TEASING: A NEW PSYCHOLOGICAL LOOK

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Teasing is a psychological state which is crucial to understanding human nature, and yet, as far as I know, it has never been given its due.

Teasing is ubiquitous—most of us tease, consciously, or impulsively—but teasing is also highly ambiguous and complex—part of its nature is to disappear into other modes—humor, cruelty.

But why does teasing fall completely below the radar of social science? Apart from its hiding capacity, the most obvious reason why teasing as a legitimate psychological category eludes researchers, scholars, and distinguished and credentialed pedants of all stripes, is that teasing refuses to take itself, or others, seriously—therefore it naturally eludes all serious study.

The pithy remarks of an Oscar Wilde belong to the comic stage or the quotation book; serious scholars shudder at the idea of Wilde’s teasing wit upending their authoritative conclusions. One of teasing’s many manifestations is wit, destructive wit—the enemy of science, philosophy, and religion. “The best way to resist temptation is to give into it,” laughs Oscar. Teasing is walled off—even as it promotes wise laughter—from the wise investigations of the pundit.

I will now give teasing the prominence it deserves.

Let me posit the two most obvious modes of human behavior and psychology, which occupy the opposite sides of the behavioral spectrum—fighting on one side, and cooperation, affection, or love on the other. We’ll call it love, for simplicity’s sake. Hate and love. The fighting impulse and the loving impulse.

Teasing, as I see it, is perfectly suited to connect the two, to occupy the third, or middle ground which partly interacts with hate and partly interacts with love. Teasing, as is well known, and which I have observed above, is an extremely common behavior which covers a great deal of ambiguous psychological territory—teasing can be affectionate and humorous; we tease those we like, we tease those we want to like more, and we tease those with whom we feel extremely comfortable.

Teasing can be neutral—we tease to find out how much a person can take, and this can be part of just getting to know a person, though it can seem invasive, even if it’s done out of friendliness or curiosity.

Teasing can also be vindictive, insulting, terrible.

And teasing can seem cruel, even if this is not its intention.

We would expect nothing less of this far-reaching cloud of ambiguity which unites hate and love.

What is life but a tease?

The mature soul understands the tease of admiring and desiring things which we both hate and love—the teasing mixture.

The craven person and the child don’t deal in hybrids—they only love or hate.

Maturity deals with the hybrid, and is resigned to being teased constantly.

The immature person viciously avoids being teased, and takes a sadistic delight, quite often, in teasing.

Teasing, then, is good and bad.  Which should be expected, since hate sits on one shoulder, and love on the other.

Teasing rounds out love and hate as a three-part psychology—and teasing, itself, exists in three parts, friendly, neutral, and hostile.

Satire, a form of teasing, can run the gamut from hostile to elevating, depending on how it is seen; satire can be a nasty political weapon, or it can use literature to gently seek truth.

Poetry, which today is mostly officious and uptight, once indulged in the sweet rivalry of teasing.  Who can forget Byron teasing the poet laureates of England, William Wordsworth and Robert Southey?

“Go little book, from this, my solitude!
I cast thee on the waters—go thy ways!
And if, as I believe, thy vein be good,
The world will find thee after many days.”
When Southey’s read, and Wordsworth’s understood,
I can’t help putting in my claim to praise—
The first four rhymes are Southey’s every line:
For God’s sake, reader! Take them not for mine.

Teasing has this most important property: the ability to defuse hate (because it is comedy) and the equal ability to defuse love (because it is ridicule)—teasing can lead to war or love, with cunning or accidental, suddenness.

Teasing can be sweet and appropriate, or embarrassing and clumsy, depending on all sorts of psychological, material, and personal skill factors, both natural and learned.

Is it any wonder that ubiquitous, ambiguous teasing belongs prominently in the middle of the two most defined poles of human behavior—the fighting impulse, and the cooperative one?

Further, teasing is a directional indicator—it can be an intellectual vehicle to move towards love, or an intellectual vehicle to move towards hate. Or it can simply exist for itself, a buffer against hate to “keep the peace,” a buffer against love to “remain grounded.”

Most of us, in fact, live in the ambiguous state of teasing all the time, with a cloudy, occluded, semi-curious, bemused view of all those “higher” issues that escape teasing, and make life serious, or thrilling, or sublime, or tragic. We giggle at the serious, and feel protected, and rather content, in our “teasing” bubble, as we stay clear of serious hate on one side and serious love, on the other, each pole dangerous for different, and perhaps similar (!) reasons. Teasing is a highly effective means to deal with hate—to ridicule what we dislike, so that we laugh, an effective way of dealing with our own anger and dislike. And satire is a way for us to safely contemplate love—aren’t comedians, with their worldly, urbane personalities, genuinely wise when it comes to the dangers, extremes, and follies of love?

The danger is, that if we laugh too hard, we will never love, again.

Just as if we hate too much, we will never love again.

It may be comfortable to always mock, but teasing is also wrapped up in fear. Teasing is real; it is not just an occasional strategy.

Teasing eclipses love and hate. Teasing also eclipses real feelings.

Some people never reach a state of sublime love—it’s nothing but Romantic poppycock to them—the goal of love is merely a sad, or perhaps an amusing, tease to them; either they have no partner, or, if they do, it is a lover or husband whom they don’t quite love—but they tease them, sometimes affectionately, sometimes cruelly, and these feeling-states are really the best they can do, so vast is that middle ground of teasing, hovering between hate and love.

The thing about teasing is that it allows us to tease, but it also teases us.

In this ambiguous, granular state of continual confusion, in the middle-ground, teasing mode, we glimpse the warrior and the lover, truly sublime figures who truly live, dimly, as in a mist. The teasing state really doesn’t know anything. Teasing is an attitude, not knowledge. Teasing has no true feelings, though it has a general sense of what they are, since it exists beside hate and love. In the teasing state we ridicule all those who take life seriously. We intellectualize, but in a fraudulent manner. We know ourselves to be frauds. We only know small things at small moments. All we can do, with any vigor at all, is mock.

The whore has no philosophy. Those completely without love, the whore and the recluse, represent the two extremes—the whore teases; the recluse is teased.  The whore and the recluse are both anti-social. Society finds it difficult to function if there are too many of these in their ranks.

And those with extremist views (who politicians cynically weaponize) become even more extremist when they are teased about their views.  When someone tells you that you are wrong, that is one thing, but when someone tells you are wrong as they are laughing, that is another thing altogether.

Teasing, in itself, is neither good nor bad. It is a highly social way of behaving—it can mollify, it can lead to friendships, but it can also incense and enrage.

A recluse shies away from teasing.

A whore loves to tease.

It is a cliché to say the whore is stupid, but it’s always true. All they can do is tease. They laugh at both hate and love, and this is their intellectual position, the intellectual position of all who remain in the ambiguous state of mockery and bland, mindless, ambiguity.

To the whore, all intellectuals to them are one person: Woody Allen, a guy who talks very fast, in a high voice. If the Woody Allen makes them laugh, they are OK, but if the intellectual should turn “serious,” the whore only hears a high voice talking too fast, and nothing the intellectual says when the intellectual is being “serious” matters, or makes any sense. Which is probably true, since most intellectuals are frauds.

The whore sees men in three ways; they are either rapists, or a Woody Allen—who might occasionally amuse them by making them laugh—or finally a man with a hairy mustache, a nice stubble, who mumbles in French, in a deep voice, and has a big jaw and tiny eyes (see! I tease) whom the whore perhaps wishes to sleep with. Of course the man with the mustache, whom the whore favors, is not a real person, as unreal as the whore herself—a mere collection of errant atoms—who teases, and is teased, by a reality that remains shut to them, in their ambiguous state of mockery and stupidity. There is nothing they can know, and their “philosophy” is “we cannot know anything!” The male equivalent to the whore is the cunning, ambiguous, fake-intellectual man who is determined to tease the whore whom he is attracted to—to give her a dose of her own medicine. Knowledge is absent. Everything is impulse. All intellectuality in this realm is merely teasing, to give oneself a temporary, mocking, advantage.

There is nothing wrong with living in the teasing state—it is where everyone, except the psychopath, or the genius, lives. It belongs to the sad, charming smile of humility; it resides with humorous affection. It is a guard against extremes. It is the mystery in which we dwell with a smile.

But life is not truly lived, or experienced to its fullest, obviously, if the middle ambiguous, teasing realm is the only place we live.

What we mock aloud in polite company could be what we truly hate and abhor, but it could be just as easily what we secretly desire.

Mockery pushes aside everything, the bad and the good. Teasing can just as easily kill love as mitigate hate.

What remains in our hearts as secret, inarticulate, unspoken, mysterious desire will be forever vanquished by the mockery of polite company, by the stand up comedian, by the “common sense” prudence of smiling, daily life.

How can we truly live—not vicariously, but in ourselves—the beautiful, the good, the passionate life?

And how can we tell the difference between “ourselves” and whatever happens to be filling ourselves up, and needs to be ridiculed away?

We cannot.

The only way to know if something is both real and good, is by its ideal existence, as glimpsed in, and through, the beauty of artistic wisdom. The test of what you love is if it is immune to ridicule and mockery.

Two obstacles commonly stand in the way when a person attempts to reach the beautiful and the sublime—the impulsive mockery of the whore, and the cunning mockery of the fraudulent intellectual.

You will know the good by this: if what is bad mocks it.

I recently heard one of our contemporary sages (Alain de Botton) speak on the subject of love to a large audience. As a so-called philosopher who writes popular books, it was apparent to me after a few minutes why he has more notoriety than most contemporary intellectuals; it could have been the educated English accent, but I think it was more due to the fact that his lecture was more like stand-up comedy; he had the educated audience tittering as he spoke of love, of which he was, of course, mocking, as a quite impossible, and rather imaginary thing. The target of his mockery was Romanticsm, which he claimed sprang up in the “middle late 18th century,” with its emphasis on love as “special feelings” that mysteriously claim us when we happen to meet our “soul mate.” Romanticism, a view which we still have not escaped, according to de Botton, Romanticism, a response to arranged marriages of the past, based on property and such, was a nice thing, he acknowledged, but it was doomed to failure, since seeing love as the joining of two “angels” who are “made for each other” would inevitably lead to disappointment and probably lead to adultery. We all contain “crazy,” de Botton said, and he got a big laugh when he suggested the following wedding present: the bride and groom should exchange books which outline exactly how they are crazy and impossible to live with, up close, and in close quarters.

Because he’s a fraudulent intellectual, he neglected to mention that Romanticism was espoused way before the 18th century—one quickly thinks of Plato’s “Symposium,” of Dante and Petrarch—but more importantly, his description of Romanticism was superficial and naive, taking platitudes of synopsis scum which rise to the top of the ocean as the truth of the matter, all so that he could have a target set up for ridicule and mockery. Talking very fast, like most intellectuals, he had to be a Woody Allen—be funny—to get in good with his paying audience. At one point he made fun of Keats’ death by consumption at a young age—early death was a convenient way to end the silly love experiments of the Romantics, don’t you see? Right. Ha. Ha. And the audience, not embracing his words, but the whole attitude of mocking cynicism upon which his lecture was based, obediently laughed.

The Romantic poets, Shelley and Keats, did not naively believe in lovers as twin “angels;” their poetry is full of beauty and despondency—the anguish of the true lover in the face of whorish artificially, as personified by cynical, whorish buffoons like Alain de Botton, with their educated facades.

I only allude to this talk on Romanticism because great poetry—and the major Romantic poets are exemplary—is perhaps the best way to escape fraudulent intellectualism and the continual prison of mockery and teasing, and move closer to genuine philosophical interest and the life we wish to passionately live.

But the prison (and herd-like safety) of the teasing realm is not something that I can say I have escaped. I do not mean to set myself apart as a true intellectual, or as one who has achieved genuine love.

We are all finally trapped by teasing.

Something as primitive as our own bodily pain we feel cannot be mocked. But it can. The reason I might feel a tremendous pain in my nether regions as I hurry to find a restroom is precisely my pain letting me know I must perform this duty.

But were I later to recall this “pain” in front of my peers, as part of a more elaborate story, or not, the atmosphere would of course be one of laughter.

Mockery cannot be escaped.

Were I, myself, to claim that I know love, or that I, myself, am not a fraudulent intellectual, even within the bounds of a self-conscious essay such as this, I would be ridiculed and mocked.

As I should be.

We are always more teased, than teasing.

And hate and love do belong to a misty distance, a tease of a true passion we may never know, or need to know, or be worthy to know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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