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What's up with the sub-conscious?

Just a couple of days ago, I watched the trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation of Tom & Jerry, which was a breath of fresh air. Well, the trailer by itself was PRETTY weird, but if I get into that, then I am sure that we will leave the sub-conscious far behind.

What the hell! It’ll only take a couple of minutes. So in this movie, for some reason, Tom and Jerry are found gallivanting around New York City in their two-dimensional animated state among regular humans, who can see them and interact with them. It is eerily similar to the 1996 disaster that was Space Jam, and that’s what’s gotten me worried. I refuse to stand by while another one of my childhood memories gets tarnished, and of course, that’s a not-so-subtle reference to Dragonball Z. May the Saiyan race rest in peace!

Anyway, the reason that I found the trailer refreshing, despite those alarming signs, was the plethora of memories that it brought gushing back. I always associated T&J with two things – VHS tapes and the first-ever popular merchandise that I ever owned! I can still recollect the five-odd cassettes taped with the original series that I’ve watched on repeat for six consecutive summers! Since cable television was a luxury, and OTT was a meaningless abbreviation at that time, those tapes were the only real treasure that I possessed as a kid.

I didn’t know this then, but I probably guarded those tapes more aggressively than KFC does its recipe for fried chicken… and IMAGINE they already beat Fort Knox at that!I am referring to guarding secrets, not frying chicken! Five Star Chicken in Bengaluru can still beat the living crap out of Colonel Sanders any day.

Alongside those tapes, I used to own a T&J branded ‘counterfeit’ pencil box, a T&J themed backpack, AND a T&J themed lunch box. Yes, I was a nerd of the highest quality, but that’s how invested I was in the series. Is it any wonder that all those memories came rushing back then? And that’s the thing, however critical a view I may have of the trailer or the movie; it still made me smile, almost involuntarily.

Why is that?

It is a known fact that our mind gets conditioned to a few habits and activities if we repeat them frequently enough. But in my opinion, our emotions also get accustomed to an assortment of subconscious cues and triggers that we do not actively learn.

For instance, consider the habit of writing a blog. For some reason, a wave of relief flows down my body as soon as I publish a post for the weekend, and only then am I able to concentrate on any other sort of relaxation. Now, you could argue that I probably love writing for the sake of writing, but that doesn’t explain the ‘relief’ fully. This sort of response is almost akin to how addicts react to stimulants.

My knowledge of addiction is purely academic by the way. I may have made some practical ‘observations’ in the time immediately after college, but those were all third-party data sources.

This sort of memory-based emotional trigger is not only associated with childhood cartoons and memorabilia. I am sure that you’ve occasionally listened to an old music track after ages? Aside from the fact that you can fluently hum the entire song without even thinking twice, doesn’t it provide an inexplicable sense of familiarity and happiness? Other tracks, perhaps, induce the exact opposite effect, of melancholy and sorrow! Doesn’t that hint at the connection between background activities and our emotions at the time?

Wonder if the above phenomenon was also the foundation for Abhimanyu‘s pre-natal knowledge of the chakravyuh that eventually led him to save Yudishthira‘s life in the Kurukshetra War, and well, die a painful death.

What I am trying to understand is that ‘how’ does this process unfold? Does the brain work like any ordinary machine-learning model, and train itself to associate certain triggers with specific emotions? Or does it react in extreme situations by shielding the brain from sudden emotional outburst using alternate crutches?

Well, if The Office is any evidence to go by, it should not be too difficult to test the first theory as long as you have someone as gullible and suspicious as Dwight Schrute. Honestly, one of my friends deserves a big pitcher of beer for introducing me to this gem of a character. (P.S. This shoutout is not a test to see if he reads my blog)

But what about the other hypothesis? Do people associate significant life events with other environmental factors to share the load of sudden and deep emotions? Is that the reason why couples have a concept called ‘our song’, and why religious people have this attraction towards carols, hymns, and bhajans? Interesting…

Wonder if this is the same logic that associates gazals with whisky! Nope… that’s just drunk people thinking that they can understand and emulate an entire genre of music overnight.

Whatever the science behind this phenomenon, the effects can come handy when you know how to use them to your advantage. Feel tired and flustered? Watch an episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. while eating a chicken lollipop. Want to celebrate a victory? Enjoy a mug of ale with fish & chips for the additional burst of elation. Miss the good old days? Tune in to some John Mayer and mime the guitar chords with your hands, even though you never learnt the instrument!

Trust me. It does work.

And if you want to verify that claim, try reading my blog for a few weeks straight. You’ll probably start smiling every time you think of doing something publicly stupid, such as writing a blog.
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