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Aromanticism and the Hedonic Treadmill


Mirrorreaper
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Let me preface this with the fact that this is an idea I have and if you Google it nothing comes up so Im starting from scratch here but I think it could be a valuable discussion for us aros to have:

 

Among alloromantics, the panic surrounding the hedonic treadmill and the return to baseline after the high they feel over romantic sensations can create a toxic feedback loop of demanding emotional labour or leaving a partner when the relationship changes.

 

Some aros like me simply dont have that response, or our treadmill loops are smaller/or more stable, and thus the stress of romance/losing the "honeymoon period feelings" simply isnt there for us. 

 

Some allos I think are obsessed with chasing the high point of the treadmill that baseline can feel traumatic because amatonormativity tells us that it's a failure on your part, or well on anyones part for not loving someone the way it tells you that you must(Im sure you've seen it before play out in the trope of some people having kids to keep a marriage together, or in the standard "I dont want our relationship to change" TV trope.

 

Some people neurologically and psychologically are less sensitive to the loops of the hedonic treadmill. There have been studies Which show that emotionally romantic relationships can be quite rocky and the pursuit of romantic "happiness " can be stressful for couples/polycules/allos. 

 

Whats the hedonic treadmill?

The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.[1] According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness. Brickman and Campbell coined the term in their essay "Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Society" (1971).[2]During the late 1990s, the concept was modified by Michael Eysenck, a British psychologist, to become the current "hedonic treadmill theory" which compares the pursuit of happiness to a person on a treadmill, who has to keep walking just to stay in the same place. From Wikipedia

 

The reason for this post: I see a LOT of the dominating discourse being about our validity and legitimacy, or glossaries of terms, and little to nothing discussing the state of being oriented aro, or, how, like other oppressive societal regimes, amatonormativity as it stands today hurts everyone. I just wish to see more in depth and more mature discussions being had about being aromantic. 

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On 7/31/2019 at 10:29 PM, Mirrorreaper said:

I just wish to see more in depth and more mature discussions being had about being aromantic. 

I think you can find those discussions on here, if you dig around a little.

 

Myself and others have, for example, speculated on here that romantic love plays a significant ideological role in maintaining state-capitalist system hegemony. As in, people may be more likely to put up with the somewhat shitty 'stick' of our present social contract in the context a degenerating/failing overarching system, if the 'carrot' of transcendent romantic fulfillment is being ever dangled tantalisingly in front of them by that same system? In this sense, I think romantic love has come to take on a similar ideological buttressing role within late stage state-capitalist systems to the role that religious belief in the afterlife took on in a previous era (back when Marx was writing about it as 'the opiate of the people'). Romantic love gets taken almost spiritually, as something that can be expected to wash away all our worldly sins and troubles, finally bring fulfillment and wholeness to empty and fractured lives (just listen to the songs on popular radio and many of them strike me as having this underlying message). And, crucially, romantic love does this in a way that IMO presents no meaninful challenge to the ideological basis of the system that so disproportionaty promotes it (similar to how encouraging focus on fulfillment in the afterlife could be used to distract from agitations for fulfillment in this life).

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12 hours ago, NullVector said:

I think you can find those discussions on here, if you dig around a little.

 

Myself and others have, for example, speculated on here that romantic love plays a significant ideological role in maintaining state-capitalist system hegemony. As in, people may be more likely to put up with the somewhat shitty 'stick' of our present social contract in the context a degenerating/failing overarching system, if the 'carrot' of transcendent romantic fulfillment is being ever dangled tantalisingly in front of them by that same system? In this sense, I think romantic love has come to take on a similar ideological buttressing role within late stage state-capitalist systems to the role that religious belief in the afterlife took on in a previous era (back when Marx was writing about it as 'the opiate of the people'). Romantic love gets taken almost spiritually, as something that can be expected to wash away all our worldly sins and troubles, finally bring fulfillment and wholeness to empty and fractured lives (just listen to the songs on popular radio and many of them strike me as having this underlying message). And, crucially, romantic love does this in a way that IMO presents no meaninful challenge to the ideological basis of the system that so disproportionaty promotes it (similar to how encouraging focus on fulfillment in the afterlife could be used to distract from agitations for fulfillment in this life).

Perhaps I could find them but I dont know what the rules are regarding necroposts. Personally I havent found ANYTHING in my searches specifically about dealing with hedonic treadmill stuff Which is why I felt fine posting it after searching. :)

 

i also think there may be a Cultural clash here as I am not from a country that treats romance as a (christian) spiritual element. That isnt to say amatonormativity isnt an issue but my country is not spiritual or religious so things like romance and marriage are treated in a more secular manner.

 

I do think this has affected how we perceive romance largely due to the idea of Beautiful Romantic Love Stories being popularised during the medieval in western europe Which was heavily religious. 

 

But Im looking more at how aromanticism can be seen as a natural neurological Orientation the way we perceive sexual and gender Orientations now(research with MRIs on LGBT brains and whatnot showing differences). 

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It's awesome to see a name for this. From my experience, there is a very harmful and unhealthy trend of people leaving relationships when they require work or "get hard" or change/grow in any way. We often say amatonormativity harms everyone but the hedonic treadmill here is a perfect example of an unhealthy component or structure of a relationship that often comes hand in hand with amatonormativity. It's something specific we can point to.

 

It also makes sense why so many people have problems with aros and our experiences. If we don't engage in relationships at all, people are worried we're never going to achieve some sort of nirvana or ultimate happiness. Like what @NullVector said, even with non-religious people in some places, there is an almost religious dedication to romance or a spiritual type of enlightenment given to romance and those who interact with it.

But then even when some aros are in relationships, the way we navigate relationships is often questioned too. If we commit and don't have that feeling of hedonism regarding relationship baselines, I've seen some alloros just be completely baffled when we talk about navigating relationships hiccups and troubles. I hear a lot of advice that's "just drop them if there's a problem" instead of "here's a way to navigate your issues and changes." 

 

I definitely don't think it's an aro-specific issue but it's certainly aro-relevant.

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21 hours ago, Mirrorreaper said:

Perhaps I could find them but I dont know what the rules are regarding necroposts

I'm not aware of any "rules" per se. I'd say if you read an old thread and find it interesting then why not revive it? (Not that I'm a mod or anything; but I've done this a few times and I'm still allowed on here xD)

 

21 hours ago, Mirrorreaper said:

Personally I havent found ANYTHING in my searches specifically about dealing with hedonic treadmill stuff Which is why I felt fine posting it after searching. :)

Yeah, I don't think that specific term has come up here. I'm not sure what to make of it yet. The idea that more stuff won't make you happier seems fairly widely accepted/ uncontroversial (albeit often more in theory than in practice!).

 

But I'm not entirely clear on what is meant by

On 7/31/2019 at 10:29 PM, Mirrorreaper said:

major positive or negative events or life changes

Does this refer just to external material events that happen to me? Or to significant internal re-orientation as well? I can buy the former (e.g. inheriting, or losing, a fortune) not making too much long-term difference to my baseline happiness. But I buy the latter less (those sorts of experiences get broadly referred to as 'transformative' for good reasons, I'd suggest). Are things like a 'spiritual awakening' or major trauma being included here amongst 'major positive or negative events or life changes'? The 'hedonic' suggests reference to the impact of external (material?) stuff only to me, but it's not totally clear just from what you quoted.

 

Then there's also the complication that extreme external circumstances can provoke an internal transformation. One that can ultimately lead to somebody realising greater happiness (or misery, I suppose; like finding a notebook that kills anyone whose name you write in it might turn you into a monster). The concept doesn't seem to account for that dynamic very well.

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22 hours ago, Mirrorreaper said:

i also think there may be a Cultural clash here as I am not from a country that treats romance as a (christian) spiritual element. That isnt to say amatonormativity isnt an issue but my country is not spiritual or religious so things like romance and marriage are treated in a more secular manner

I guess what I'm postulating here is that in secular cultures that were formely Christian, when most people stopped believing in the metaphysics of Christianity this left a kind of 'meaning gap' behind that the newly secular culture tried to fill with romantic love. Which did not make a very good substitute IMO (eros and agape are not the same kind of love).

 

What country are you from, by the way? (if you don't mind answering, that is)

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On 7/31/2019 at 10:29 PM, Mirrorreaper said:

Whats the hedonic treadmill?

The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.[1] According to this theory, as a person makes more money, expectations and desires rise in tandem, which results in no permanent gain in happiness. Brickman and Campbell coined the term in their essay "Hedonic Relativism and Planning the Good Society" (1971).[2]During the late 1990s, the concept was modified by Michael Eysenck, a British psychologist, to become the current "hedonic treadmill theory" which compares the pursuit of happiness to a person on a treadmill, who has to keep walking just to stay in the same place.

This reminds me of the marriages makes people happier myth.

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Interesting topic. I agree there's a comparison to be made between amatonormativity and this norm of baseline happiness most culture seem to have at present. We must be happy all the time, and for many the most elated feelings are those of romantic love.

 

One thing that doesn't fit with it though is how many people choose to stay in relationships they're not satisfied with simply not to be alone. Shouldn't they cherish the chance to get out there and search for a new exciting crush?

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