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Gossips, Rumour and Tittle/Tattle 

I came across an interesting phrase in a novel by Terry Pratchett.

"Rumour can have gone around the world before TRUTH has got its boots on!"

What is it about gossip and tittle/tattle that can generate such a blazing trail? It's easy to understand the urgency around "run for your life, the enemy's coming!" or "head for the hills, there's a tidal wave on my tail!" but what is it about "our Sheila says that Mrs Snoop saw Mrs Jones at the fair with Mr Penny" that sets the gossip mill grinding at a frenzied pace?

On a scale of 1 to 10 of important information for the survival of the species, it probably rates about minus 1. Its importance for the personal survival of Mrs Jones or Mr Penny may take it's rating up to a more positive number (depending upon what they were doing and whether Mr Jones or Mrs Penny might approve), but generally the interest level in this piece of information is often far greater than its apparent worth.

So maybe we need to scratch a bit below the surface to see what is really going on, because when so much energy goes into something so apparently trivial then there must be somebody gaining something out of it!

To understand this a bit more we need to look at the "feel good factor". If we are NOT feeling good, then we often do something we think will help us to feel better - kick the dog, eat chocolate, have sex, buy things, shout at spouse/children/colleagues/delivery person... Sometimes even if we ARE feeling good (and we're a bit greedy) we will do some of those things as well - hey, can you get TOO much feel good?

What is underlying most of these activities is a power shift, by artificially lifting oneself up as a result of putting someone else down or by acquiring the energy from giving oneself gifts.

So, if we look at what is happening in a group of people chatting, the one with more information will have more to talk about and will be the centre of attention for that time - all eyes and ears on them as they tell their tale. The "feel good factor" is at work - it may be only a small bit of energy going their way, but the really practiced ones will be the ones who know how to hog the limelight. Such as recounting word for word the entire conversation they had with someone else, retelling the same story (THEY never get bored with it), not pausing for breath (who needs oxygen when I'm getting all this limelight) or even better still, learning how to inhale and talk at the same time! And of course, while we're at it we can throw in some judgmental comments on people's actions and gain a whole lot more energy from the exalted position of self-righteousness too.

Now, that we've found a way to puff up our own energy and "feel good", there is a need to make sure that the supply continues, so we need to collect information too - anything will do, no matter how trivial or small, it doesn't even need to be true! Just keep that mill grinding!

Of course the real trick in life is to "feel good" from within.

And, wouldn't it be a wonderful place if the "feel good factor" was individually resolved without "kicking the dog"!

(J Hargreaves - 30th January 2003)

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