Not the Sum of the Parts

There’s this sense that people are composed of discrete emotional elements that can be easily separated and encapsulated if need be.

When I write it that way, it seems pretty idiotic, but I see it time and time again.

Perhaps if I offered an example, it will become more recognizeable.

“I really love so-and-so, but they have this one annoying pecadillo that drives me nuts.”

Maybe it’s more than a pecadillo. Maybe it’s a bad temper. Maybe it’s a degree of thoughtlessness. Maybe it’s something really dangerous.

These are not discrete emotional elements that can be easily ignored.

A person who has a violent temper will always have a violent temper, no matter how fantastic their oral sex skills might be. A person who is thoughtless will always be thoughtless no matter how much bacon they bring home.

I think a major cause for distress among many people is thinking that the things we see in romantic partners (and friends and business partners, and in other relationships) that would normally cause alarm are encapsulated and ignored as if they aren’t a part of the warp and weave of the person. Maybe the person exhibits some other aspect that temporarily overpowers it (such as oral sex, as mentioned above). I think this might be the case.

I know I’m not alone in having seen many people starting out new relationships with problems that they appear willing to ignore for reasons that sometimes border on lunatic. “But we’re in LOVE…!” is one of those examples.

I think it’s a version of Loss Boosting that I wrote about earlier, where a trait is inflated enough to buoy the rest of a broken system.

Don’t get me wrong — love is awesome. But a person isn’t a collection of parts, any one of which can be ignored.

A person is a gestalt.

A person isn’t “Fantastic except for that they punch me when I overcook the eggs.” That person is a puncher who acts extra fantastic to keep feeding the supposition that being sufficiently fantastic overcomes and allows them to encapsulate the tendency to punch. Or maybe they don’t have to act, because their victim is convinced that this is the best they can do and is willing to completely fabricate the quality of “fantastic,” because it then becomes okay to attempt to encapsulate and ignore the extra punchy quality.

When a person is interpreted as a gestalt, as a single entity that possess all these qualities, then the chances of encapsulating the unpleasant ones drops (well, at least one hopes they drop).

People aren’t the sum of their parts. They aren’t even parts. They’re whole beings. One may choose to associate or not with them, but that choice should be based on viewing them as a whole being.

It certainly seems to be the case that anything ignored in the present comes back even harder in the future, and who needs that kind of backlash to spice up their life?

Exactly — me neither.