We are, as a species, programmed to avoid things that are poisonous. Ophidiophobia and arachnophobia are simply out of control variations on a natural aversion to snakes and spiders: they may be poisonous, so our ape-brain just wants nothing to do with them. These are two of the more common phobias, but our overreaction to poison isn’t just limited to creepy-crawly bugs.
When around vomit, even non-human vomit, we tend to gag and have to suppress the urge to vomit ourselves. We don’t like the look or smell of the stuff. This is our ape-brain again: If my group is poisoned by something they ate, I might be, too! We don’t like the smell of feces, urine, or rotting flesh: we don’t want to eat these things because they can be like poison.
If you look at the foods that were forbidden by many religions they are things that, if not prepared, cleaned, or handled correctly can cause illness and even death. Pork isn’t allowed by Islam or Judaism and can give you all manner of nasties if not handled right. Even beyond religion we use poison in our literature to discuss the worst of villains: Hamlet’s father is killed by an insidious poison. Poison is seen as a most despicable way to dispatch your enemy.
But not all poison is of the physical body. Some of it is of the mind.
Guilt, Shame, Regret
If you do something wrong, make it right as best you can and express your sorrow for having done it. But otherwise, guilt is an absolutely useless emotion. Unless you’re a true monster (rapist, child molester, murderer), you can likely fix what you did — or it was so minor as to not be worth feeling guilty over. But the emotion, the feeling, it can totally stunt a person’s growth and life. Make it right, or not, but move on. If you’ve done something truly heinous and you feel guilt then you should probably turn yourself in to the authorities.
But don’t sweat the minor stuff, or the stuff that doesn’t hurt anyone.
Shame is a powerful motivator and we’ve moved away from it as a society. Things that were once shameful are not anymore and this is to our detriment. But there are also things you shouldn’t be ashamed of, just like there are things you shouldn’t be guilty over. Stop. Start on the path to fixing it and let it go just like you’re letting go of the guilt. I’ve got a lot of shame about how I’ve basically been a slothful moron for too long. But I’m not going to sit here and cry about it or just embrace it. No, fuck that: I’m going to change it so I don’t have anything to feel shameful about.
The worst of the lot is regret. Guilt and shame are things that result from what you have done, while often regret is something you haven’t. You hear it often, “I regret not doing (x) more.” You can’t go back and change anything.
But with all three of these, dwelling on them is a mental poison. It’s an emotional poison. You will depress yourself, your hormones will get (even more) out of balance, you’ll sap your motivation. This is a poison that will destroy you even if it doesn’t impact your body. The antidote to these poisons is fairly simple, though:
Let it go.
You cannot change the past, and remember the Serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Say you hurt someone’s feelings a decade ago in high-school and it really hurt them and followed them. Can you go back and undo the hurt?
You didn’t ask the hot girl out because you thought she was out of your league. Now she’s married and ten states away. Can you hop into a time machine to take that chance?
You had an abortion when you were seventeen. You’re thirty-four now. What can you do about that?
You hit a dog with your car. You stole something when you were a kid. You did some drugs. There are pictures of your genitals on the internet. You made a stupid mistake and had sex with a real loser because you were drinking. Can you hit “undo” on any of these?
No. Let it go and move on. There is no good to come of fretting over those sorts of things. People make mistakes and one of the biggest is allowing their mistakes to define them. Don’t let your mistakes define you: Let your reaction to them.
Porn, Attention Whores, and Skanks
This is mostly aimed at men, and young men in particular.
I would advise any man out there to stop looking at porn right now. Walk away from it, delete it from your computer or phone (yes even the hidden emergency porn), and delete any bookmarks. Forget all about it. Pornography does some pretty bad things to you, and a lot of men who are younger than me are way deep into it. None of the side-effects of pornography are good for you. It can re-wire your brain, and it can completely destroy your libido. I’m not going to pick on a particular fetish, but when you have to turn to bizarre, unusual fetish porn to get a thrill: You’ve erased your libido.
The second bit above: Attention Whores. At various times in my life this has been a problem for me. It’s sort of the other side of the coin: Actual female attention but no nudity or sex. They’re attention “whores” because they exchange something — slinky pictures, flirting, or in a lot of sad cases nothing, for the attention of men. This is just as bad for you as pornography, just in a different way. It is also an insidious cancer because you can fall into this trap gradually over time and not notice. You don’t even have to want to fuck the women, or have any romantic interest: Your brain gets a dopamine hit off of their responses to you.
It’s sort of like the guy who is a class clown, debasing himself to make people laugh. His brain is rewarding him for the reaction he’s getting.
Don’t think these women are your friends, anymore than the women in pornography are your girlfriend.
As for skanks, they’re a different kind of poison because your dick might fall off (or you’ll wish it did).
Lies are like a dick: The more you play around with them, the bigger they get, but at the end of it all you just have a mess on your hands.
Lies can be caused by the above poisons, or others: Guilt, hiding a pornography addiction, regret… people lie to cover for all of these, and more things. They lie to make themselves sound cooler, or to get sympathy (a form of attention whoring). Some people get a dopamine hit off of lying. Lies can also cause guilt, shame, and regret. I almost didn’t include lies here because they’re more a growing cancer than a poison.
In my life, nothing good has ever come from telling a lie. It just turned into a chore I had to keep lying to keep up, and caused… guilt, shame, and regret, among other things. It causes stress. Stress then pulls you into the downward spiral of depression. Don’t do it. Avoid poisoning yourself with this. If you feel you absolutely have to lie you need to stop and think about why, and what’s going to happen when you get caught.
Not if — when. No lies last forever.
(Seek help for a lie lasting longer than four hours.)
There are many things that can poison you, or your productivity, or your mental well being. What poisons have you had to deal with?