There are people who used to be present when they were young. Maybe they even used to be your friends. But now they are gone, disappeared, missing. They are physically there but they are running The Program. I call them washing machine people – or clockwork humans.
They keep committing the suicide of the soul and keep pushing it onto you. Here is why.
We all know The Program. Some call it “life”, but don’t insult life. The Program is just a one-size-fit-all life path that makes 99.8% of its victims miserable. And the existence of the 0.02% is yet to be proven because self-assessment on this subject is shockingly unreliable.
People who started running their age-appropriate Program are easy to spot. They no longer care who you are, only if you’re eligible. They don’t care about your feelings, only whether you feel the same. They don’t care about your plans and dreams, only whether they fit theirs. They are looking for someone who wants the same amount of family in a reasonably similar time.
Because once The Program starts, people become like a washing machine. They click on to the next phase when it’s time, and break down if someone tries to stop them. Click on they must. And they will get to the rinse with you, no matter what. Whether you like it or not. Because you no longer matter. You never did. No skipping, no turning back.
They love The Program more than they ever loved you. If it was love in the first place – and not just relief that someone is finally doing The Program with them. And when you lock yourself in with them you will become an accessory.
They may be all smiles while they are securing the Program, but that won’t stay that way. Try to get out and they attack. And they don’t need to please you. Fear, guilt, threats, anything goes, because it CAN get them what they want. They want The Program – not your love.
I know, sometimes you still see the spark in their eyes. Once in a while they are back, and you may even share a moment again. And you want to believe that this is their real self. That they still exist under all those layers of role playing and ticking terror. You prefer to believe that their ugly self, the clockwork human, is just a role they play. Not who they are.
You excuse them because they are legitimately busy with their lives, they are busy coping with what they have done. But look closer. Those rare sparks of life are never original.
They only reminisce about the good old days – there are no good new days. They are not creating new memories. They just keep repeating the same old stories over and over again. Because those hopeful sparks are mere echoes. Echoes of someone slowly disappearing under a role.
Relationships (and the subsequent package of marriage, mortgage, parenthood, saintly death) are the most universal life roles that very few forego and even less deconstruct. So I did. Because there is a sinister aspect to it – and it will bite you if you just drift into it unprepared and unthinking.
Even if it actually is for you – you will be taken aback how ugly it gets if you don’t do it very consciously.
Dating = Casting
The first thing you notice about people running The Program is that they are not interested in you. They are interested in whether you have certain qualities. And when you have it, it’s fine. No need for love.
These people, men and women, are dating with a purpose. For them, dates are not a way to get to know each other – they are casting sessions. And the roles are already written. They are looking for someone to play the part of the man/woman in The Program.
It doesn’t matter what you are like. What they screen for is whether you check their boxes. And their priorities are different than they used to be – they readily admit that. Shared family goals beat shared passions and your earning potential is more important than you not being a douchebag. And those priorities are not even their own – they come with The Program. They are priorities of your mother and your wallet – but remember, you will need to have sex with whomever your mom and wallet choose for you. And live a life under the same roof.
Once these people chose you, they get to work. The smart ones become whoever you want them to be. They might even learn your hobby and get to know your friends – just to appeal to you (and gather intel about you and conquer every aspect of your life). The dumb ones are easier to spot. They are impatient and keep referring to The Program. People who forgive this behaviour from their partners in the hope of human connection might even deserve what they get.
As their age ticks ahead, washing machine people need less and less time before they shack up with every new partner. It should be the other way around, if you think about it, with older people carrying more baggage, knowing themselves better, etc. But no.
These people also seem blind to obvious incompatibilities – as long as the partner checks all the important boxes. Running The Program is more important than happiness, even at this early stage.
And this is where it gets less amusing and more sinister.
In The Program aggression works
It’s like Machiavelli. Should washing machine people make you love them or fear them? Considering that their aim is to keep you in their Program, the answer is fear. Obviously. Fear is in their hands. Love is your decision. They can always make you afraid. They cannot make you love.
And fear does work. They can afford to be aggressive to you because it gets them what they want. That is because they don’t want love. Sure, it would be nice, yada yada, some even believe it and make a fuss and push you to keep saying that you love them. But that’s not their real priority. Their real priority is The Marriage. They want marriage, not you. You are just a tool to achieve The Marriage.
They want marriage. And marriage you can get by guilt and threats. Even by an accidental pregnancy – the ultimate betrayal of three people just for the sake of The Program. You can get The Marriage even by suicide threats and the occasional outburst of anger. Aggression can help The Program – they will just say it’s out of desperation. And that they do it for you. And out of love. If you but these excuses, it is because you want to do it – despite the obvious signs – just needed an excuse. You are also probably running The Program. And you would also probably use aggression to get what you want.
For optimal impact, however, righteous anger of washing machine people (for blocking The Program) should alternate with super-sweet moments. Bad cop-good cop is known to melt brains because it makes the victims believe that if they comply, only the good cop remains.
“Poor guy is just desperate to marry me but once I give him my entire fucking life he will be super-sweet and never tries to strangle me again… He’s just desperate.”
Obviously wrong. Because if threats worked on you – you will get more threats next time. If guilting you worked once – you will get more of it later. If you complied once because she beat you up – she will beat you up again. If you were trapped by a baby once – there will be another one every time you try to break free. The passive and active aggression and the demands never abate no matter how much you obey them. Weird…
Love is a great tool to lure people into The Program but not nearly reliable enough to keep them locked in. So fear it is. And guilt and dependence.
To see how miserably we fail this test just consider how many times partners can threaten you by simply leaving you. And it’s enough to give them what you don’t want to give. Your own fear that you wouldn’t get another partner (and your mistaken belief that you have to have a partner) will make you capitulate and start on a path of progressively worse and worse compromises.
In The Program guilt beats desire and threats beat opportunity
If you obey what hurts, you really shouldn’t be surprised that it will hurt more – it works on you. And if you don’t choose the things that attract you, they will disappear. If you prioritize the threats over your love of life – you will get more threats and less life.
For washing machine people avoiding guilt is a more pressing problem than getting ahead in their own lives. Life can wait. Condemnation must be averted. If they have to choose between achieving something that matters to them, or appeasing someone who doesn’t but is guilt-tripping them – they will always choose relief from guilt. Guilt beats their inner drive every time.
Cowardice and the readiness to accept guilt are your own little vices that let The Program have its way with you. Because somewhere deep you can be a washing machine person – it’s just that your timer was slower.
The blameless saints who need not do good
Another nasty aspect of this life game is that its winners and role models are slimey bastards. They are just as unhappy as you are – but they don’t care. They are better at suppressing themselves. And you are so blinded by their fake glory, and shamed by comparison, that you don’t even look behind the facade to see just how rotten they became. They are the ones who entitle themselves to guilt-trip others, to threaten others, and to make lives miserable. Because they are blameless.
The winners of The Program are the blameless. That’s all you need to achieve, you don’t have to be nice or to do anything good. Staying blameless gives you entitlements. It gives you the right to guilt everyone else. You don’t have to be benevolent, you don’t have to regard anyone’s interest, feelings or be humane. You just have to refrain from breaking the arbitrary rules. A very dubious achievement. And then you hold them up as role models for your kids. Or at least you never question their sainthood – which means the same for your poor offspring.
I have known many bitter marriages where one party finally committed adultery – and the other became the winner. The saint for rest of life. The sin became their eternal marital weapon and chased the guilty one into an early grave. In the meantime, no one cared that these blameless martyrs were loveless monsters. They were even proud of it. They kept their victim in The Program – without even giving love or sex or basic respect to them. Because in The Program it doesn’t count. Goodness has no place in The Program – except perhaps being harvested by these saints.
Blameless saints kill themselves on the inside early on. That is how they manage. And then you show them to your own children as heroes and recount their marriage metrics – how many years and children they achieved. Non-quantifiable things like love and kindness don’t matter.
It is easy to see the cost of a threat – and hard to see the benefits of a missed opportunity. Opportunity cost is a hard concept to grasp for non-economists – yet it is here to bite your ass once you are in a relationship with a washing machine person. The opportunity cost of compliance with The Program is your life. But how much is that worth, right?
On the other hand, you have the sunk cost fallacy – the more time you spent with someone, the more likely you are to keep suffering and not leave them – it’s only the rest of your life.
Neither of these things would make any sense without blind acceptance of The Program.
Your feelings genuinely don’t matter – Only appearances
This game is not played with your interest at heart. It is played for an indifferent audience and you are just an actor. You have to give a good performance even if you had a bad day and even if you think that the play sucks.
If you can keep up the acting, good. If you have doubts, you may get some praise for your good acting – that should push you back in line. If you have deeper thoughts, you will be disciplined back into line.
And just how much “the show” matters – I have even heard washing machine people begging their partners to marry them already to get the family’s pressure off their back. And to make their girlfriends envy them. And I’ve heard guys bragging that they have bagged a model. Make no mistake those friends and family they want to envy them, they matter to them more than their partners do. At least their opinions.
And when you start feeling guilty for “wasting their time” you are on track to give them yourself as a consolation prize. Completely and forever. Does that sound like a reasonable deal?
You are a human resource to The Program
It is essentially a meme that spreads and multiplies through you. That is why your existence beyond spreading it is irrelevant.
The Program requires two victims with all their resources. All your time, attention, money, earning capacity, beauty, reputation. If you keep any of it to yourself, you should feel guilty. The most famous example is the role of the mother who is generously forgiven for taking 5 minutes away from the children every 2 years. (As long she expresses the expected level of guilt and clearly doesn’t enjoy it.)
Parents realize the all-encompassing nature of their role – and the stupid ones realize it too late. (In anonymous surveys no less than 70% would not do it again if they were offered a do-over in life. They love the children but hate the role.) This is why it is important to understand that even though you give some of it willingly, there will always be demand for all your resources. Just try to withhold it once and you’ll see.
And because you are just your function in The Program, you can be replaced. (But better not while you’re still alive. Remember, failing to enforce The Program makes your spouse a failure in life and they can’t allow it. Actually, for washing machine people becoming a widow is preferable to becoming a divorcee. They truly don’t care about who you are or whether you even live – only that the role must be played, the audience must not see the doubts, and you can only exit with a legitimate excuse. Death is the only legitimate reason to exit.)
I knew many who more or less chose death for themselves. Not necessarily suicide (that too) but a steady deterioration of health at a young age which was the only way out that these people allowed themselves. And if you live with a washing machine person and your life insurance exceeds your future earning potential I would get worried. After the relationship is over in your marriage, only cold interests remain.
And if they put you on a solid guilt trip your immune system will punish you, just as you punish yourself in head, and it will give you the cancer you wish for. After all, if you place the locus of moral outside of yourself why wouldn’t your immune system follow and defend that?
What can you do about it?
It’s not just aggressors and victims – we all have a bit of both. For some, The Program ticks faster and louder. But those who yield to the unwanted pressure are also guilty of rather-not-think-about-it compromises. And by accepting guilt-mongering and pressure they are bringing more guilt and pressure upon themselves – until there is no way out.
If you found yourself on either side of this trap you are probably there because you were not honest. Not just to the others – but also with yourself. Dishonesty to yourself and to others is built into The Program’s DNA. It starts with someone’s dishonest intention to ignore your wish for independence and lock you in, it is fed by your own spineless cowardice to resist. And it is completed by you lying to yourself about what you created and what you want. You will call it “love”. A “different kind of love”. Anything that makes you look good in the mirror.
It tells a lot about you what you choose: the thing that threatens you – or the thing that attracts you. Chances are, averting the threat will beat going for your heart’s desire in your pre-thinking decision making process. So you are essentially asking to be threatened again the next time they want something out of you.
You enter that marriage and to your surprise it doesn’t revive your relationship that had been running out of steam. But that doesn’t matter now. The perpetuation of The Marriage matters more than you do, let alone your feelings. Those are irrelevant. If you feel there’s something wrong with this – there’s something wrong with you. Doublethink required.
Observe your significant other lapsing into marriage. This is payoff time for washing machine people. All that kindness and cajoling you forced them to do will phase out and only the bad cop remains. That’s right, putting and end to their desperation to marry you will not make them less aggressive. Who would have thought? And satisfying their families won’t make them satisfied… Again, total surprise for anyone who believes the dogma by the word.
You feel alone in your marriage and living under the same roof with your prison warden. (And you are theirs.) Your significant other is not on your side anymore. He or she is taking the side of The Marriage. He or she loved The Program in the first place – you were replaceable to begin with. They would have had a spouse and children anyway. If not with you, then with the next best thing. The other girl with the second longest legs or the other guy with the second thickest wallet. And if you ever had the thought that you couldn’t get anyone better, you even deserve this.
If you accept your situation as having no way out then it is probably too late for you. Dependence bonding to the rescue. You may not be able to change your life, but do not despair. You can always change your mind about it. We are all born equipped with this mechanism of survival. Not good for living – but for survival. Children bond with whomever they depend on. And many adults never grow out of this habit, carry it into their adult lives and even their political behaviour. And when it comes to coping with The Program all you need to do is slip back into that old mindset. Because you depend.
You depend (cannot leave) when your spouse makes the money, but you also depend (cannot leave) when there would be a shit storm if you did. Dependence cuts both ways. Either way, you cannot leave. And when there is no way out – your mind starts to change. This way you feel more comfortable without getting out.
Everyone is taking The Marriage’s side – and so should you. It becomes the third party in your relationship – and stays on even after your relationship ends. The Program is bigger and stronger than any of you – so you submit. You suck up to it.
Note that dependence bonding is “learning to love” the inevitable and not “learning to pretend to love” it. Whatever you feel you will identify as love (just look at abused spouses) and therein lies something really fishy:
You will try to spread The Program out of goodwill.
Basic memetics, really, but let’s spell it out.
You will tell people to get married and to get used to it. Because by then, you will believe it yourself. You will hear yourself saying obnoxious things like “the secret of the long marriage is never to break up” because you will know perfectly well that it is not about emotions and love in the first place. It is about maintaining The Marriage at any cost.
And it is costly indeed. To you, to your spouse and even to your kids. Because if you think even further, you realise that you will pass The Program down to your own kids. Instead of a fulfilling life and the existence of choices you will saddle them with the belief that they have no choice. They absolutely must run The Program and that quitting a shitty situation is defeat and it makes them a failure.
And now think even further. What if your parents were programming you like this because they were trapped – just as you are? They taught this to you not because it was good but exactly because it was so bad. It was so bad, they had to perform a mind trick and then they believed their own mind trick and passed it down to you.
The entire existence of The Program stems from its own failure to make people happy and suit their individual needs and desires.
From a young age you were suggested that not completing The Program makes you a failure, you were practically hypnotized into it. You saw no other option.
People underestimate how much their experiences shape them. But they underestimate even more just how much the absence of seeing alternatives can influence them. You saw plenty of bad marriages – but you saw no alternative. You either run The Program or rebel (and then run it later anyway). You are either a good boy or a failure. According to the rules of The Program, that is. You have no say in the matter, they tell you which one you are. Not because they are more competent – but because it must not be you. You must not be centered in yourself, you must not be let to evaluate yourself, you must not be allowed to exist as an individual in your own head. Only as a role and and an enforcer. Even if you feel happy without The Program – you are wrong and everybody will be quick to tell you.
I readily admit that the vast majority don’t do it consciously.
And not everyone is inherently aggressive and not everyone turns to aggression under this pressure. Some people can accept it pretty lamely. But that doesn’t make it any less dangerous or immoral. If you slide down the slippery slope without knowing that you were set up to hate – and be dissatisfied at the end – you will be even more disappointed.
But simply knowing that the slippery slope is there gives you a chance to avoid it. My best guess was this strategy.
In memory of my best friend, the Dancing Goat God, who left us on the last weekend of summer.