The most dangerous drug in the world is approval. I didn’t come up with that. Anthony de Mello SJ did. But I wholeheartedly approve! Ha!
If someone approves of you, it feels good. If they deny you approval, it makes you feel bad and crave more approval. And thus we recognize the mechanism on which society operates.
I have a friend who has a small girl. When she’s in a group of people, she dances and does tricks until people clap. For a long time this bugged me and I didn’t know why. Until I realized: we’ve turned her into a little monkey! She dances to the tune of our social conformism.
I have a friend who works at a large luxury house in Milan. She makes products that people buy so they can show to others that they’re worthy of approval. This bag makes me great! I told my friend: the only good you do in the world is to make rich people slightly less rich. This was mean-spirited and also plagiarized from Terry Pratchett. She did not approve of my disapproval. She felt bad and I still (still! this is years ago) feel bad. What little monkeys we are.
Approval is the ultimate attachment on which you let your happiness depend. It traps you. It blinds you. It keeps you asleep. What a world we could live in if we could free ourselves from these prison walls.
It reminds of another story de Mello tells:
[An] Irish prisoner... digs a tunnel under [a] prison wall and manage[s] to escape. He comes out right in the middle of a school playground where little children are playing. Of course, when he emerges from the tunnel he can't restrain himself anymore and begins to jump up and down, crying, "I'm free, I'm free, I'm free! A little girl there looks at him scornfully and says, "That's nothing. I'm four."
Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now!