I use the theory of emotional arousal to my advantage by surrounding myself with the pain, despair and death of all the nasty habits that I once had and never again want to experience.
This evening I watched the amazing movie Leaving Las Vegas starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue. It’s a story of a man who chooses to drink himself to death in Las Vegas. Here are ten points that I draw out of that movie to help manifest emotional arousal.
#1: The First Restaurant Scene
The alcoholic, Ben Sanderson (Nicolas Cage), walks into a restaurant and approaches the table of two couples that are deep in conversation over dinner. The atmosphere changes completely. What was once a happy, fun and interesting experience has now turned into a scene of worry, disgust and embarrassment.
The table doesn’t know how to act in the presence of the drunk. They don’t want to appear too friendly because they don’t want to give off the impression that he is welcome, but equally, they don’t want to give off the impression that he is not welcome; because they fear that he may get aggressive and cause a scene.
A drunk is not funny or interesting. Nobody wants a drunk at a party. They have no control over their actions, and this scares people. The only people that can tolerate drunks are drunks, and this is why so many people get drunk in the first place.
#2: The Bar Scene With the Woman
Ben Sanderson is drinking in a bar, and alongside him is another woman also drinking by the bar. Sanderson buys her a drink and starts to flirt with her. Her reaction is one of fear. She doesn’t want the attention of the drunk, and she doesn’t want the attention of the whole bar, which is exactly what she gets when he starts singing to her.
People say that they drink alcohol because it helps loosen up their inhibitions. And this is supposed to be a good thing? The lady in the bar was in no mood to thank Sanderson for his loosening up of inhibitions.
“Maybe you shouldn’t drink so much,” she says to him as she leaves.
She is telling him that under normal circumstances he would have stood a chance. She can see that underneath the dark circles there is a good-looking man, and underneath the drunken humour lies the soul of a charming man. Yet this fool who sits before her blinds her. The fool who thought losing his inhibitions would have led to the bed of the woman who just wanted him to be who he was.
#3: The Barman
In another scene, Ben Sanderson, walks into the same bar and orders a drink. It’s early in the morning and the Barman tells Sanderson that he should be ordering a coffee. Sanderson thanks him for his concern and re-orders that drink.
“If you could see what I see you wouldn’t be doing this to yourself,” said the Barman.
This is what happens to people who drink alcohol. Every time they look in the mirror there is no reflection. People who spend time indulging in negative habits create a complicated web of defences, and if you try to help you just get stuck.
Take the movie as an example. People who drink alcohol will not relate to Sanderson. They will see two different types of people: the alcoholic and the normal drinker. Sanderson is an alcoholic and the rest of the poor unfortunate souls think they are normal drinkers.
“If you could see what I see you wouldn’t be doing this to yourself.”
#4: Why Are You Killing Yourself?
Ben Sanderson is on his first date with the prostitute Sera (Elisabeth Shue).
“Why are you killing yourself?” Sera asked Anderson alluding to the fact that he is trying to drink himself to death.
“I don’t remember?” Said Anderson.
This is what I find when I search within myself for the answer to why I started drinking? It’s also the same answer that I find when I remember every argument, fight, betrayal, unethical and downright nasty thing that I have done whilst in a drunken stupor.
“I don’t remember?”
And to think I continued to drink, all the while telling myself I was having fun, and yet I didn’t remember half of it.
How can that be fun?
#5: You Must be Crazy
Sera is asking Sanderson to move in with her. She is lonely and desperately needs this man in her life despite his alcoholism.
“You are crazy,” said Sanderson, “Don’t you think you’ll get a little bored living with a drunk? I knock things over and throw up all of the time.”
You don’t get bored. Instead you live in a never-ending circle of hopes and fears. You hope that when the key enters the door and open it swings, that the person you love is in a happy drunken mood. Then you have to try your best not to say anything that could lead to an argument. The constant references to the same things over and over again; the smash of glass and the sound of meat hitting the deck hard. Just play it cool. Take it easy. Smile. Go on force that smile. If you could just get them to sleep everything will be fine until the next time.
There will definitely be a next time.
“Was I ok?”
“Did I behave myself?”
“Of course you did love.”
#6: Don’t Ever Ask Me to Stop
Just after Sera asks Sanderson to move in with her, he looks her in the eye and says: “You can never…ever…ask me to stop drinking. Do you understand?”
Sanderson then continued to drink himself to death. Sera fell in love with him and watched as he died in her arms. She never once asked him to stop. She never bore judgment and instead accepted him for who he was.
Can you imagine the strength of character that it must take to do that? How much love one can foster to watch someone die without judgment?
When you are drinking it controls you. It comes first. It comes before your wife, husband, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. It comes before your career, your hobbies and your pets. Alcohol is in control and the large percentage of the population hope and pray that they never hear that statement.
“You can never…ever…ask me to stop drinking. Do you understand?”
They are afraid of it because they know for all their bravado; and for all of their bold statements that they are not in control. If the ones that loved them the most asked them to quit on the spot they wouldn’t be able, or willing, to do it.
Furthermore, if you cannot behave like Sera behaves. If you cannot bury your judgments with the bone in the garden, then leave now. Get out and let your loved ones find someone else who can.
#7: The Blackjack Scene
Sanderson and Sera decide to head into the casino for a night of gambling. The night starts great. They can’t keep their hands off each other. They look into each other’s eyes and declare their love. They sit down at the Blackjack table and start to play. Laughter leaps from their mouths. Joy is etched on their faces. And then a spark ignites the fuel that we cannot see, and the whole thing goes up in smoke.
The waitress thinks Sanderson has drunk enough and he goes mental. Glasses are smashed, the table is over turned and five security guards have to hold him down.
The next day when he wakes up in bed with Sera he turns to her and says:
“How did our evening go?”
How many of you have played out this scene time after time. Made promises that you would never behave like that ever again, and then broke those promises like they were held together with blue-tac?
Focus on the pain. The night was not a pleasurable night. It was a painful night. And spare a thought for the Sera’s of the world. Who has to put up with your shit? Who has to apologise and say that you are not normally like that?
#8: I Think You Should See a Doctor
Sera looks at Sanderson and says:
“I think you should see a Doctor.”
“No Doctor,” said Sanderson.
Why would he want to see a Doctor? This is who he is. Interestingly, Sanderson knows that drink has him in his grip, but you don’t, and yet you will still have the same answer.
Your reasoning is there is nothing wrong with you. It’s everyone else. I mean just think about the mathematics here. You know hundreds of people and they all drink, so it must be normal to drink. It’s the preachers that have the problem – the minority of one. That idiot who keeps saying I don’t like the taste, that losing inhibitions is a bad thing, that I am hooked, that I do not enjoy myself through drinking alcohol alone. Do you know what preacher man?
“I think you should see a Doctor.”
#9: The Bridesmaid
Sera does everything for this man and although she never says anything to him, there is a scene where one look says it all.
“After everything I have done for you; the love that I show you; the lack of judgment; the freedom that I give to you and the willingness to allow you to die. Why do you choose drink over me?”
#10: He Dies
In the final scene Ben Sanderson dies. Now that will mean nothing to the drinkers. But it should. People work hard all week and then spend the vast majority of their hard earned cash on alcohol. It’s their right. But Sanderson kept on drinking. Everyone loves to drink in order to relax, have fun, de-stress and unwind.
IT KILLED HIM.
I sound like a broken record.
He kept on drinking alcohol and it killed him. But if you keep on eating nothing but steak it will kill you. DEFENCE. If you keep on drinking coke it will kill you. DEFENCE. If you keep on drinking water it will kill you. DEFENCE. Everything in moderation. DEFENCE. I know my limits. DEFENCE. I would never drink myself to death.
Say that again?
“I would never drink myself to death.”
Millions of people drink themselves to death. They might not bow out the Ben Sanderson way, but they all bow out. If you drink then I bet two fingers that your life will not last as long as the life you would have had if you had dropped the bottle.
You don’t care?
Unfortunately, when you are lying in your hospital bed waiting for your family to visit you, knowing that you are inconveniencing them, knowing that they don’t really want to come, knowing that pretty soon you will close your eyes and never wake up again. Fearing what happens. Fearing nothingness. Then…then…at that moment, I guara-fucking-tee you will care. Boy will you feel pretty foolish as you think back to the moment that know-it-all preacher man suggested that alcohol held zero value for you and a bucketload of pain. The man you ridiculed and ignored. You will care. Trust me you will.
Ben Sanderson drank alcohol until he died. That’s what it does – it kills – and it will do the same to you.
So tell me. Are your emotions aroused?
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