibited, and too often craving for even more garbage soon after. Just like a mass hoarder who collects everything struggles to move or even acquire the things of most worth as they haven’t the space or freedom left to do so, due to being over cluttered is uselessness.

Activity:

  • What hungers have you been feeding in ways that decrease your function or increase your dependence?

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  • When have you recently become anxious or dysfunctional?
    • What core hunger were you trying to meet?
    • What can you do to meet that hunger in more edifying ways, that decrease the likelihood of becoming dysfunctional in the future?

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  1. Make a list of all your common ‘needs’ that come to mind
  2. Rate them from zero to ten
    • Zero being things that remain needs no matter how independent you might become and ten being a want that you’ve grown dependant upon.
    • Eg. perhaps YouTube is ten, sugar is eight and sleep is zero. The higher the number the more likely you’ve been feeding a core hunger with gratifying responses. 

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