Narcotization

From “Stranger than Fiction” by Chuck Palahniuk-

In college, we had to read about people shown pictures of gum disease. There were photographs of rotten gums and crooked, stained teeth, and the idea was to see how these images would affect the way people cared for their own teeth.

One group was shown mouths only a little rotten. The second group was shown moderately rotten gums. The third group was shown horrible blackened mouths, the gums peeled down, soft and bleeding, the teeth turned brown or missing.

The first study group, they took care of their teeth the same as they always had. The second group, they brushed and flossed a little more. The third group, they just gave up. They stopped brushing and flossing and just waited for their teeth to turn black.

This effect the study called “narcotization”,

This is huge.

Too much truth kills. Exposure to too much horror causes apathy. If someone witnesses a worst-case scenario, they might assume it’s inevitable. They might give up.

In poker, it’s the 2-outer on the river.

In basketball, landing on the wrong part of your foot, or someone else’s, shattering a career.

In relationships, I imagine it’s being cheated on at your wedding.

That’s what you give up to.

You stop playing correctly, trying to push the guy on the 2-outer out of the pot, instead of keeping him in for the 25 times you win out of 26.

You stop driving the lane.

You stop trusting people.

The real question is why people exposed to the best of the best don’t default the same way. Why don’t people who come across success and see the optimum example of performance, drive, and pinache “give up” trying to not be that?

Because it takes effort?

It takes effort to give up. You have to deny your impulses in such a destructive way as to deny they exist. You have to hold them underwater until bubbles stop coming up.

Is horror really that effective at influencing? If so, why isn’t it harnessed? I’d love to be terrified of not being happy. I’d love to be scared to death of not being a billionaire, if it produces these results.

I’d love to be petrified of not living my life, en todo.

Maybe it’s not the horror of the situation, maybe the influence is the bleeding gums filling the gap created when we fail to think of our own gums. Why the hell would we think about our gums? I don’t have the energy to do that for every part of my body that needs care. I brush, I floss. Well, I brush. Beyond that, fuck my gums. I can’t believe that if I saw a picture of rotten gums that I wouldn’t be spurred into action.

Is it that they’re beyond help? That the gums have been taken to a level of dental hell such that they’re unrecoverable? How does this encourage letting them get that way?

As a horrifying prospect, perhaps it’s that it’s not THAT bad. You look, you say “I could live with that. Those people are living with that. I may not be getting steamy hot tub makeout sessions with supermodels, but that would free up my Friday nights for Parcheesi with the guys.”

I don’t understand, but I’m not hopeless, and apparently that’s the problem.

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