A reflection on reaction as drive


I just realized the most amazing thing!

If you can stop the compulsive next-action, next-action sequence—by which I mean the act and intending that drives the next-action, next-action, which Buddhist call Tanha—then what do you find?

During moments of EXP, when I am forced to become mindful of my automaticity, what to I uncover?

I feel something terrible—so terrible that I want to deny it’s existence through reaction. Reaction is a magickal process that invents its own cause through play-acting.

Damien Karras, Babblings After Dark

Let’s say that there is some deep regret or fear or PROBLEM. Something gravely significant. Some story that tears you to pieces. Let’s call this thing Problem X.

You are normally lost in fantasy, lost in projection, lost in made-up goals, made-up world, made-up “I am this and I care about that and I’m all about doing, being, and having this and that. Blah blah …” This is the story that carries you forward. It is born in your perineum and then shoots out the top of your head, normally. But we steer this DOING into the service of—and this is terrible—reaction.

Get to close to Problem X with your naked feeling and naked intelligence, and the next thing you know you’re off talking about and caring about and aiming towards something else in a totally different ballpark. Your “spontaneity” is always percolating with “innate interests.” Bullshit. What’s is driving you is not your anal core, but a fearful hurting that throws up a universe in response to pain. It throws it up in hopes of losing you. You feel better in a dream. And the goal of life is to make your life a dream that distracts you from your pain.

When your orbit spirals in towards the real deal—Problem X—you suddenly find yourself (which is ipso facto not one since it’s agency did’t take you there, drifter) very interested in chasing after this or that really interesting Not-X. So you shoot off in order to do something.

This process of following one invented distraction after another lets you know something important. You think that the truth is too hot to handle, that what is really going on inside you is too much for you to deal with.

When I stop running, I feel a surge of fear. It’s terrible. It makes me crave unreality! That is—I want what it’s already too late to rationally (feasibly) want. That is—I want what is real to not-be so that what-I-want-to-be (my own secretions) can be real.

To goal of reaction is substitution.

So I invent a fantasy narrative and crave that instead. I can enter into my own fantasies, after all. Freud is absolutely right about his secondary reality model of denial. The real pain-maker is too much to think about. We are already feeling it, and the feeling is so great that gladly enter into self-delusion. We invite it! We make something up and then say, Look what I just found! We exploit the Meaning Maker to speak something from nothing and then our imagination to “find” it out there in space and time. We paint over space and time with The Story—that is, we schematize it into reality. That is to say—we find spaces of emptiness in the world that will accept our paint. We exploit leeways to hold our pessimisms.
The thing is: we like the paint better than the canvas. We own the pain. It’s familiar. It’s literally ideal—that is, made out of self-stuff. We secrete our drama and then drown in it.

In fact we invent the whole of experience whole-cloth. Strictly speaking, there is really only (a) feeling, and (b) mathematical predicates. And these exist against the background of Euclidean space—a canvas that I know to be neither empty nor Euclidean. But for us it is! If the brain can invent the Newtonian illusion and a real but empty 3-space for us to live in, how much more easily can it make the drama that we really care about?

I am always constructing a fantasy, and I fill it in with all the details necessary to make my secreted shelter convincing.
The topic today is reaction. My instinct to turn away from the other’s gaze, and invent myself as a convincing projection. I act out a character. This is the hole I dive into when I feel the fear of being-looked-at by you. We lock eyes and then … I panic. Do I look good? Will you vote for or against me?

Reaction Museum

Disaster preparation

I learned this one from Dad! This is how I internalized his compulsive mongoose-esque horror-making and made it my own.

  1. A tiny feeling will come.
  2. What have you done recently that could possible be a cause for this feeling? Reflect on something you just did. What did you do and what did it mean?
  3. No matter: disaster is immanent.
  4. Now: prepare for disaster. Doing this will ensure the snowballing of the sensation into a gigantic (but schematized) horror.

This automatic snowballing of sensation, via very dark story, into massive sensation—meant to energize us with vigilance for survival—is just another way by which we try to hide from a feeling that’s already here.

That feeling now. It’s palpitation-making. Dark regrets are easily summoned.