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Why Romance Is Not Good For You

romance is bad for your health


Why Romance Is Not Good For You

If you’re someone who loves romance maybe you need to think again taking into account your mental health.

In love, politics, everything, nothing distorts like romantic simplification.

Things can turn out wrong even when you bet with the odds. Bet on the thing with a 70% chance of happening and, of course, what had a 30% chance of happening could happen instead. That’s chance.

We know this but we forget it or actively ignore it. For example, we don’t hold politicians accountable for placing their best bets but for achieving best outcomes as though chance plays no role in what happens even at the global scale. We treat political decisions as though they were crossword puzzles: There’s always already a right answer. If things don’t turn out right, the politicians failed to place the right bet. Of course, that might be the case, but we need it simpler than that. We assume a wrong outcome means a wrong bet.

Chance plays a bigger role in everything than we notice or care to notice. What gets in the way of noticing?

Romance broadly defined.

Romance wrings as much self-confirmation from events as possible. It interprets reality self-charmingly as though luck has nothing to do with our fortune or misfortune: We are the eternally blessed and good. We cause everything that happens right for us. And when things go wrong it’s because some bad person deliberately thwarted you, the hero.

We call this ego which names the motivation but not the behavior which boils down to making romantic fiction of reality as though life were purely a game of skill we’re winning because we’re skillful or we’re losing because fools and villains thwart us, much like the sore losers “you cheated,” when the dice rolls against us.

Romance glorifies and ruins relationships. It’s what gets us so high when they’re starting (the “wonder of me” phase) and mean when they fail (my ex is stupid, sick or evil). But it’s not restricted to romantic partnerships. We romance in spirituality, work, friendship,politics, everywhere.

Romance puts a thumb on the scale, rounding up or down to certainty. The 70% chance becomes a sure thing; the 30% chance a ridiculous impossibility.

Romance motivates commitment to our bets, which can be helpful, but not when the bets turn out wrong. Romance is a devil’s bargain, an addiction that digs us deeper into holes, rationalizing confidently as we make increasingly distorted bets.

[Jeremy Sherman]

Vital stats: Berkeley, 57, partnered, three children (M34, M28, F24), married once for 17 years. Educationally: Ph.D. in evolutionary theory, masters in public policy Vocationally: MBA professor of strategic foresight, business consultant and communications trainer, academic researcher. Historically: I've taught over 250k college-student/hours in psychology, sociology, rhetoric, philosophy, advertising, economics, history, English, cultural studies, marketing and strategy. I founded a non-profit environmental lobbying organization in DC, worked as a business consultant and public affairs director for large companies, ran a foundation, designed and implemented water projects in Guatemala. For seven years I lived on the world's largest hippie commune, and was an elected elder there at 24. Authority: None. I never refer to myself as an expert in anything, but rather a specialist in those questions that interest me (see below). I write with no authority. I read lots but cite rarely in my articles which should be read as opinion pieces, not declaration of scientifically proven fact. I will not pull rank on readers: My ideas are only worth considering only if they're based on good reasoning. I change my ideas over time. Caveat emptor. They say "don't believe everything you think. I'll go one further: I don't believe everything I write, in that for every argument I make, I aim to be able to express convincingly the counterargument. I try to live by the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." Self-expressively: I've written over 600 articles for Psychology Today, coined over 400 psychology neologisms. I write songs and limericks. I play bass and sing in jazz, Latin, funk, and Nigerian groups three nights a week. Intellectually, yet intimately, my middle-age spread spans several life-sized questions. * Most cosmically, how did mattering emerge from matter?, life from non-life? mind from chemistry? economics from physics? information from energy, questions I address as a member of a 16 year research project with UC Berkeley scientist Terrence Deacon. * More practically, though not unrelated, how do and how should we shop among interpretations, deciding what's significant and how to respond to what life deals us? * Also practically and related, what is a butthead other than someone we butt heads with? since in a free society we should define morals negatively--not what you should, but what you shouldn't do. We say "don't be a butthead," but define buttheads subjectively as people we butt heads with. I seek a more objective distinction between what's morally in and out of bounds. * How do and should we balance the ambigamist's tensions and what is the underlying structure of such tensions? For this I use the Serenity Prayer as a template, and think about levels of analysis (going meta). I've written five books, only one published but the rest out soon one way or another. Negotiate with yourself and win: Doubt management for people who can hear themselves think. Purpose: A natural history Doubt: A user's guide; a natural history Mind readers dictionary: Terms for reading between the lines with greater comprehension. Executive UFO: A field guide to unidentified flying objectives in the workplace.

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