Lately, I’ve been trying to understand why we knowingly pursue relationships that are counterproductive to our goals. We’ve all found ourselves texting someone, even with the knowledge that they’re bad for us and that a good friend would grab the phone out of our hands and chuck it across the room. Or, if you’re like me, becoming obsessed with bagels in the middle of a health kick. Despite all of our capacities for logic and reason, we do precisely the opposite of what we should.
As per usual, the other day I was sitting in Frank Dining Hall, enjoying a bagel and cream cheese, thinking about “Star Wars.” I’m not ashamed to admit that I once listened to a three hour podcast about “The Force Awakens,” but this time I was considering how the relationship between Padme and Anakin Skywalker is the perfect example of deliberately acting against greater personal goals. She was a successful young politician trying to restore peace and he was a Jedi trying to help with said peace. She knew they weren’t perfect for each other, but she was happy to live with it until she realized they wanted different things out of life (classic peaceful democracy versus murderous dictatorship debate). A little too late, she told him, “You’re going down a path I can’t follow.”
Just think, they were two young people with bright futures ahead of them, and this was threatened by their relationship. Can we help ourselves from chasing something that could hurt us later? If not, how do we stop ourselves before the damage is done? As many times as I Google, “are bagels good for you,” I know the answer won’t change. Still, I persist, wasting my life away waiting for the toaster in Frank.
If anything is clear, the realization that things and people are bad for us is not enough to deter our chase. I think the first step in breaking away from bad people and habits is identifying the benefit we get from them. As much as our behavior seems to lack reason, there is reasoning behind it. We keep snapchatting that one person because their attention is validating, and we keep forgiving the people that hurt us because when it’s good, it’s great. I keep eating bagels because I really, really love cream cheese.
It’s not that people and things are always inherently bad for you, just that they give you one thing when you really need another. The only way to escape these relationships unscathed is to realize that you can find what they provide you with elsewhere. As hard as it is to recognize this, let alone to act upon it, I implore you to tell your bagel, “You’re going down a path I can’t follow,” before it’s too late.