Sunday, July 15, 2007

I have not gone to school for a while now, although I've been badly wanting to go back and finish it. I started really loving learning when I sank into my period of melancholia over a decade ago. I guess my loneliness prompted me to seek some understanding if only to elevate myself out of my condition. So I took psychology classes and hence started my trek into the world of the human soul.

A classic experiment that struck me is by a psychologist named Martin Seligman in the '70s. He experimented on the canine species, looking for the effects of non-escape on behavior. Initially, dogs who were shocked found a way out of their predicament. They were able to learn pretty quickly how to escape the shock predicament they were in. However, dogs that had no way to escape the shock intitially looked at all possibilities of escape but after having found none would eventually sink in to passivity. The dogs would start to whimper when the shock turns on but would not move at all. They would just suffer the shock, surprisingly even if at a later time they were giv en a way out (i.e. they have simply given up). The worse part about this is that these dogs who have "learned helplessness" would exhibit a certain temperament of passivity all throughout their lives.

In psychology literature, the experiment was groundbreaking in that it shed a light on the human condition of depression. So many other experiments were conducted (on humans, but not the condition of being shocked, of course :)) to characterize the condition. Some experts suggest drugs to alleviate the disease, others suggest behavior-modification, and still others suggest changing the way the person thinks (i.e. cognitive-therapy). I would not try to dissect the different therapies, although I have opinions of them; in no way do I consider myself an expert critic on this matter.

But I have experimented on myself on this, and in my world, I have found some answers that helped me out. Here are some of them:

1. First and foremost, I do not consider myself as a dog in the experiment. For one thing, humans have the capacity to rationalize their situation. And moreover, I don't think treating dogs as mechanical beings (i.e. they only respond to stimuli!) is the proper view to the nature of things.
2. Because of our capacity to rationalize, it is important to take note of the contextual view of our lives. Being poor does not mean that you are less worthy, or being a janitor does not mean it's your fault that you cannot make ends meet for your family. Being constantly preoccupied with work and not have time with family or friends does not mean you are a bad mother/father/lover (although there may be a need to shift your priorities). It is important to view things situationally and not be sucked into self-hate and/or self-pity. A lot of times, being lonely or resltless just means you are tired and you need some time for meaningful reflection.
3. Last thing is that I have found having goals and achieving them, though it may give some kind of satisfaction, it is not the end-all and be-all in someone's happiness. Being goal-oreinted is not the means to arrive at happiness; on the contrary, I find it hindering. Striving to be a good mother sometimes is not the key but rather spending moments with your child already fills the cup. Nowadays, I find that I don't pursue things for happiness. I just pursue things because it is what I want, it makes sense for me to do, and that like all of us it is in my nature to conceive of things and to do it. But pursuing things is already apart from being happy. Caring for life and sharing my life with others already makes me happy.

...At the end of the day, I look at my cat carefully wagging his tail looking at the world. I come home and he comes to me like a child, really. In that moment, we commune with each other, and he looks at me as I look at him, and share ourselves in a certain time and space that only both of us occupy. I believe that we actually care for each other, and that even if most think animals don't have the capacity to love, at least he is capable of something close to it. And to be happy, with no worries that he does not have a bachelor's degree nor a career that he can find satisfaction at. Just being a cat and living his life without no worries nor baggage gives his life the meaning that we all look for in ours. Take that! haha... joke lang :))


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