As I'm on my second day without my super delicious and creamy Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee, I'm considering the psychology of addictions. Why is it that the best tasting foods and drinks are usually the ones that end up causing some kind of negative reaction (e.g. weight gain, gastrointestinal troubles, headaches, etc.)? Why do “comfort foods” make our bodies anything but comfortable? Is it the same reason that we sometimes gravitate towards people who don't meet our emotional needs? Are we destined to continuously attract that which doesn't serve us in the long run?
Listening to some of Dave's lyrics, it's clear that he has previously struggled with some of these issues. The song “Too Much” speaks to a yearning for more and more. More food, more drink, more wanting. “Play for me, play more, ten times in the same day,” describes that feeling where no matter how much one does, it is never enough. This is a very popular belief in our consumer-driven society. There is always something else to buy, to be, to acquire, which makes us dissatisfied with what we intrinsically have. Marketing and advertising campaigns need us to assume that we are not okay as we are, hence we need to purchase their products to “fix” our flaws. And of course, the worse that we feel about ourselves, the more that we consume. It's truly a vicious cycle.
But even without the influence of popular media, there still seems to be a human tendency to long for people, places, and things that come with unpleasant consequences. This desire is the basis for some of the best works of art from Greek mythology, to Shakespeare, to DMB. (Yes, I do believe that the Dave Matthews Band belongs in the same category as the eternal greats!) The words, “I'll drink your poison if you fill the cup,” from the amazing “Break Free” aptly illustrate the way it feels when we knowingly engage in behavior that is going to come back at us like a boomerang. In fact that whole track brings forth the heart-wrenching drama of a man who is seeking love from someone who has hurt him in the past. And this same theme appears in the engaging and poignant "Can't Stop." Just listen to how these phrases tell the archetypal tale of internal conflict: “I'm cold like a junkie for you baby... I've found myself in a beautiful place but I know that I will lose my soul... You make me so hungry... You know that I want to leave you, but it won't stop.” I find it fascinating that this song is thought to have originated from a riff that Dave played before and during “Save Me” at Farm Aid in 2004 because “Save Me” speaks of someone who is completely unaffected by worldly desires. Clearly a biblical reference, the person encountered in this melody plans on walking for forty days and nights without food or drink, relying solely on faith. The fact that “Can't Stop” and “Save Me” depict such apparent opposites makes them related. One might even say that in the absence of faith, we seek unhealthy means to quench our metaphorical thirsts. But is this “coincidence” something that Dave planned, or just another shining example of the magnificent power of the human unconscious?
I wish I knew.
As Dave wisely says, “So much space to believe.”
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self