I came across this word for the first time yesterday when reading Ian O’Doherty’s article in the Irish Independent on Roy Keane‘s departure from Sunderland (that’s a lot of hyperlinks, folks…).

O’Doherty (God bless his chubby cheeks) usefully defines anhedonia as an inability to gain pleasure from normally pleasurable experiences (which, as it happens, is almost a direct quote from the Wikipedia article referred to above). While there seems to be a sexual element to this condition (isn’t there always?), it can also manifest in normal everyday events. O’Doherty refers to Keane’s “disgust at the joy of some of the (Manchester) United players after they won the long lusted after Champions League trophy” as displaying “an obsession verging on anhedonia“. Now, winning sporting trophies is not exactly an everyday event to me (although I do seem to recall winning a gold medal as part of a Castleisland Town League soccer tournament sometime in the mid 1970s), but it would have been more commonplace for Keano.

I am always surprised when I find, quite often after years, that there is a “name” to describe a feeling I have experienced and wondered just what the hell it was. I’m sure that I don’t suffer from full-blown anhedonia, as defined in Wikipedia, but there are certainly moments when I have felt an inability to “join in the fun” with friends or colleagues. For instance, I have a real problem with the usual office social activities. Christmas “do’s” are pretty much a thing of the past for me – I prefer to go for lunches rather than evenings in the pub, on the basis that the requirement to provide cover in the office gives me the perfect excuse to bolt down my food and dash back to my desk. On occasions where I cannot avoid an evening meal, I whizz through the nosh as quickly as good manners allow and can be homed and hosed (that sounds a bit rude, doesn’t it?) in around 90 minutes. The shortest office party I ever attended lasted (for me) about 30 minutes. I declared in advance that I wasn’t going for the meal, arrived in time to buy a round of drinks for my staff and buggered off home. I appreciate that this is an irrational way to behave – it’s almost as if I willed myself not to enjoy the evening. As an example of this, at that 30 minute outing, I didn’t even buy myself an alcoholic drink – I bought a glass of sparkling mineral water and – wait for it – I didn’t even drink it…

It’s not that I don’t like my colleagues – I do like them a lot. It’s just that, for some reason, I can’t cut loose and live in the moment, as it were. I am always conscious of the morning after. In the past, I have spent too many evenings over-intoxicated and misbehaving, leading to horrendous hangovers and deep depressions as I realised that yes, I had said/done that… So somewhere along the line, I took a decision to sort that crap right out.

Here are a couple of things I’ve noticed over the years:-

  1. If I am socialising with people with whom I don’t have a natural affinity but who do have a natural affinity with each other, then I quickly discover that there is a set of rules for how the various members of the group behave. These rules are almost instinctive for the group members, but only become known to me retrospectively when I have breached them. So I now try to avoid socialising with people where my presence is more of an obligation than a natural desire on my part.
  2. If there is an office “do” in honour of particular individuals, I tend to weigh up in my head whether that individual is “worth” the inevitable hangover. If s/he is not, then I tend not to go. Notice I said “tend” – this rule doesn’t apply in all cases…:-)
  3. The night I enjoy best the morning after is not necessarily the night I enjoyed while experiencing it. These can usually be classified as “grand nights out” where imbibing, talking shite and unseemly behaviour is minimised, if not completely eliminated. Obviously, the converse applies.
  4. One can neither undo what one did (particularly if the doing involved “undoing”, if you follow), nor unsay what one said. I still get the shudders at what I called a former boss of mine, to his face, while in me cups, over ten years ago.
  5. Finally, and most importantly, if something can’t happen, then it won’t happen. If one could only stick to that mantra, one could go through life with a clear head and conscience.

Of course, all of this means is that I miss out a lot on all the “fun” that people seem to be having. Most of the time this doesn’t bother me, although I do occasionally feel a pang of regret that I can’t just learn the rules, apply them and get on with enjoying myself like everyone else. But hey, I am what I am, or as another former boss once said of me, in my presence, “He can’t help the way he his.” That’s not true, of course – I can help the way I am. And I do