A Roller Coaster of Interpretation: The Leviathan Of Habit

Posted on July 18, 2012

4


On Friday, I rode Leviathan, the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Canada. It was awesome.

A CHILDHOOD FANTASY COME TRUE

As a kid, did you ever fantasize about having an amusement park to yourself?

Wonderland’s Fast Lane Pass comes pretty close to making that fantasy come true.

We were strapped into Leviathan for a second ride before the adrenaline rush of the first had subsided. The third ride, too.

RETURN OF THE REPRESSED

Towards the end of the day, I noticed a spike in anxiety.

Some part of my brain had decided that, as the greatest amusement park experience of my life carried on, the chance that something bad was going to happen was increasing.

Rationally, I told myself that such a worry was irrational, but the part of my brain that was anxious refused to listen.

Nothing went wrong, of course, but I was on edge the rest of the weekend, as part of my brain looked for the disaster it was sure would happen.

THE LEVIATHAN OF HABIT

As a kid, I received less than than ideal parenting.

If my household went for any period of time without some kind of major meltdown, it meant one was sure to happen soon. The longer we went without a meltdown, the sooner the next one loomed.

I suspect part of my brain identified and learned this pattern early on. When things got going good, part of my brain learned to get ready for them to go bad.

Whether this pattern truly existed or was only a childhood misperception, it’s certainly not true of the world, amusement parks, and roller coasters. A good run of peace, fun, and/or goodness does not increase the likelihood of disaster, crisis, or hardship anymore than a string of heads increases the likelihood of flipping tails.

THE UNIVERSAL IN THE PERSONAL

Of course, the notion that a run of good luck increases the chance of an instance of bad luck crops up everywhere in human culture, from karma to divine retribution to the Gambler’s Fallacy.

Perhaps, because the species evolved in a culture and climate of violence, where tall poppies were always eventually cut down, a primate that looked for an always inevitable assault when things were going good had some kind of reproductive advantage.

Perhaps, the alpha primate who sees enemies everywhere survives longer and reproduces more often.

THE GOOD NEWS

It’s quite rare now that my brain slips into a corkscrew of anxiety because it’s experiencing a streak of good fortune. Moreover, as far as I can tell, I’m aware of it when it happens now, so I can keep the anxiety in check and not find the hardship the anxiety seeks. The prophecy of my anxiety is no longer self-fulfilling.

Ring any bells? Let me know below.