The familiar versus the beneficial
Are you addicted to sugar? Apparently most of us are, and it’s not good for us. It is now claimed there is “hard and fast data that sugar is toxic irrespective of its calories and irrespective of weight.” (TIME) And once sugar has become part of our make-up, those who indulge will carry on indulging, even when conscious that it is gradually undermining their health. “It shows that in the case of sugar, for instance, they have become victims to the sense of taste. In other words, the sensations produced by the sense of taste influence and finally govern their conduct.”
That last quote is not from TIME. It’s a little older, written in 1910 by F.M Alexander. He is talking about how our physical senses can come to dominate our common sense. We get used to the feeling of having sugar in our system, and when it is removed we feel bad, uncomfortable, perhaps even sick. So we return to eating sugar, to feel good again in the immediate, even though our common sense says that this is damaging us. The immediate physical sensation trumps the knowledge of what we are actually doing to ourselves.
The same goes for sitting, standing, playing violin, running – we all have ‘our own way’ of doing some or all of these things, and ‘our own way’ will feel right to us once we’ve gotten used to it. We may cast our rational mind over the situation and realise that slumping all day at a desk, holding a violin tensely, or running heavily is not a sensible thing to do – it must be undermining our health. Yet even when aware of this, we carry on indulging our slumping and tensing. The familiar feeling is what we look for.
Of course, this can be changed, as anyone who has altered their diet will know. Alexander again: “For instance, take the case of a person who is suffering from the ill effects of taking sugar in harmful quantities. If he happens to decide to abstain from satisfying his taste desires in regard to sugar, and actually abstains for, say, a week or ten days, it often happens that he loses the seductive pleasing sensation formerly derived from sugar, and frequently develops a positive dislike for it.” Similarly, we can develop a positive dislike for slumping, holding a violin tensely, or running heavily.
We are addicted to ‘our own way’, and while most of us now know of the dangers of sugar consumption, there is less awareness of the damage ‘our own way’ is doing. Just by getting up in the morning and doing the same things in the same way, you may be gradually injuring yourself. Especially if that involves three sugars in your cup of tea.