So, as we all know, self-control is good, and important, and the strongest predictor of children’s success in later life, and all of that. But sometimes it’s good to lose control too. Nietzsche knew that it’s not all about the self-controlled virtues of Apollo. Sometimes you need a bit of Dionysus too. Here are my top five times when it’s good to lose control:
1) On the dancefloor
Dionysus was right. Sometimes, it is deeply fulfilling to let yourself go on the dancefloor, and switch from the conscious control of your higher cognitive functions to the deep bass drum of the limbic system.
2) When you get helpless giggles
Isn’t it the best when something makes you laugh so much that you can’t actually stop? Isn’t that a blessed and forbidden release of self-control and social control?
3) When you’re in love
OK sometimes this isn’t a good thing, like when you’re helplessly drawn to someone who is obviously not into you and who might actually be bad for you. On those occasions, it really is ‘falling’ in love: you get jealous, paranoid, possessive, helpless, passive, and so on. But all love involves losing control, to some extent. And love has to be one of the most deeply fulfilling experiences life has to offer.
4) When you’re travelling
Going to a foreign country, particularly a developing country, is a voluntary adventure beyond the limits of self-control. You’re putting yourself in a vulnerable position, going beyond your comfort zone. And that’s the excitement and fun of it.
5) On hallucinogenics
This is even more risky. I’ve had some bad experiences on hallucinogenics, which have left scars, and some of my friends have been even more hurt – one of them is still in a mental home, after an LSD trip triggered a psychotic episode and left him with paranoid schizophrenia. And yet, I still think some of my experiences on magic mushrooms and LSD were the most profound I have had in my life. Terrifying, of course, to lose control to that extent, but you are sometimes rewarded. Though you can also get really hurt. That’s Dionysus for you.
I hope people don’t think I’m being irresponsible, to say that taking hallucinogenics can be a worthwhile experience, considering all the suffering that I’ve seen it cause. But tripping is a profound human experience – as Aldous Huxley wrote, it really is an experience of heaven and hell.