For the last couple years I've had a recurring nightmare. It isn't always the same, but the theme is consistent: I find myself in a high-stakes situation in which I am unprepared. It's often academic. For example, I'm waiting to start a final and I realize (somehow suddenly) that I never bothered to read the textbook. Or I never once showed up for class, forgetting that I had even enrolled. I scramble through my backpack trying to find the text to flip through for a few moments as the proctor says to put away your materials. Panic ensues. Terror.
Life foists that same uneasy feeling on me once in a while. But, being awake, I experience it differently. I feel defensive. I rationalize. I justify. Thankfully, I don't feel nearly as out of control. My mind starts going into overdrive to lay some cognitive path that will protect and defend my... I dunno... happiness?
Yes, I'm still on the happiness kick. Essentially, I'm trying to convey that our brains drive our behaviors, and our personal needs drive our brains in some significant ways without our ever necessarily even realizing it. There's some brand of happiness that our mind vigilantly attempts to get and defend. And when our world view is threatened... when things go wrong, our mind has as its primary task making things better. Unhappiness of this variety gets things going. It makes me move. It protects me as a creature. Can it be viewed as merely another means to a biological end? What about a psychological end? I think it certainly could explain why people (myself included, of course) have such a hard time having a civil conversation about sensitive topics. Happiness is at stake. Sacred personal psychological comfort.
I suppose this explains why I had dread in the pit of my stomach when I attended the scientific presentation about reparative therapy given by Jack Drescher. I suppose it also explains why Dr. Drescher during the lecture was willing to categorically condemn anyone involved with reparative therapy (offering or receiving) as guided by poor motives. Our respective world views seemed to be at stake during that lecture. Consequently, I would have been reluctant to change my opinions had he said something compelling but particularly at odds with my hopes (which he didn't, scientifically), and he offered no concessions of good faith to conservatives or religious folks I believe because to do so would have opened the door to middle ground (unacceptable in terms of his political goals). Anyway, I digress. The point is, people need happiness and they're willing to do mental gymnastics to get it. And it's all quite unnecessary. Truth doesn't give a damn about your mental gymnastics, or your happiness. Things just are what they are. And being aware of that and okay with it seems to be a step toward a more robust and genuine happiness.
Unfortunately, everyone thinks they're already rooted in truth. Their happiness is already genuine. And when the shadows are cast across the quaking soil... panic. Defend the happiness.