In gratification’s dysfunction it was addressed how the act of gratification decreases one’s capacity to function; one’s general ability to proceed through life; one’s capacity to manage whatever problems they might be facing. Culturally, we as a world have already largely classified these kinds of behaviours, actions and choices in words like ‘mistakes’, ‘failures’, ‘addictions’, ‘bad habits’, ‘sins’, ‘wrongs’, ‘evil’, ‘immoral’ etc. However I have a unique appreciation for the word ‘vice’ because to me it illustrates well the entrapment, pressure and potential pain we can put ourselves through when engaging in such things. It doesn’t really matter what we call it, and we don’t have to adopt other peoples interpretations of right/wrong, but one thing we definitely should be doing, is ensuring that we’re aware when engaging in gratification and therefore contributing to our own pain, detriment, bondage, or limiting our own capabilities in any way. We need to be aware of the connection between our choices and the resulting increase or decrease in function.
The reality that all ‘vices’ fit within the ‘gratification’ category becomes more evident as we realise that each vice is simply a poor make-shift solution to addressing some underlying hunger or need. Looking at some of the classic ‘7 deadly sins’ for examples: Pride is obviously a self-esteem/self-worth issue, evidenced by the reality that those who genuinely have nothing to prove, won’t be seen being arrogant, boastful, haughty, or belittling others etc. Alternatively those who edify their hunger for self-worth focus on improving themselves through personal growth, development and increasing their capacity to produce more. Pride is much more easily seen in those trying to establish their worth by degrading others instead of upgrading themselves. It’s the lazy man’s route, changing the benchmark instead of changing oneself.
Anger, could easily be seen as a pursuit for justice, correcting some wrong-doing. However justice can, in most cases, still be addressed without the wrath, and doing so with that rage in check is going to produce better outcomes in the vast majority of cases. Sloth, could be a path to pain-avoidance, perhaps better addressed by increasing one’s pain tolerances through hard work etc. Envy, Greed, Lust, Gluttony along with any and all other vices we could think of, each have their own underlying issues, attempting to fill a hole, fulfil a desire, or fix some kind of internal problem but doing so via some unhelpful means. ‘Virtues’ then, can therefore easily be seen as the edifying alternative. The choice made when one decides to ensure they address their needs properly, in the best way possible, for themselves and others around them. One can respond to any underlying issue or emotion in either edifying or gratifying ways. ‘Vices’ are the gratifying way, ‘virtues’ the edifying way.
“United we stand, divided we fall”
Looking at some of the more commonly known virtues, like ‘faith’, ‘hope’ and ‘love’, I suspect their opposites ‘fear’, ‘despair’ and ‘hate’ might be some of our commonly problematic vices, or gratifying emotions. Both fear and despair cause some kind of incapacitation, therefore obviously prohibiting capabilities and function (ie gratifying). However at this time I believe anger/hatred just might be the worst. If love unites us, making us the most capable we can collectively be, it must be hate that divides us the most, forfeiting that function that only exists when united. Divided, we are alone, left to our own devices and unable to benefit from the presence and connection of others. Only he who honestly tries to prioritise the welfare of others, give more than he takes, puts out more than he pulls in, can live.
Anger is a vice that’s particularly potent and dangerous. It’s my current opinion that no other emotion is more likely to lead an individual to further gratification, especially when that anger is continually or repetitively entertained. Feeding anger is a path of self-destruction to further self-destruction. It’s like each choice we make to feed it, prolong it or even let it remain, are separate training sessions where we exercise our ability to be more emotionally unbalanced and maximise our uncontrolled damage output.
“Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.”
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Anger is just like fire: Not inherently bad, though extremely dangerous. Mastering it makes one capable of using it for good while allowing it to rule over you means you will go on unnecessarily burning yourself and those around you over even the silliest of things. ‘Drunken rage’ is commonly heard because much like with alcohol, anger can void you of sober-mindedness.
Most of us would have heard the analogy of hatred being like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets sick. Feeding anger or any gratifying hunger is really just self-debilitation for the feeder. Conversely, feeding edifying hungers like love and kindness, as cliché as it may seem, serves, frees and fortifies the feeder. I think everybody already understands this at some level, but to add some specific details for clarity and emphasis, let’s run through it momentarily.
Think of the function. Hate causes us to undervalue other things and people while love allows not only the space and time to identify what value hasn’t yet been seen but proactive love will also focus in on it and help to magnify it. Love is therefore a proactive increase in ones own function while trying to ‘encourage’ the increase of the function of others. Hatred is a proactive decrease in one’s own function while attempting to ‘forcefully’ decrease the function of others.
(Re: Viral social media) “Joy moves faster than sadness or disgust, but nothing is speedier than rage”
Anger is usually the voice that tells us our personal vices are justified by the vices of others or even justified by our own virtues. All that’s really saying is “I’m allowed to be this blind because others are as/more blind and also in some other ways, I’m less blind”. It’s a useless, unhelpful activity. If you have a point to make and want to be understood, that’s something you can request of others instead of demanding it of them. We have no right to try and force others to understand. Don’t confuse justification with understanding. Your own virtues and the vices of others might shed some light of understanding as to why your own vices exist, but they certainly don’t justify them. You are responsible for you. Ironically the angrier we get the more we responsible we become and yet instead we spend our venting energy demand others take more responsibility. It’s a failure to address the real need inside, and instead focus on blaming others/external issues.
There are many common failings that are more vice-like than we realise. When we live with lies, we carry the burden of filtering everything else we do or say so as to not reveal previous lies. When we’re comfortable cheating, we wear the weight of always suspecting others are cheating as well, hindering relationships and connections with the people around us. When we’re comfortable stealing, we’re feeling anxious about ‘being watched’ and ‘getting caught’.
I know it sounds funny to say, but I had a strangely humorous epiphany one day as I was preparing to head to work. I rode an unnecessarily fast motorbike on my daily commute and I would very frequently find myself worrying about speed-traps and saying to myself things like “I hope I don’t get a speeding ticket today”. The thought probably occurred a couple times daily. Well one morning as I was getting ready for the day I was thinking about it again and caught myself in the thought, suddenly aware of my silly situation I thought to myself “hold on, getting a ticket or not is completely within my control. I have the capacity to be certain that I won’t be getting a speeding ticket today”. That may sound funny to you, and it was funny to me as well, but the reality was that I had prioritised the adrenaline of ‘160kmh in first gear and being able to go >200kmh in second, while having 4 gears left’ OVER everything else for long enough that not riding to work like ‘life itself was dependent upon my leet riding skills’, wasn’t a conscious option. So much so that the day the realisation came back to me, it genuinely felt like a revelation. I had chosen gratification for so long that the obvious answer, the edifying choice, had genuinely left my mind entirely. I had trapped myself in ignorance and was living there for quite some time (enjoyably, might I add, but in ignorance nonetheless).
Don’t worry though, I justify my failings on the road like everybody does, as ‘an exception to the rule’. It’s funny how the vast majority of us think we’re ‘better than average’ drivers. We get that that’s not statistically possible though, right? Perhaps our evaluation of such only gives consideration to the times we’re consciously trying to be a good driver, and we ignore all the other times when that’s not our priority, like when we allow ourselves to be distracted, lazy, tired, angry, or drive a land rover. Just kidding. Mostly.
The reality is that we vice ourselves into our own ignorance, voluntarily living within blind traps, blinding ourselves to our own failings so that we can more comfortably live with them. We end up living with them for so long they become ‘normalised’ or ‘justified’ out of existence from our conscious minds. So of course being less familiar to us, the failings of other people are much more obvious to us. If someone else is doing something wrong, but it’s something we do as well, “all good, no issues here”. If someone else is doing something wrong, but it’s not something we do, well, then “there’s hell to pay”. The reality is that we’re all crappier drivers and crappier people than we realise. The good news is that in countless ways, we also dramatically undervalue how great we are and can be, as well.
When our pride is on the line, it’s easier to blame others, considering ourselves to be the exception to the rule, and justify our failings when in reality we’re just turning a blind eye to our faults, prohibiting our capacity to begin improving our own issues, the things we actually do decent control over. The reality is that it’s gratifying to consider ourselves as the exception to the rule. Whenever we’re living in discord with the rules of our own conscience, but consider/justify our unique situation as an exception the rule, we’re most likely fooling ourselves. It’s certainly possible that we are an exception in that instance, sure, but we’re much wiser to rely on the idea that we’re not. I would suspect that relying on the idea that we are, isn’t going to work in our favour, the vast majority of the time.
Remember gratification is about the easy way out and too often we consider ourselves the exception to the rule so that we can justify choosing ‘the easy way out’. This happens when people settle in careers, relationships, responsibilities etc. So we need to think to ourselves, ‘does ‘being the exception’ allow us a greater ‘right’ to ‘give up’? Does it free us to ‘let go’ of our responsibility? Does admitting we’re not the exception call us to a greater work? Does it mean we’ve got more to do to align whatever it is we’re building to the blueprint provided by the rule? Edification will call you to take greater responsibility, to learn how to carry that load by picking it up and walking forward one step at a time. As always, our honest communication with our conscience, must be our guide. If most of us are thinking of ourselves as the exception to the rule, then either the rule is wrong, or most of us have trapped ourselves in an ego vice.
It may be hard for some to initially consider, but feeding vices is exactly how that which was once abhorred can eventually be craved for. Repetitive failure to work from the inside out or constantly going to quick-fixes, are common ways we get there. Anger being a great example. The desensitising and blinding effects of gratification can restrict an individual’s perspective so intensely that he who would never have otherwise considered participation in a particular thing, can reach a point where he honestly yearns for it with absolutely no consideration of the negative consequences. The effects becoming ignored so repetitively and consistently that they honestly don’t enter conscious thought anymore. One can only ignore the internal need or the by-product of one’s decisions so many times before one stops considering them entirely. The red flags can in reality, stop going off altogether and one becomes entirely desensitised. One of the reasons feeding anger is so dangerous is because it’s like blindly charging through as many red flags as one can so that by the time the individual has calmed down, a heavy degree of desensitation has already occurred. To think that desensitisation becomes completely voided once we have calmed down, is foolishness.
“Vice is a monster of so frightful mienAlexander Pope
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”
Any addiction (including feeding anger) serves as a good example of this behaviour. He who would never think of spending even his ‘excess’ on a poker game (what he can afford to lose), can for example, perhaps due to his desires to use his excess to benefit his children instead, give into that desire once, then twice, and eventually continually until each decision to repeat his gambling actions contain little to absolutely no consideration of his children whatsoever.
Whether we want to realise it or not, gratification will always blind and it will always lead to pain and wasted potential, trapping us there if we don’t insist on fighting it. It’s always ‘by degrees’, as all things are, which can make it very difficult to gauge how much damage is significant or sufficient enough to be worth being worried about. As aforementioned however, path redirection is always more easily done early on. The longer one takes to identify a required change, the more pain and work also required to make the correction.
We would be wise to do our best to escape any and all vices, as early as possible. Commit to a life where we constantly make the small adjustments necessary, as quickly as they’re recognised, instead of waiting for them to become enlarged bottlenecks that suddenly must be dealt with out of absolute necessity. Waiting usually makes things unnecessarily difficult for ourselves and others.
Another small point I wanted to make was trying to be aware that both destination and method must be observed to ensure one isn’t feeding gratification or blindly trapping themselves in a vice. Sometimes the thing we want is gratification, and pursing that destination through edifying means or pursuing edifying destinations through gratifying means, are both probably more commonly occurring in our lives than we realise. Some things it doesn’t matter how w we go about it, it’s not a good thing to pursue. Sometimes we have the best intentions or desired outcomes, but giving no consideration to the helpfulness of the approach, we can easily do more harm than good.
Trying to be conscious of one’s current blinding vices is a real necessity for us all. I give it as my opinion that any one of us who think their not feeding gratification and blinding themselves in some capacity, are simply to blind to even consider their own blindness. Such is applicable to us all, from time to time. We all must live with failures, weaknesses, and all the ‘bad parts’ of life, generally speaking, which is most of us already appreciate to some extent. However, because of that, many of us are mentally categorising our own vices amongst the general ‘part of life’ we must live with, which can too easily allow those vices to continue winding up and closing down on us with too little notice.
Whatever our vices might be, they need to be consciously acknowledged and set apart from the general struggles of life. The latter can go on often independent of our choices entirely, our vices however are indeed within our control. Amongst all things in our control, are our current vices not likely to be the primary contributors to our grief? If we’re struggling with anything, surely improving our ability to manage challenges is going to help more in the long run that just addressing the current challenge, and surely addressing our current vices should be one of our first steps.
So how should we be responding to our anger? I’m far from an expert, to tell you the truth. I used to think that I wasn’t a very angry person at all, quite mellow and easy going. Then I got married and had kids and discovered all kinds of monsters lurking inside me that I didn’t know existed. In trying to fight these monsters however, I have learned some tricks, like walking away (even when they don’t want you to) until you cool down enough; not giving people what they want when they only want gratification; recognising and accepting the emotion as a normal part of life, letting yourself feel it (which is different to entertaining it) so that you can process it instead of ignore then, but then move on; try to pinpoint the exact reasons why we feel angry & come up with different strategies for how to remedy the situation; do something physical, such as going for a run or playing sport; talk to someone we trust about how we’re feeling, someone who we’re sure will be helpful.
It’s my opinion that one of, if not the most helpful thing my wife and I have ever done for our communication and relationship development is our ‘truth wall’ which I’ve addressed elsewhere in this book. Long story short is: identifying the need to appreciate that both of you are capable of returning to a helpful, functional place, and you both need to be personally committed to doing so as regularly as possible and when you are there, hit up the truth wall. Record and pin up the individual arguments being made so that each is independently crystal clear. Make whatever progress you can, no matter how little, pause when it’s no longer helpful and come back as often as you can. As long as things are moving, it all quickly becomes much more manageable. If it’s not moving at ALL, the bottle-neck can and very likely will, too quickly become overwhelming. Both of us want to feel understood, and in this framework it’s very doable, even when we completely disagree with each other.
What we shouldn’t do however, is unfortunately something I have a lot more experience with. Bottling it up for example, is a terrible idea. It needs to come out. Bottled baggage is just another term for clamping yourself in another vice. You don’t have to resolve everything or even one thing, but at least write it down somewhere you can come back to it to deal with it later. Infinite lists! (I’ll write more about them later). Writing alone has genuinely proved to be an excellent way to process those emotions so they’re no longer reigning over me. Doing anything that causes us to feel as though serious issues are not going to be addressed or that it needs to be repressed/suppressed/unanswered etc. are things that won’t help. We can only bottle for so long until it will explode and we’ll do things we regret. Bottling does not work in the long run. Consider “seconds” the longest functional timeframe we should be bottling for. Take those seconds to get to writing, walking or punching a punching bag, or all three etc.
Venting on others is not okay. Especially if it’s a loved one and it most likely is in most cases. Being unable to deal with our difficult circumstances in at least a way that maintains basic respect of others is our problem. Even if we blame others for the trigger problem, our inability to deal with it without becoming dysfunctional, is our problem. It’s nobody else’s problem, no matter how much we blame them, our inability to cope is evidence of the vices we ourselves, are still trapped in. We are all responsible for getting ourselves free, to a place where we can function enough to freely work on the issue. If that’s not doable, go away, get free, get functional, come back. Do that a hundred times if needs be, but forcing dysfunction in a blind rage attempt to demand/produce particular outcomes is not going to edify anybody.
Picture a guy with 14 vices clamped to different parts of his body, over-swinging his weighted limbs around the tool-shed trying to help build a solution to some other problem. Surely getting him out of his own vices is going to take priority over building anything else? I appreciate that some vices are with us for a very long time and we’ve got to learn to keep working with them, but each time they’re so large or cumbersome they’re interfering with the current build instead of helping, surely it’s better to step back and sort ourselves first? Make sure our involvement is more help than hinderance, and that our own vices aren’t getting in the way of whatever we’re collectively building, or what we’re helping others build. We don’t need to be vice-free to be helpful, but if we’re unhelpful, it’s very likely our own vices getting in the way. At which point we would be wise to redirect our attention and get back to working on ourselves until we’re either done (ha) or can once again be helpfully participate.
When in arguments, perhaps try and remember that the individual we’re arguing with is in actuality possessing far more good quality traits than our presently ‘viced’ mind is considering. They are another human, fighting for their own peace, justice and understanding in the world. We’re all dysfunctional too much of the time. Individuals committed to edification don’t need others to commit to the same in order to get back to a helpful place themselves. They’re able to do that even when the people they’re trying to help remain committed to gratification. We can’t force people out of their commitments but we can buy them out, which once again, I’ll address in more detail further on in the book. It’s just a matter of finding the right price and that price is very likely going to come from our surplus, and absolutely not going to come from our function, so as to ensure we’re not just setting up more vices. The buying power of surplus is far superior to the buying power of function.
- Which vices do you personally struggle with the most, and of them, which do you find yourself justifying the most?
- What do you think are the underlying needs that you’re trying to address by entertaining those vices?
- When you find yourself defending your actions, do you feel as though you’re trying to justify your position, or are you primarily pursuing their understanding?
- Do you insist on being heard immediately (probably justifying yourself) or are you willing to wait until they’re willing to listen (probably pursing understanding)?
- Do they know the difference?
- Do you articulate your objective for understanding, not justification, so they can better appreciate your position?
- Do you think you’re a better than average driver? Better than average person?
- In what other ways are you also wrong? (I’m just kidding… Seriously though, answer the question :P)
- Do you often think of yourself as the except to the rule?
- Do you do a mental check to ensure you’re not just taking the easy way out?
- Do you allow yourself to acknowledge that statistically, you’re more likely to be wrong than right, when you think of yourself as the exception, so that you can review the situation once more, in that light?
- Do you have any vices that you’re ‘putting off’ dealing with? Gratifying habits you’re ‘allowing to hang around’ for now?
- Unhelpful traits that you intend to deal with one day, just not today?
- Are they on your list to deal with when you can, or are you just familiarising yourself with it enough that it doesn’t both you as much anymore?
- When under pressure, do you find yourself venting on others?
- In your mind are you still holding them responsible for your venting?
- When you become dysfunctional, do you blame others for taking you there?
- Is it their fault for making or bringing whatever problem it was that you couldn’t manage without becoming dysfunctional?
- Do you apologise quickly, helping both yourself and others refocus on solutions over blame?
- Have you ever tried fasting from whatever gratifications are giving you the most grief?
- What are your biggest challenges with doing so?
- How long do you normally try to fast for?
- How frequently do you fast?