Escape Your Inhibitions

Submitted by Chris Webster on Fri, 2006/12/01 - 07:47
An Intimate History of Humanity

Avoid confrontation, says Laborit, because its only result is to establish an order of dominance, such as monkeys seek when they fight to decide who may mate with whom. Once you are caught in the competition for superiority, you lose your independence. The purpose of life – he speaks as a biologist – is to survive, which requires one to keep calm, to avoid stress. He has measured the stress of rats he tormented in his laboratory: those he allowed to run away into another compartment had a normal blood pressure one week after the experiments. However, when he prevented the rats from escaping, even a month later their blood pressure was still high; when they can find no way out, they develop ulcers and lose weight, and hope, so that when the cage is opened, they are too frightened to escape. A third set of rats were put in cages in pairs, and while prevented from escaping, were allowed to fight each other; after being subjected to the same torments, their blood pressure remained normal. Fighting and running away, he concludes, are alternative ways of countering stress; but fighting, if successful, becomes addictive and draws you into the stress of a competitive life; moreover there will be occasions when it is impossible to fight your competitors, so you will fight against yourself, and that will produce stress. It is better, he insists, to run away.

And when circumstances do not permit you to escape physically, you can do so in your thoughts. The imagination is the only part of you which nobody and no group can touch. You may be powerless, but in your imagination you can transform the world. The best escapologists are artists who abstract themselves from the realities of daily life and from the constraints of hierarchy; they create worlds of their own, expressing their independence and originality. Laborit does not advocate running away in order to avoid emotion, for that would leave you colourless and indifferent. Every artist must be a dissatisfied person, even an anxious one, but being an artist means that one is dedicated to discovering ways of making that anxiety fruitful and beautiful.

Of course, the employees of a mean and nasty boss cannot always escape, because they would simply be condemning themselves to unemployment. They cannot always fight, because there is a hierarchy organised to paralyse them. So they become ‘inhibited’. People who do not have enough information to decide how to react to a threat also become inhibited, as they do when they have too much information. Inhibitions engrave themselves in the memory, which mindful of past failures, discourages action and so encourages more failures. Laborit has found a chemical which inhibits inhibitions, though new problems then arose. Meanwhile he urges people to escape from their inhibitions in every way possible, by talking, or writing, or getting angry, or insulting those who annoy them. Otherwise the inhibitions will destroy their health, by inhibiting their immune system, and they will develop psychosomatic illnesses, which is a way of punishing oneself when others fail to understand one.

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