Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Me And My Neurotic Desires

This post of Noko Marie's made me think about it. Also this discussion.

There are certain categories of things I want, or want to avoid, that I can't really explain or justify. One time I took this weekend trip on a whim and I wanted to stay in this one hotel that was really far away from everything I wanted to see and it was impossible to get to and I found myself walking on one of those bridges across a freeway in the pouring rain and when I got to the hotel room I had broken out in welts. (Anybody want to see the poison oak picture again?) From the rain and the cold and probably a little bit the stress. And then they told me there were no smoking rooms and the bathtub was broken and I felt like a moron.

Now that I'm a non-smoker the lack of smoking rooms wouldn't be an issue, of course.

But anyway, I think about that. Because I couldn't come up with any real basis for wanting to stay at that particular hotel. Or for not checking in advance whether they had smoking rooms. Or for not finding a better way to get there that wouldn't involve freeway overpasses.

I wanted to stay there though. That was what I wanted it, and once I wanted it I wanted to see my desire, however petty and inexplicable, satisfied.

I have a friend who tells me sometimes that I shouldn't give in to my desire to avoid driving -- he says that the only way to deal with neurotic desires is to fight them. And I do have this very vivid mental image of myself giving way to all my counter-productive impulses and becoming a complete wreck. Like how my other friend was telling me that if you cut a one square foot hole in the top of a barn it would be completely destroyed by nature within a year. That's what I imagine happening.

All I can say it hasn't happened yet. And that I'm not sure how many of my desires, however, plausible seeming, would stand up to some kind of neurotic vs. non analysis, if you really started thinking about it. Especially because defining a desire as neurotic seems to imply that it's less real than other desires, that it doesn't count as much.

I'm operating on the assumption that all desires are not created equal here -- after all, I'm trying not to smoke. But I don't have a goddamn clue exactly how the calculus of which wants to pursue should be conducted or even whether it really exists.


Noko Marie said...

Some philosophers I've read have argued for the view that desires inherently come with reasons. You can't want X for no reason, even if the reason is just something basic like, "I expect X to give me pleasure/happiness/whatever."

I'm not an expert, but every time I encounter this it seems wildly counter-intuitive to me. Aren't there some things you just want, for no reason, maybe even despite the fact that you know they're going to make you feel bad/unhappy/whatever?

I guess all I'm saying is, yeah, I'm with you. "Neurotic" seems a little harsh, though. Why not something like "outliers"?

Also, if Mister Limited Active Self is right (see post here), then in fact it's less like a barn and more like balloon: if you want to succeed with these, give up on those: you can only counter so many at a time. But, you know, maybe he's wrong.

The Secretary said...

Very interesting.

The Secretary said...

Always follow your heart.