THE ZOMBIE PARASITE
The horsehair worm that grows inside of crickets is up to something nefarious. When it wants to come out, it has to emerge in water.
But there’s a problem: it lives inside of an insect that lives on land. It needs to emerge stat, but how? This parasite — let’s call him Dave — has no control over its host.
Or so you’d think…
“What a pickle!” Dave says. “How am I going to convince this dude to drown himself in a pond?!”
Suddenly, a life-altering epiphany washes over his squirmy little body. Dave realizes that he must take matters into his own hands…er… cuticle (ie. his “outer-covering.”)
“I know!” Dave says. “I’ll take over Jiminy’s mind and draw him to water. The poor bastard won’t know what hit him!” (Cue menacing laughter!)
And so, Dave sets off on his adventure. He swims through Jiminy’s entrails, past the abdomen and thorax, and arrives at a control room inside of Jiminy’s mind.
He takes the captain’s chair, cracks his knuckles…er…cuticle, and steers Jiminy through grassy plains and muddy trails ahead. Eventually, they stumble upon a river.
Here, Jiminy obtains a glimmer of consciousness and realizes that he’s not where he’s meant to be.
Whoa, he thinks. Did I just have an out-of-body experience? How am I at the banks of the Potomac right now?
This level of consciousness rubs Dave the wrong way.
“Oh, fuck no,” Dave says. “I’m in control!” He pushes an emergency OVERRIDE button on the control dashboard. It zaps Jiminy back into a state of subconsciousness.
“Thaaaat’s it,” says Dave as Jiminy inches towards the water in a trance-like state, like a tortured artist who’s decided he’s had enough of Life.
And in no time, Jiminy’s fully submerged, resisting the urge to surface even as he draws his last cricket breath.
Meanwhile, back in the control room, flashing red sirens warn Dave that the time to eject is now.
“Roger that!” He slams his han…cuticle on the EJECT button. This opens a dome above his wormy head. And he’s propelled out of Jiminy’s body like a jet fighter who abandons his plane in mid-air combat.
Finally, Dave returns to the murky waters of his youth and immediately lays eggs so that a new generation of mind-controlling zombie parasites can wreak havoc upon the world of insects.
You may now mourn poor Jiminy: the suicidal cricket.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING?
Have you ever found yourself in a place that you didn’t intend to be? Or run a static red light when there wasn’t any traffic?
How about lying compulsively when you had nothing at stake and therefore no good reason to lie? And yet, those false words escaped your lips with authority and little effort, like you’ve been telling lies for years, so that the person on the receiving end doesn’t dare to question their authenticity.
Sometimes, our words and behaviors are so unbecoming of us it’s as if they belonged to someone else entirely. They’re in stark contrast with our personalities. They tarnish the credibility we’ve worked hard to build over time.
It’s as though the control rooms in our minds have been hijacked by “Dave”: an imposter-being who takes possession of our consciousness for a brief period of time so that we may justify doing the things we do regardless of who they hurt (including ourselves.)
And then, in the aftermath of Dave’s destruction, we “awaken” and return to our true selves. We take a deep breath, exhale and say, “I can’t believe I did that.”
CONFLICTS OF THE MIND
From bipolar personality disorder to dissociative amnesia, the field of psychology serves up a flavorful array of afflictions to suit all kinds of palates. So take your pick and come to terms with whatever it is that ails you. Otherwise, you might find yourself struggling to reconcile the unpleasant feelings your actions may cause.
Take the avid smoker who vows to eschew all cigarettes once his doctor breaks the sad news: Smoker Dude has stage-one lung cancer. It hasn’t spread to his lymph nodes yet, the doctor says, which means that Smoker Dude can prolong his life as long as he kicks the bad habit once and for all (doctor’s orders!)
But it’s a daunting task.
Smoker Dude’s been literally blowing through a pack of Marlboro Menthols every day for the past fifteen years. How in God’s green earth is he supposed to ace his rapid detoxification trial with flying colors?
Have you ever tried going cold-turkey before? It’s not technically a walk in the park. It requires precious will-power that many of us simply can’t muster overnight.
But Smoker Dude must do this if he wishes to live longer.
“Fine,” he says and sends a prayer up to high heaven and hopes that God Almighty blesses him with the strength he’ll need to overcome his life-threatening addiction.
And he succeeds at first! He goes a whole week without smoking!
But soon enough, he’s at the local 7-Eleven eyeing the wall of stacked cigarettes behind the counter that glisten under the fluorescent lights. UGH, they look so good, he thinks as the cashier rings him up.
“Uh, let me also have a pack of Menthols, please,” Smoker Dude says in a trance-like state, knowing full well that with each new cigarette he smokes he’ll be that much closer to death.
WE HEAR WHAT WE WANT TO HEAR
Humans are fickle as fuck.
We do things that harm our minds and bodies all the time. We can easily choose pain over pleasure or a combination of both. Following our disappointing behaviors, we’re left to cope with the unpleasant feelings they’ve stirred in us.
When we fail, we call ourselves pieces of shit or remind ourselves just how worthless we are. Then we admonish ourselves to do better, only to make the same mistakes over and over again.
To add insult to injury, when we fail to reconcile these internal conflicts on our own, we tend to seek validation for our mistakes from others. This is called confirmation bias: when we obtain approval for the behaviors that conflict with our ideas, values and belief-systems.
For instance, Smoker Dude may confide in a friend and share details about his relapse. “I caved!” He tells his friend. “I chain-smoked last Tuesday and now I’m heaving like a hypersexual goat!”
In good faith, Smoker Dude’s friend might validate these unpleasant feelings.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” his friend says. “You’re just learning to crawl before you can walk.”
This is by no means shitty advice. But we have to be adept at discerning when our loved ones are merely seeking confirmation as an excuse to fuck up yet again.
In Smoker Dude’s case, fighting addiction can be a series of battles rivaling all eight seasons of “Game of Thrones.” To win this great war, he must first win these battles.
Furthermore, we must let go of the stigma of “repeating the same mistakes.” Just because we fall for them repeatedly doesn’t mean that we’re these epic losers. When we blunder, it doesn’t mean that we can’t rise once more.
HOW TO REGAIN CONTROL
For starters, understand that you are not your mistake.
In Carol Tarvis and Elliot Aronson’s book, “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me),” the authors argue that the mistakes you make do not define the person you are. In other words, the person and the mistake are two different things.
If we could isolate situational factors contributing to our mistakes, and if we can weigh them against our own potential to prevent them in the future, we can then reconcile the shitty feelings of cognitive dissonance.
Also, it’s important to refrain from practicing confirmation bias. Otherwise, we’ll continue to fall victim to Dave’s nefarious plans.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s okay to confide in others, especially when we feel a kinship with someone who will listen to our woes intently rather than shitting on our feelings and looking the other way.
Heck, confiding in others might be the thing that saves you!
But do yourself a favor: don’t fool yourself, or anyone else for that matter, by hearing exactly what you want to hear.
Sometimes, the best medicine is to hear the opposite. (Call it “tough love” or whatever the fuck.)
Seek counsel from those who will “give it to you straight” and less from those who promise you that everything will be okay because they know that’s what you want to hear!
The road ahead won’t be easy, as Jiminy found out with his last breath.
But at least we can take control of where we’re headed through decisive action, openness to new (positive) thought patterns and practicing self-awareness.
PS. Dave hates these things, which is all the more reason for trying!