In 1901, Ivan Pavlov began his historical research into Classical Conditioning. In short, the experiments involved a form of neutral unrelated stimulus together with a separate stimulus (such as food). Pavlov discovered that whilst a dog would innately salivate at the sight of food; after a while the dog would salivate at the sight of lab technician whom provided the food. In short, Pavlov discovered that the mind can be conditioned.
Similarly, James Watson proved the case for classical conditioning in humans, using his famed “Little Albert Experiment” in which a child was presented on a table with a rat. The child showed no sense of fear toward the animal. After a while, the lab assistant would make a loud sound the moment the rat was presented, which distressed the child to the point of tears. Within a short span of time, the child became distressed and began to cry simply at the sight of a rat.
I am coming to the rather unnerving conclusion that my mind is masterfully deceitful in so much as it airs a Pavlovian-type response without much effort whatsoever. For example, as a child my parents would drink a lot of alcohol. Not necessarily to the point where they were struggling to walk a straight line, but just enough to allow them to lose all sense of rationale. They would argue constantly. There would be mental abuse from both of them, there would be throwing of objects. The arguments were childish, the bickering was ridiculous, they would keep threatening to split up, and for a young child it has quite a worrying affect. And it was all because of the alcohol.
When I was 16, a group of kids who live close to me, and were my age were often very very drunk, they would fight, they would provoke innocent people, they would steal, they would just be absolutely disgusting. They threatened me a few times, and being the non-confrontational person that I am, I simply shrugged it off. But, on a weekend, I’d dread going out at night in case I bumped into them, I knew that they would beat the living shit out of me. Luckily, I avoided them, but they remain the only few people I’ve ever truly hated, and still hate. All because when they drink, they become scum.
When I was 14, walking my friend back to his house, through a graveyard, a group of around 15 guys stopped us. They were so incredibly drunk and stoned that they threatened me for absolutely no reason. “I’ll fucking cave your skull in” was one of the threats. One of the guys punched my friend right in the face and followed it up with one to the back of the head. As I stepped up to pull him out, one of the other guys (who was just intensely muscular) pulled me back and threatened to kill me. He then shouted to the other lads “We’ve got another here, watch me kick the shit out of him“. At this point, two older gentleman walked past and we were able to get away. My instant thought was “what have we done to deserve this?” Of course, the answer is that we’d done nothing to deserve it, we were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. For a 14 year old, it’s horribly scary. It consumes you. You feel unable to leave the house through absolute terror. These people suddenly have an intense control over your life, and you learn to deal with it, whilst all the time resenting the fact that you have to deal with it.
I distanced myself from a lot of “friends” by the time I was 17. I’m still trying to distance myself from certain people. I have become overly careful about who I trust, and who I associate with. Despite any front I may invariably put on, I’m disastrously insecure. And much of that insecurity can be traced back to bad experiences through alcohol. I do not want to end up like those kinds of people.
Since those days, I’ve developed a deep Pavlovian inspired hatred toward alcohol. I hate how people become after a few drinks. I hate how violent a night out can be, or how cruel people are to me when they’ve had a drink. I hate how abusive they become. I hate how then when they fuck up, the next day, they blame it on the alcohol. Why drink, if you can’t actually handle it? I hate how everyone around me, is more interested in talking about how much they drank on a Saturday night, than anything else in life. I find it boring, repetitive, and slightly pretentious. Why am I the boring one, when the extent of a conversation with a drunk after a Saturday night, is which gutter they threw up in? I couldn’t give less of a shit if I tried.
I am fully aware that the majority of people are perfectly able to enjoy a night out whilst knowing their limits with alcohol, and that’s fine. I certainly don’t have a problem with those people. And whilst I myself feel a sense of classical conditioning in so much as I’ve learnt to associate alcohol, with violence and a loss of humanity, I fear those who go out purely to get “hammered” have been conditioned to believe that a Saturday night must involve alcohol. I have also been horribly conditioned (I cannot change how I feel, I wish I could) to view all people out drunk on a friday night, as little clones of each other. No different.
I become horribly uncomfortable around drunk people. It is perhaps a fountain of paranoid misery raining down in my mind, that tells me that those around me who are drunk, are going to end up being abusive and threatening to me. I can’t actually handle it. It remains a predicament though, because on the one hand it is a little juvenile of me to blame a substance rather than the personality of the person abusing the substance, but on the other hand the substance is the catalyst for the immensely unpleasant change in personality that occurs. I suppose I’ll split the resentment between the personality, and the substance. Either way, I’m fully aware of how weak minded I am for allowing myself to fall victim to such simple conditioning.
Problem solved. Pavlov would be proud.