I admit that I have certain hot-button topics that make me squeamish and filled with dread and fear. These topics fill me with turbulent emotions that make my stomach crawl. A short list:
- Gory movies, esp. dismemberment, rape, or execution
- Hissing cockroaches, giant centipedes, earwigs, and other fast-moving insects
- Playing a game of poker
- Mid-level Marketing Business Opportunities
- Presentations to join a time-share or other vacation club
There are movies and television shows that have rape and murder as part of their graphic content. I don’t see these as merely disgusting; it is repugnant to me and I have a violently physical reaction to this. There was a television show I saw recently called Whispering Pines where a teenage boy committed mass murder by executing thirteen people for suspected conspiracy. I was trembling and sickened as a commercial break came on.
I’m apparently still worked up about it; that a television show would depict that level of evil for entertainment purposes. I knew that the amount TV-MA content is growing, but I was innocent to the amount of depravity they show. I usually don’t watch R-rated movies, especially horror movies, and now my reasons are more justified.
But, tell me that I have to go to a presentation to get free stuff in exchange for a marketing pitch, and I get exactly the same kind of emotional reaction. Just writing about it is giving me vertigo. I think even the mention of a cruise gives me the aversion instinct.
Being invited to play poker is exactly the same! The idea of someone being able to read my body language in order to extract money out of me is repugnant. Gambling in general creeps me out, but the thought of playing poker makes me sweat. The irreducible, core element of poker is the ability to bluff because you possess information that your opponents do not, and that this element is even more important than the use of playing cards. I quote an article by Robert Woolley, found on the interwebs called “What Can You Learn from an Old-School Poker Player? Plenty” that illustrates the way a person should approach a poker game:
Wrong attitude: Entering a poker game hoping to get lucky and win your opponents’ money.
Right attitude: Entering a poker game and realizing that your opponents are holding your money, and they will need to be very lucky to keep it…. All those chips and all that cash, all the money hidden in purses and wallets is yours. You want it. You deserve it. It is a crime against nature that those people are fondling your money. They have no right to it. It is yours, and you intend to play the best poker possible in an effort to bring justice to your bankroll.
Gambling glosses over the act of extracting money through trickery by building an atmosphere of lightness and fun. The old-school poker player gives examples of things to say to prevent hurt feelings:
Question: Don’t players get upset if you make them feel foolish by tricking them?
Answer: Yes. You should never deliberately upset opponents…. So, immediately after you’ve tricked an opponent and won a pot, utter something friendly that indicates you were just having fun. I like to say things that suggest I played the hand badly and simultaneously enhance my loose image, such as, ‘I was hoping you’d call, because I’ve been out of line so many times. You’re way ahead of me overall, but I’m still trying the same stupid tricks.’ Just giggle and move on. Your opponent isn’t likely to be offended, because you’re talking about your bad plays, not how superior you were with this one.
It underscores the fact that manipulating people is goal of poker.
Why do I get this type of repulsion? More importantly, how can I use this reaction to my advantage? As I think about it, my reaction mimics the symptoms of a phobic reaction. But am I really overreacting to gambling and other financial scams? My alarms go way up when I am presented with a situation that might be a swindle. Is that bad? Looking up “phobia” on the interwebs…
“Fear” is the normal response to a genuine danger. With phobias, the fear is either irrational or excessive. It is an abnormally fearful response to a danger that is imagined or is irrationally exaggerated. People can develop phobic reactions to animals (e.g., spiders), activities (e.g., flying), or social situations (e.g., eating in public or simply being in a public environment). Phobias affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, and in every part of the world.
Phobias are emotional and physical reactions to feared objects or situations. Symptoms of a phobia include the following:
- Feelings of panic, dread, horror, or terror
- Recognition that the fear goes beyond normal boundaries and the actual threat of danger
- Reactions that are automatic and uncontrollable, practically taking over the person’s thoughts
- Rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, and an overwhelming desire to flee the situation—all the physical reactions associated with extreme fear
- Extreme measures taken to avoid the feared object or situation
It is immediately apparent that in order to be a phobia, the fear must outstrip the danger presented. I know I am downright afraid of pickpockets, but sometimes I’m even afraid of common magicians. I feel acutely aware that they know how to distract me with slight of hand to gain an advantage. A magician might only be using their skills for entertainment, but I’m afraid that they could just as easily lift my wallet.
So, given this knowledge about phobias and the other things that repulse me, I looked up how to conquer a phobia. The process is called desensitization:
Through desensitization, you “unlearn” the association between fear and your phobic object or activity. By handling the object or activity in a relaxed, comfortable state, you begin to unravel its connection with anxiety.
Desensitization relies on a phobia hierarchy, or ranking. The phobia must first be broken down into a hierarchy of separate scenes of increasing intensity. For example, if you are phobic of spiders, you can create the following hierarchy:
- Looking at a picture of a spider
- Touching a picture of a spider
- Looking at a toy spider
- Touching a toy spider
- Looking at a live spider
- Touching a live spider
- Holding a live spider
Desensitization is exactly the same process that television uses to depict more graphically violent and more sexually explicit content. Language seems to be a part of this desensitization. Don’t call it rape, call it strong sexual content. Don’t call it mass murder, call it violent graphic content. Don’t call it stealing, call it a unique business opportunity.
I’ve been making a less-than deliberate attempt to re-sensitize myself to things that God calls sin. I shouldn’t want find sin entertaining, but that describes most of what I fill my mind with in the evening. I am desensitized to this stuff. So what should I do?
One thing I know I can do is use God’s terminology; call something what God calls it. Adultery, murder, stealing, blasphemy, fornication, coveting, idolatry. That will align my thinking with God’s thinking. If I see or hear something that the bible calls sin, I will close my eyes or leave the room. I think I’m ready to stop watching R-rated movies and TV-MA rated shows, because I don’t have phobic reactions toward things that I know are harming me spiritually.
Maybe I could think of centipedes crawling on me when I’m going to see nudity on the screen. Maybe I’ll think of a Mid-Level Marketing scheme presentation when I have the desire to watch TV in the evening. I will think about this more, and come up with some experiments to try on myself. Sometimes I feel like my whole life is a setup to swindle me, and I want to change that.