Sunday, April 5, 2009

entertain this

Another long forgotten, recently found theory of mine...

A Theory : Omnipresent entertainment and "info-tainment" is increasing the rate of mental illness.

It seems to me that people all over North America are becoming increasingly neurotic. And I think it boils down to a couple of key things.

One: people are getting less sleep

When you sleep, your dreams unfold to help you go over events in your life. They may have happened the previous day, the previous week, decades ago. The longer you sleep, the more time you have to dream. Thus, the more time you have to analyze, evaluate, and create closure to these events and issues that are nagging on your mind.

With the increased demands on our time, we are getting less and less sleep. So we have less time to re-balance ourselves and prepare for the daily workings of life.

Importantly, much of the time we spend awake, we occupy ourselves with entertainment such as books, television, movies, websites and other forms of distraction. Which brings me to…

Two: entertainment is overloading our capacity to analyze the state of our lives

We involve ourselves with the situations and affairs of the characters in these pieces of entertainment. While watching, reading or listening, we are forecasting the plot and evaluating how we would react to and resolve the conflicts faced by the characters.

Now we have more items on our minds, churning in the background, evaluating what other fictional or not-so-fictional characters should be doing with their lives. And this churning spills over into our dreams.

So when it’s three a.m. and we’re fast asleep, we may find ourselves asking our father why he wouldn't let us have a party on our 7th birthday, only to discover an episode of Three's Company invading our space, with the explanation that Jack Tripper was too busy at the Bistro making pies for Chrissie to eat.

Some find their ability to resolve their past becomes crippled. How do they try to resolve the neuroses that are surfacing at an increasingly rapid pace? They turn to outsiders for advice. Many reach out to ones that are accessible, that they have seen the work of, and that they deem “good advice givers”.

We call in a radio show to find out what we should do about our overbearing mother-in-law, and the listeners call in to give their own advice. Other listeners sit at home and mull over their own solution to the situation. More of their brain power is dedicated to the caller’s problem, sapping their power to address their own issues.

By sharing our problems, we are sharing the burden, but achieving no resolution. By avoiding our neuroses with entertainment, we are handicapping ourselves to deal with them.

A vicious little circle it is.

Dear Abby, Dan Savage, Carolyn Hax, Dr. Phil... They're all people with few pointed answers, but many questions that weigh on our minds. We are provided with insufficient data to arrive at a solution to the issue. We're filling ourselves with neuroses and drawing away from our ability to void them from our systems.

Part of the hope in immersing ourselves in these outlets of angst is finding the one situation, the one example that makes it oh, so clear what exactly we should do to solve our current situation, be it a fear of spiders or an obsession with the mailman.

But no two individuals or situations are exactly alike. So the advice doled out doesn't fit our problem, and we are left with less help than before.

Some individuals go to counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists. They listen to our problems, and dole out analysis, advice, and sympathy in some cases. But visits with same can cause an anxiety all their own, and be counter productive.

We may all be better off by just stepping away from the computer, turning off the TV, and taking a nap.

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