Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A new theory of everything

Here's an idea. I like this one. This explains a lot.

Suppose it happened like this. Suppose he came to think that all that extra food was somehow doing him not harm but good. Active good. Positive, even healing, good.

Or to put it another way, suppose that he was a rare, specialized and secretive sort of hypochondriac. Not the kind who comes down with imaginary cases of every foolish disease he reads about and complains loudly about it; no, he was not so promiscuous, and he never complained. It was something more like this: whatever went wrong with his body or his mind, he instinctively identified the disease as hunger or one of its manifestations, and he treated it with food.

If you could listen in to his internal dialogue, it would sound like this: I'm tired; I should eat. I'm cranky; I should eat. I don't want to be argumentative, I'd better load up. I've eaten something heavy and greasy; I should take something light and sweet to cut the grease. I have to keep up my energy, I'll eat. I don't want to crash later, I'll eat now. I'm chilled; probably not eating enough. How does that rule go, feed a fever and starve a cold, or is it the other way around? I forget; I'll feed them both to be safe.

Taken all at once, of course it sounds like absurd rationalization. But nobody says to himself, "From this day forward, I will be utterly and self-destructively absurd." No, no, no. It steals up on you gradually, one lunatic rule at a time.

This insight has the ring of truth. Do I dare to trust it? I want to, for it has what the scientists call "explanatory power," and I'm dying for an explanation. Somebody said, "An explanation is where the mind comes to rest." My mind wants a place to rest.

Yes, it explains a lot. It explains why, when Helpful People offer to explain my problem, I rarely recognize myself in their stories. And this is not a basic stubbornness of mine, a blanket refusal to be known. It seems to be limited to food. In most other arenas, I can't resist a good story about myself. When I took the Meyer-Briggs personality test, I was insanely delighted that such a simple instrument could reveal so much about me; I was pleased to be found out, to have my unlisted number scrawled on such a public wall. When close friends have told me secrets about myself, I have always acknowledged when they have hit the mark, and treasured both the insights and the friends for their vision.

So now I have this new story, this exciting new explanation. No matter what it looks like on the outside, inside I am a misguided self-medicator. I am an elaborately self-deluded food pharmacist, a snake-oil salesman with only one customer, dosing himself up a dozen times a day, saying sincerely each and every time "This will make you feel better!"

Two things can happen when you're caught in the act. You can stop. Or you can find a new act. I wonder which I'll do?


  1. The question is, "Do you feel scared?"

  2. Since simply stopping will probably send you into some kind of tornado kind of spin, what about just stopping half way?

    ENFJ for me. What are your letters?

  3. I'm an ENTP. My wife is an ISFJ, four letter opposites. You know what that means.

  4. That makes two of you. I don't have a clue what any of the letters mean.

  5. Although I hate to make the analogy, I remember a TV ad showing an alcoholic going through his list of reasons for drinking, the point being that the list is endless.


Your comments are welcome. Or to respond privately email me at