Friday, July 17, 2015

No Excuse, Just Explanation

By Karen Nelson, M.A.

In this day and age of instant communications either online through social networking, on television or through texting, people are tending towards knee-jerk reactions and statements which seemingly reveal a desperate need to be heard or noticed without thinking about what it is they want to say or of the ramifications of mis-speaking or over-sharing or telling “little white lies.”

For example, today (7/17/15), on The View, Raven-Symone revealed a common misunderstanding of the definitions of jealousy and envy. She said that she often expresses “jealousy in a good way” about other people and added that it is a good way because it makes her a better person. She expressed her feelings that jealousy and envy are different, envy being worse. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines these two words in this way:

Jealous: feeling or showing an envious resentment of someone or their achievements, possessions or perceived advantages.

Envy: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities or luck.

This dictionary defines,

Resentment: bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.

How can one have bitter indignation “in a good way?” How does resentment about being treated unfairly make one a better person?

These “bitter” feelings are toxic and can lead one to act out against the object of those feelings, hence the idea of “jealous rage” which stems from the resentment and discontentment. I gently refer Ms. Symone to a stanza from the Desiderata (Max Ehrmann, 1927), “If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

From Ms. Symone’s conversation, I suspect she meant to say that she admires some people for their achievements, qualities or possessions and desires to improve herself as a result. “Admire” sounds milder because it is…no where in that definition will one find the words, “bitter,” “resentment,” “indignation” or “discontented.”

Now, this example, of course, is not that big of a deal. There are other examples where the ramifications can be devastating to all concerned such as “mean tweets” leading to a loss of friendship, loss of a job or, even, death by suicide (a loss of self). Then, there is terrorist activity inspired by and fueled by this need to be heard or noticed. This need to be heard might just be the root cause of many negative actions. Not being heard or otherwise noticed can lead to envy and/or jealousy in the true sense of those words. Obviously, there are other emotional and psychological factors that come into play which make the need to express one’s dissatisfaction more or less pathological.

We all have a need to be heard or noticed in our lives. This is why the worst punishment George Orwell could posit in his book 1984, was the elimination of a person’s personhood, the erasing of the person’s name, birth, life and death from all records.

Many years ago, I heard a TV psychologist talking about neglected children say that such children learn from this neglect (whether or not it is malignant or benign) that “Bad breath is better than no breath at all.” (John Bradshaw) These children learn to act out in order to be heard or noticed. I maintain that people who were raised in this way and who have not corrected the negative effects, never quite grow up. They tend to be intolerant of people who receive a lot of attention (warranted or not), or who don’t share their world view or who are people in positions of authority who neglect others (intended or not).

If you know me, then you know that I write this thesis NOT to excuse such negative behaviors but to explain them so that it can be understood and, hopefully, prevented in the future. Socrates wrote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” If I met you and asked you, “Who are you?” what would be your response: your name? Your title? Your work history? Your salary or net worth? Your religious affiliation? All of these are pieces of the puzzle that describe a human doing, not a human being.

I am: a work in progress; a journey; process; I look backwards to see where I’ve been and I look forward to see where I’m going. My history is WHO I am; I am here, now. Who will I be tomorrow? I don’t know. I can only guess. Have I been heard or noticed? To the extent that you have read this blog post, yes. However, I have no control over how you experience it. That depends on who YOU are, on how you view your history, your world. That does not mean that I am not responsible for posting it, for thinking the thoughts I have chosen to express.

Who are you and have you been heard and noticed? Think about it. Feel about it, Choose how to express it.

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