Crazy Like a Fox


Remember the post called Hayfever? Let’s say you wanted to avoid the common symptoms of that “dreadful lurgy,” so you invested in the latest over-the-counter nostrum for it. I know this will sound like one of Stephen Colbert’s sotto voce adverse-side-effects-warnings for a bogus health product, but I’m quoting from the PDR: “Somnolence [needing a nap RIGHT NOW], fatigue, dry mouth, pharyngitis [sore throat], dizziness, headache, GI upset/pain, cough, diarrhea, epistaxis [nosebleed], brochospasm, irritability, insomnia.” Sort of like Mexican Swine Flu in a bottle, no?

Psychodynamic theory [the kid brother to Freudian psychoanalysis] posits that whenever an individual faces a choice between two courses of action, s/he is ambivalent [“on the one hand…on the other hand”], but ultimately, s/he chooses the one that seems like “the lesser of two evils.” It is, however, a matter of personal opinion, as to which would be worse–sniffles & sneezing, or the daunting list of side-effects listed above.

Same with the Four Horsemen of What Gets Up Your Nose & Makes You Angry. We humans, as well as Lili the dog, “do the math” in our heads, calculating which of two irritants will cause us less misery, and choose accordingly. Let’s put some meat on the bones of this theory. A young woman dreads the humiliation of being judged “less than Vogue model thin,” so she opts for the pain & suffering of an Eating Disorder. A teenager cannot abide the intrusion of parental limits, so s/he runs away, opting for the fear of “being on your own, with no direction home…like a rolling stone” and having to make a deal with the skeevy dude in the song, who’s “not offering any alibis.” In either case, the casual observer might say, “You’re crazy to ruin your health, just to be a Size 2,” or “to risk your life, just to play by your own rules.” The individual who has made the choice thinks, “Yeah, crazy like a fox.”

Back in the day, I treated a young woman in Detroit who kept losing high-powered jobs because she was chronically late for work; and once there, stole money from her boss. How could this possibly be the lesser of two evils? [Even in the 90s, good jobs in Detroit did not grow on trees.] What could be worse? Well, submission to The Man was worse, in her book. She was willing to risk the financial pain & suffering of job loss, and the fear of her husband’s disapproval [that she had “screwed up again…what are you, crazy?”], rather than endure the humiliation of having to play by the same rules as everybody else. Once she grasped this, she was able to find less self-defeating ways to rebel [such as wearing a Che T-shirt under her corporate suit].

So, look at Lili and guess what trade-out of irritants she is making. Is some predator after her [causing fear]? Is there an intruder up the hill, whom she feels she must challenge? Was she told [by my husband, who took this picture] to stay put [“Zen-zen!”], and she cannot abide the humiliation of obeying his command? Actually, I am hiding behind a tree at the top of the hill, and she is rushing to join me, to avoid the pain & suffering of abandonment. [As if!]

Next time you’re faced with a Hobson’s choice of potentially risky actions, you do the math.

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Filed under aggression happens, ambivalence, lesser of two evils, understanding shenanigans

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