Spontaneity versus Whim Worship

by | Dec 20, 2000

What’s the fundamental difference between being a whim worshiper and being spontaneous? A whim worshipper acts on whatever urges move him, at the moment they first move him. He does not stop and use reason to evaluate what he’s doing. A spontaneous person is capable of acting on short notice, but only involving an activity […]

What’s the fundamental difference between being a whim worshiper and being spontaneous?

A whim worshipper acts on whatever urges move him, at the moment they first move him. He does not stop and use reason to evaluate what he’s doing. A spontaneous person is capable of acting on short notice, but only involving an activity he already knows — or can evaluate quickly — as appropriate.

Spontaneity does not mean the absence of rationality; it simply means rationality more quickly applied.

For example: A teenager is pressured by his peers to use drugs. He has lived a fairly sheltered life. He knows people use drugs, but never considered that it would be an option for him to do so himself. He likes the feeling of being welcomed into a group of people his age. So he goes with this initial feeling and says, “Sure.” This is whim worship.

Another example: A businessman is invited out to lunch with a good friend. He likes spending time with the friend, and they also discuss business ideas. He hadn’t planned leaving the office for lunch today. However, he observes that he can spare an hour away from his office without any disruption in his overall work. He decides — quickly, but with a brief evaluation of pro’s and con’s — to go to lunch with the friend. This is not whim-worship. It’s rational spontaneity.

Whim worshippers have an indifferent or negative relationship with reason and objectivity. Whatever feelings they are having in a given moment are, to them, the greatest persuaders. Consequences be damned.

A person capable of spontaneity, on the other hand, never loses touch with reason and objectivity. He thinks before he acts, but he also can think quickly and is prepared to make last minute changes when appropriate.

Spontaneity can lead to errors, but rarely if ever will it lead to serious self-harm. Whim-worship, on the other hand, can lead to nothing but self-harm.

There’s a stereotype that people must either be whim worshippers, acting on feelings of the moment, on the one side; or sterile, cold and non-spontaneous on the other. Either you don’t utilize thought at all, or you use it obsessively, and out of proportion to what the context demands. This represents a false alternative.

If you are objective and rational, you can see that there are certain situations in life where it’s not only acceptable, but desirable, to act quickly. You need not choose between acting without thinking, or thinking obsessively to the point of inaction.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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