Not getting the message

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist ponders some of life's learning curves

I was golfing with a couple who told me a story about a bird in their backyard. Apparently, it kept flying into their plate-glass window. Then dazed, it would find its way into the nearby bushes, and then later in the day, it would fly into the window again. This happened over and over, again and again—the bird getting hurt but not getting the message.

It seemed to me that this ongoing incident was a good analogy for some aspects of human behavior. You’d think humans would follow the adage that once bitten, twice shy, but that’s simply not the case. We are suckers for punishment, and often it takes a long time before we stop bashing into our own plate-glass windows.

A situation that comes to mind is how people are bilked of their money. We know special offers of doubling your money or getting in on deals of a lifetime are often too good to be true. But some people keep on listening to these con-men on the phone or continue sending their money to fail-safe schemes in Florida. They believe the get-rich-quick scenario is about to happen for them. Several times a year, they fly into their own plate-glass windows, yet somehow they can’t stop.

The one that gets me is people who are abused. They get to the point where they are hurting so badly that they seek help. They go to a shelter or find a haven at a friend’s place. Then a few days later they decide the abuser wasn’t so bad after all—or he’s really gentle the rest of the time.  Then they return to him, and a week or two later turn up in the hospital severely bruised and battered.

It’s a never-ending cycle, just like the bird smashing into a plate-glass window—over and over.  A hundred years ago, people might have had to remain in abusive situations. There were not many decent jobs available, and protective services were few and far between. Today, that’s simply not the case as there are organizations and agencies that will come to the rescue. It’s a lot easier to walk away from abuse today than it was in the past.

It is ironic that when a person finally does leave an abusive relationship, all the friends sigh in relief. Then, strangely enough, he or she gets into a new relationship, sometimes (though not always) as abusive as the original one left behind. What I can’t understand is how this can happen to some very decent people. They just can’t choose correctly.

The pattern repeats itself in people who can’t control some aspect of their emotional or physical being. Their needs are too strong. They gamble too much, they smoke too much, they eat too much, or they drink too much. Most of these people have sought help or tried valiantly to get past their problem. Then “pow”, something sets them off, and they’re back to their habit. Like the bird in the story, the window looms like a great big hurt waiting to happen.

As most of my friends know, I have been a food-aholic all my life. I simply like rich-tasting, fat-heavy foods, and I eat heavily until my health takes a turn for the worse. Then I seek a diet and work at an exercise routine for awhile. Having lost some weight and feeling better, I jump back onto the food wagon, and the cycle begins anew.

I’ve been bashing into this plate-glass window regularly over the past 40 years. You’d think I’d learn.