Culture / Health / Philosophy / Psychology

Samuel Butler and self-control

“I should like to like Schumann’s music better than I do; I dare say I could make myself like it better if I tried; but I do not like having to try to make myself like things; I like things that make me like them at once and no trying at all.” — Samuel Butler

I get his point on the irony of forcing yourself to like something, and I have said this to myself several times in the past too. But, there are times when we must try to like things that we don’t initially like. Why?

If you have read Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink’, it tells us on how first impressions can influence our entire judgement of a person, a thing or an experience, and sometimes these impressions can be deceptive. And, as human beings, we are often swayed by temptations that offer short-term gratifications.

But, what if there are some things that you like instantly due to psychological, behavioural, or chemical influence, but they are ‘bad’ in the long-term? Examples: tobacco, drugs, or high fructose corn syrup laden sweets that you know offer more side-effects than benefits, but you like them anyway. And, vice versa. What if you dislike something that is good for you? Exercising and bitter gourds come to my mind.

This is why since the times of the ancient Greeks, we have been obsessed with the idea of the human willpower and self-control. Are we really in control of our lives? Or, are we like puppets pulled along by a larger force (think religions, ‘The Matrix’, or Dr. Robert Cialdini’s ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’). More importantly, do we even need self-control? Why can’t we just do whatever we want? Is the ability to control ourselves despite temptation, the substance that makes human beings different from animals?

I’m now reading Daniel Akst’s ‘We Have Met the Enemy’, which is an interesting read so far. Will it give us the answers to those questions? Will it propose a way to control our lack of self-control behaviour in this temptation-ridden world? Tune it for more…

Self Control (song)

'Self-Control' by Danish band, Infernal about how she lost her self-control because of a guy. So typical. Image via Wikipedia

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