This week’s journal topic: Solitude & Togetherness
Haven’t you had the experience of enjoying a salty, crunchy snack when suddenly you crave something sweet? You’ve got sensory fatigue – eating more of the salty snack will continue to decrease satisfaction. How do you get the enjoyment back? In order to enjoy the salty snack again, you need an intermission of something sweet: milk chocolate, ice cream, or some soda.
Here’s a question: After thinking about this scenario, would you say that tastes are opposites, or are they complimentary? It seems that if we overload the senses with salty snacks, then sweet is perceived to be an opposite.
But are sweet and salty really “opposites? Not really – they only appears so because of the extreme overload of flavor and the resulting flavor-fatigue. In fact, the flavors are complimentary. You can enjoy sweet and salty at the same time, or sour and sweet, or astringent and salty. If you combine the flavors instead of overloading your taste buds with one or another, you can enjoy some gourmet culinary experiences.
However, due to the abundance of snack foods available (not to mention our hard-wired cravings for salt and carbohydrate), most people lean towards one or another. Some default to sweet and then resort to salty; some default to salty and resort to salty. Regardless, failing to moderate your enjoyment leads to the experience of salty and sweet ‘opposites’.
Solitude gives Space for Love
Have you ever had an experience where you began to spend a lot of time with someone? You were inseparable as brand-new-besties or instant lovers. Nothing could get better than this feeling. He or she was everything you needed. The feeling seemed like it would go on forever and – WHAM! – suddenly you need to be alone.
It’s social fatigue, caused by the failure to moderate enjoyment of togetherness and solitude. Just as the overindulgence in salty results in dissatisfaction and craving for sweet, the extreme indulgence in togetherness has resulted in a strong desire to be alone. As soon as we get what we crave (that person who’s always there for us), we fail to moderate our time together and end up sabotaging the relationship.
What should be complimentary to each other become opposites, just like salty and sweet. Time together needs to be complimented by time apart. (By the way, “time apart” in our age requires both physical distance and time-off from calls and texts.) As the saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Together-time spent engaging verbally and dreamily eye-gazing can also be complimented by task-oriented or competitive couple time. During this time, each person acts as an individual and works on him or herself: going to yoga class together, competing at tennis, or studying independently but together.
Personality Types and Social Flavors
Similarly to how people either have a sweet tooth or crave salt, the introvert defaults to solitude and the extrovert defaults to togetherness. But the needs that underlie these personality types are not opposites. Introverts enjoy relationships and extroverts like to be alone sometimes.
Whether you want to have long-term culinary satisfaction or a long-term relationship, you need to learn to moderate your enjoyment and refine your palate to include complementary flavors. Going from salty to sweet and back again isn’t progress. Nor is going from single to married and back again.
- What is your experience with the salty-sweet cycle?
- Which “sophisticated”, gourmet foods have you tasted that subtly combine flavors?
- Could you ever get stuck in a salty-sweet cycle of these “sophisticated” foods?
- When have you experienced a whirlwind relationship or togetherness-overload? Describe the relationship from beginning to end, focusing on your emotions as they changed.
- Think of a couple you know who has stayed married for 30-plus years. Are they a counter-example (proving the opposite) of the overload/opposites phenomenon described, or not?
- Are “solitude” and “togetherness” opposites for you?
- As an extrovert or an introvert: What is one way you can moderate your actions in order to avoid a solitude-togetherness cycle?
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