(Disclaimer: This piece is NOT about the Dream Theater song 'Stream of Consciousness.')
I’m lying in bed in the darkness of my room, trying to go to sleep – I feel utterly defeated in this endeavour. The mind is a terrible thing, and it takes me again and again to the darkest, most unsavoury alleys in murky Memory Lane. It’s as if I am constantly drowning in a cesspool of the most embarrassing moments of my life every time I try to go to sleep.
12: 25 A.M.
Just four years ago my physics teacher declared in front of the whole class that I’m a good for nothing urchin who doesn’t belong in the classroom but on the streets. The streets! How dare she?! All for what? Because I was looking out of the window, admiring the beauty of nature? Surely, what was happening outside the window was much more appealing than the deathly atmosphere she always created in class with her monotone lectures about electromagnetism and latent heat.
All my friends were giggling around me while she continued to deride me, explaining in unnecessary depth how badly I would do in my exams if I didn’t try to understand these complex concepts, how such distractedness reflects poor attention span and lack of respect for the teacher, and how I was being instrumental in decimating the decorum of the classroom. Why, thank you Ms. Physics Teacher for not only ‘setting me straight’ that day, but also managing to obliterate the reputation I had heretofore maintained amongst my most respectable peers, who by now were guffawing unabashedly.
I swear, if I could travel in time, I’d travel back to the moment that teacher had applied to the school, disguised myself as a member of the school staff, and would have purposely filed her application letter under the ‘Rejected’ section in the Records Office, just so that it would be someone other than her teaching us physics that fateful day in class.
How could she jump to conclusions about me so foolhardily? She doesn’t know me beyond the classroom. There’s more to me than nature-appreciation and subject-indignation. The dispiritedness that had precipitated in me because of her callous, tactless remarks was undue to me, and has caused me a ridiculous amount of embarrassment over many days that followed. It’s not as if everyone else in my class was a beacon of perfection, so why did she have to single me out then?
But you see, it’s not entirely her fault. She just used me to make an example out of, and being a teacher, she has to use some means or the other. I’m sure she ignored us many times when we were fooling around too. Gosh, I don’t know what to think.
Why is it that we focus so much on the negative, even when it is something from our distant or not so distant past? It’s a defence mechanism, sirs and ma’ams. One will constantly try to reinterpret situations which have had ostensibly negative effects on one, and reinterpret them in a way such that it makes the situation okay, or close to desirable. If you suddenly recall a situation that you don’t remember fondly, you will tend to fixate on it until you’re able to justify to yourself that all was good, and that everything had happened the way it should have.
On the other hand, another psychological goblin hard at work here is our brain’s negativity bias: unpleasant news, remarks, incidents, and opinions tend to have a greater influence on us than positive ones, and this is probably due to our tendency to proactively get rid of any ‘risks’ such unpleasantness may bear. For example, if someone tells you out of spite that you’re really careless and remiss, but you are in reality very fastidious, you’ll still worry over how that other person may be right about you and how you need to change yourself, when really you don’t. What happens is that we worry about risks that aren’t really (necessarily) there.
But even knowing all this has not solved the problem of not being able to go to sleep early every night, or maybe it’s just my life that’s so full of embarrassment. Either way, I wish I had those knockout pills Tom used on Spike so that he wouldn’t wake up even as he proceeded to annihilate the joint trying to catch Jerry.