One Strategy to Reduce Your Unhappiness

Is it possible those who harm us might, after a passage of time, appear to be people who helped us learn something important?

Is it possible their very same cruel act enabled our growth and happiness?

I appreciate what I’m suggesting sounds odd, unusual, even crazy. Consider, however, a view based on a Buddhist text called The Vimalakirti Sutra. Its ancient wisdom offers those keen observations about the best way to live.

Imagine you are driving down a superhighway at high speed. Another driver cuts you off, raising your rage and your blood pressure. Not the first time.

Perhaps you swear and lean on the horn. Maybe you race to overtake the “evil” one, hoping to cut him off as well. Retaliation has taken hostage of all cooler thoughts.

Such animal vengeance is dangerous, both to you, the incident’s instigator, and other innocent drivers and their passengers. This time, however — this time — you tame your scorching animosity, internal disarray, and recklessness. This time you learn.

You recognize yourself in the other driver’s careless or mindless behavior: “I shall not become the thing I hate.” You no longer discount the possibility you — now — not the other man, inhabit the potential to create mayhem or death. You begin to transform the anger and impulsivity long a part of how you react to frustration.

The success in mending your problem contributes to an ironic insight: the man who almost maimed you did you a “favor.” Without him, your change may never have happened. It might also have occurred much later, after creating more sadness, fear, or hurt in others, as well as the suffering within.

Waiting in line offers a similar example of how we cause ourselves agony. The queue is long. You have other tasks to perform. Why is the clerk so chatty, so slow?

The blockhead is inefficient. Doesn’t the man realize time is slipping away? He ought to call someone to help with the flood of people!

Viewpoints like this grind the insides and ruin your day, but approaching them in a more Buddhist fashion achieves a better result. Ofttimes therapists counsel patients to “reframe” their distressing experiences — to envision them from an alternative perspective.

Tell yourself the unwanted wait is an opportunity to enhance patience. Consider the episode in a bigger picture. Will catastrophe occur if you spend more time than expected standing still? Use the moments to accomplish something else. Chat with the person in front of or behind you. Plan the week in your head.

Indeed, the unwitting agent behind the desk can be viewed as your benefactor: the one who helps you become more tolerant.

Happier, too.

If you are prone to holding grudges, changing your mindset reduces obsessive ideas about life’s unfairness. Perhaps, too, the world begins to appear more benign.

I’m not saying everything happens for a reason, but not all grievances lead without remedy to long-term misery. The “teachers” needn’t have intended kindness, but occasional gratitude toward them takes you a step nearer to a more fulfilling life.

Yes, some hurts are so grievous their perpetrators need to be brought to justice. Counselors are experts in aiding one’s mourning process when sizeable damage occurs.

A proverb often attributed to Buddhism tells us, “When the pupil is ready, the Master will appear.” Another formulation uses the word teacher for master, with the same meaning: someone who gives us wise guidance.

The one who harmed you might be the Master in disguise.

Either way, our job is to open ourselves to unexpected enlightenment. Overcoming the worst of the torments on life’s menu remains our responsibility, no matter the pain’s origin.

Unless we make something better of at least some of the misfortunes beyond our control, they will make us their plaything.

Hardship invites us to redefine it by the actions we take. When the dark invitation arrives, we do well to open it to find its hidden light.

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The top image is called Enlightenment by Peter Buirlakov. The sculpture photo is A Helping Hand by Forest Runner. Both were sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

26 thoughts on “One Strategy to Reduce Your Unhappiness

  1. Those who do us minor harm, perhaps. But if someone breaks you, I’m not sure. Sure, you grow. But was it necessary? Maybe growth would have occurred in more pleasant way.

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    • Thank you, Inger. I will respond with just a few ideas. First, while I’m not a Mahayana Buddhist (which is the philosophy of the sutra I referred to), these ideas (alien to my Western brain) do have some resonance.

      Of course, I can imagine events that would break me and the difficulty of surviving the event sufficiently intact to learn anything worth the tragedy. However, it is important to recognize the Mahayana Buddhist approach to life sees life as suffering. The goal is to get to a state of nirvana which would be the end of suffering. The learning process to escape suffering and gain enlightenment takes thousands of lifetimes in a cycle of continuous rebirth, until you pass beyond and out of the cycle.

      Are we better off, a wise practitioner might ask, making distinctions among things? Do we suffer more because of the distinctions we make and the value we place on “this, not that?”

      Such distinctions and attachments include beliefs about what is best? What is the value of being first as opposed to second? What is minor harm? Do we profit from attachment to the idea of a person who did us harm, wrestling every day with his memory, his action, the pain he caused? Do we suffer less by becoming detached from the daily struggle with being better, being best, winning, losing, and all the preoccupations we have with what others do to us or for us, think of us or ignore us, etc?

      Interestingly, the psychologist Daniel Gilbert and his colleagues have demontrated that we are poor at “affective forecasting.” Many of the predictions we make about our future happiness or unhappiness are misguided, such us the long term unvarying happiness we expect from marriage or the loss of a job for which we have long trained.

      In part, whether one is permanently broken by an event or a person will depend upon how one responds to what has happened. The Buddhists view is that we cause most or all of our suffering by our attachment. I suspect we both know of individuals whose harm by another is a focus of their thinking for the rest of their lives. If there is a possible way of reducing the pain we are layering upon the pain of any original damage we sustained, my view is to take a look at it and try to reduce whatever part I might play in adding to the hurt someone or something else inflicted.

      With respect to your desire for the most pleasant possible way to learn, I am with you 100%. Unfortunately, some of us, myself included, have had to get hammered a few times in order to learn important life lessons!

      Again, many thanks. I’m sure others share your doubts about the approach I have described here very briefly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. gb fragmented gumdrops

    Dr. S, I like what you wrote here, but it did spark some various emotions within me, and from different parts of me. To try and be simple, your blog post here reminds me of a theory we learned in a victimology course called routine activity theory (Cohen & Felson, 1979): https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/computer-science/routine-activity-theory#:~:text=Routine%20activity%20theory%2C%20from%20Cohen,of%20both%20offender%20and%20victim. There are three elements to a crime, whereby the victim often learns from the offender after the fact, and the offender has already learned from the victim prior to committing a crime (malice aforethought). According to the theory, the three elements if crime (including criminal/traumatic victimization) include an offender with a motive and intent to victimize someone or something, a suitable target (a victim and/or a victim’s property), and the lack of “capable guardianship” (i.e., VIABLE protective factors that deter and/or prevent criminal victimization, such as a lack of a security system or being a female who walks alone in a dark alleyway). The offender often learns about their target before committing a crime, but in victimology studies, the victim also learns about their own lack of capable guardianship, and how they were an “easy target.” In cases of childhood abuse victimization, adult survivors learn through remembering and mourning, and they realize that their parents lacked capable guardianship for their children; their parents were supposed to protect them, but instead directly harmed them or allowed others (such as paramours) to harm them. In cases of adulthood criminal victimization, using poor judgment like walking home alone from a bar in the middle of the night might be risky for any person (regardless of age, gender/sex, etc.) is one example of an opportunity for a willing offender and a target (in this case, a person) who lacks capable guardianship (in this case, an extra person or two to walk with the person or drive the person home safely). In cases of betrayal trauma, a person who was trusted to be a capable guardianship during a vulnerable time (such as going to a party with a few friends, or serving in the military with your brothers in arms) was completely lacking the capable guardianship when the only capable guardianship turned into the perpetrator when criminal sexual assault occurred as a result. Like childhood abuse, adulthood rape victims are often blamed for their own lack of capable guardianship vis-a-vis their purported “lack of judgment,” when in fact they were sexually harassed on duty, on the job, or from those whom they once trusted. Blaming the victim can only teach victims so much about self-defense tactics, about avoiding the very freedoms they should have but can’t because there are powerful predators who take advantage of those freedoms, and about increasing capable guardianship through possessions of self-defense weapons like mace or pocket knives or even firearms. Any weapon can be turned against its owner if a more powerful offender gets a hold of it first, and not all forms of capable guardianship are effective. Victims can beat themselves up to learn more and more about their offender’s criminal behaviors and the etiologies thereof, but no matter how much a victim blames himself or herself, that victim cannot, alone, be solely responsible for the purported “allowance” of the offender’s criminal actions. In some cases, the victim could have done something to prevent such occurrences from happening, but there are many cases where the victim could not. The victim may feel some sense of empowerment whenever met with support groups, or even when experiencing post-traumatic growth. But even then, the body and mind pay a price whenever harms are done to that person, and there’s no true way to be grateful for the experience in order to feel like a person has evolved – even as a social-justice-seeking person. Even if a person becomes a stellar detective, psychologist, or lawyer based on his or her victimization experiences, that same person could still have earned those titles without being harmed/traumatized. We can certainly learn a lot about an offender, about prevention, about our own insights into fighting certain injustices from our own traumatic experiences, but it should not be mistaken for something that ought to occur in life in order for us to learn.

    We can learn from car accidents without having been in a fender-bender, or even without having been paralyzed from the neck down. We can learn from accidentally spreading the virus that may kill some vulnerable populations without actually spreading the virus willfully; we can read and err on the side of caution, and we can do what we can to reduce risk of harm to ourselves and others. We can learn from our experiences, but we need not have been harmed to learn from those same experiences. We may have a different and unique vantage point than others, but in this pandemic, which is traumatic and sometimes involves non-criminal victimization, we need not contract COVID-19 in order to learn from it.

    Identifying strengths we have in ourselves to overcome such traumas is one way we can learn more about ourselves, as painful as that is. However, we need not have experienced trauma in order to learn about our strengths and overcoming adversities; adversities need not be traumatic.

    Rape should never be part of childhood rearing or military training or romantic brokering of a vulnerable partner. That’s one extreme example of trauma that one cannot be “thankful” for experiencing in order to learn more about her or his or their strengths, or about her or his or their weak choices , etc. The perpetrator in such cases must be held fully responsible, and the pain that ensued from that must be acknowledged. We can learn from that pain, and we can learn more about how our lives were changed from that pain – including traumatic losses that ensued from such pains, such as incurring a lifelong mental illness or more. We can learn about having a new way of life, but we truly deserved to have a different, less painful life. Lest you believe that some entity wants to torment us like Job was tormented, and to harm and traumatize us until we are fated to learn our life’s lesson. That seems like a brutal way to think about learning, and about our purpose here on earth.

    I often wonder where’s the line between all this mending and healing – especially from trauma?

    I would never think of my rapist or my molester as a child as someone who did me a favor. I would never ever consider those “favors.” That’s what the perp would want us to think. Even Dr. Judith Herman claims that society often blames the victim over the perp. And victim-blaming is so often revealed in theories like the one I learned about in victimology class years ago (Routine Activity Theory) as well as in policies and correctional paradigms.

    I don’t know how else to react other than this. I’ve tried to be non-emotional about this, or even objective, but it’s painful to even consider thanking a perp for traumatizing me.

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    • Well said!

      Liked by 1 person

    • As I said, before, gb, I think I’ve said what I am prepared to say on the subject of Mahayana Buddhism and the idea of gratitude. I’ll add only these thoughts. First, please note that I said in the post the ideas I was presenting would be peculiar from a Western viewpoint. I find them so, as well.

      Note the precise language I used in the post. For example, “The success in mending your problem contributes to an ironic insight: the man who almost maimed you did you a ‘favor.'” The word favor is put into quotation marks to indicate its meaning needed to be taken in a less than straight-forward fashion. I further indicated that a mourning process was still indicated for the worst of injustices. Equally the criminal justice system was mentioned by me as were only those minor examples into which some of us could, perhaps, get close to an understanding of some amount of ironic gratitude.

      I do not expect you or anyone else, myself included, to respond to a perpetrator of the kind of misfortune you have suffered to feel or express any gratitude to that person.

      For any further discussion of this, I suggest you speak with a Mahayana Buddhist scholar, which I am certainly not, or a therapist within an ongoing therapeutic relationship. I am not trying to suggest your concerns are not worthy. I’ve responded as best I am prepared to do.

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  3. Thank you, gb. It is impossible for me to adequately respond to your comment, though it is, as Inger Bakker indicated, well said. I did not endorse victim-blaming. Indeed, the kind of “learning” you are describing is not what is present in the two examples I gave. In those examples, the people I focused on needed to learn something about themselves (uncontrolled anger and impatience, respectively) that they revealed after the event, not anything they did that “caused” the event. While the victimology theory you presented is of considerable interest, it doesn’t apply to the kind of message Mahayana Buddhism offers us.

    I can well understand the ideas I presented here in relatively few words are difficult to comprehend. I’ve had a similar challenge with Eastern philosophy, as have classmates of mine in courses on subjects such as this. They often say they are “lost.”

    The simplest point I can make is to say, after a difficult or painful occurrence, we will, by our action or inaction, make something of it. How we interpret it, how we react to it, what remedies we choose to deal with it — these are the only things we can control. The event is a fact and is in the past, however present it might seem. Will we grieve, will we seek and find an adept therapist — such things are in our hands. The tragedy still happened, but we can’t change it, so we are left to do what we can.

    Neither Buddhism nor I endorse victim-blaming. Neither Buddhism nor I want anyone to suffer more. Rather, Buddhism offers us one possible path to reducing suffering.

    Be well, gb.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gb fragmented gumdrops

      I hear what you’re saying, and I did study Buddhism (there are many different kinds) while taking a course on Religion during my undergraduate years. I even visited two Buddhist temples – one in Chicago and one in Evanston, which embraced two different forms of Buddhism. I appreciate Buddhism and its contribution to the field of Psychology. However, I stated what I did because that was my authentic reaction to what I read. While I understand some of what you said, as clearly we may not understand 100%, but we understand enough, I also had to state what I did because I think there needs to be some consensus in there. If we aren’t to think on all-or-nothing, or black-and-white terms, “happiness” and the expression of “negative emotions” (sadness, anger for injustice, grief) ought not to be discounted as a viable response to pain, to memories of pain, etc. Pain doesn’t always equate to suffering; pain allows us to tell the doctors our symptoms so that we can get meds or surgery to feel better and heal. As I tried to post earlier in a different response, “toxic positivity” also creates suffering: https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/toxic-positivity-during-the-pandemic

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      • Yes, we have pain because of our evolution. Those who didn’t have pain are not our ancestors, they were not alerted to the possibility of danger. I understand you were authentic, but some of what you said did not accurately reflect what I had said. You might also disagree with the last statement. Fair enough. Buddhism, to the best of my knowledge, does not relate to the idea of toxic positivity. Be well, gb.

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    • gb fragmented gumdrops

      My apologies, Dr. S, for assuming that you endorsed victim-blaming. To me, that is what it sounded like, and I stand corrected. For that I was wrong. I have learned a few things about myself and my coping with extreme traumas over long periods of time and from many different criminal offenders (most of whom were unsubstantiated due to never being reported to authorities). I cannot ever get to the place of thanking them. I can forgive them, and I can understand, perhaps, the source of their behaviors through the social sciences. However, I have not grown because of them. I’ve grown in spite of them. There’s a difference in that thinking and statement, too – and that difference is empowering me as a wounded victim, or as in veteran-speak – a wounded warrior. I should not have experienced military sexual trauma, and I should not have experienced childhood sexual abuse and otherwise – in order for me to achieve any sort of enlightenment. Those experiences damaged me, my limbic system, and my longevity of life – not to mention quality of life as well. I may suffer from that, but there’s a reason why I suffer. That suffering represents the injustice done to me, and it doesn’t mean that I want to hold onto that suffering. My parts hold those things because I needed to survive in some way that didn’t completely destroy my mind, I suppose. I can learn a ton about myself and try to work on moving past the traumas, but the social injustices against females, minorities, and now, during this pandemic, the disabled, the obese, the crippled, the aging – remind us of present-day traumas (not just past trauma recollections). People are suffering today, and those on ventilators can hardly think long enough to appreciate life lessons or nirvana, especially when medical trauma is real, when ICU-induced trauma via sedatives and/or ventilators create hallucinations and dilerium tremens – all of which can horrify persons and exact PTSD in persons, no matter how life-saving those machines and operations are. This virus, gasping for air to breathe and experiencing constant pain and suffering, might be alleviated or buffered with automatic or self-hypnotic dissociation, but it might not – especially when that dissociation means a different personality doesn’t dissociate and instead feels all of the pain, which gets recollected later for those with DID. For those who could purely dissociate, as in those special ops guys who can withstand torture of some kinds, that’s great – but it still incurs some level of suffering. Still, they aren’t tortured with rape, and that particular form of torture that is experienced is worse than all other kinds because one cannot be “trained” from it. Otherwise, all the branches of the armed services and all the clandestine personnel would have rape under its training repertoire. They don’t, and for good reason. Just look at the many victims who suffer today. Toxic positivity only prolongs that suffering; it never ends it and never will, lest we remain in complete denial about the ongoing issues surrounding “rape culture” or whatever other name it could be called to describe constant sexual victimization of not only females but those males who are deemed “feminine” as well. It’s not right when it happens anywhere – with kids, with traffickers, with employees, or within the ranks of the armed forces. That will always be my point, and such points relieve my suffering, not flame it. I call it my “righteous anger.” (Or at least a few parts within named Julia and Michelle and Clarissa call it that.)

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      • I appreciate your point of view, gb. I think, for now, I’ve said what I care to say on the subject. As you know, I’ve read and commented on your experience before. It is beyond words, certainly beyond my words to say anything except I wish it were otherwise and I congratulate you on the bravery you show every day to survive.

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      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Thank you for your replies, Dr. S. This is a really tough subject for me, and as I can hear, maybe some other trauma survivors as well. For me, at least, it causes me to think about the offenders who victimized me, as well as the traumas that occurred and ensued thereafter. It’s hard for me to read through lenses for which you intended. It’s not an easy thing to discuss or even debate about. To each his or her own, I suppose. I’ll just agree to disagree and leave it at that.

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      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Question, Dr. S: I think a few parts of myself got triggered by this post. That said, I was wondering if you meant something like this, for example:

        If I were to think of my perpetrator’s points of view, such as what made them “human” to begin with, then I could consider a few things. One, I could understand that maybe they were hurt and abused in the past, or maybe they were “conditioned” and learned “deviance” from their “deviant parents” and/or “deviant peers” growing up. Maybe they lacked some privileges that I couldn’t understand. –These are NO excuses for their bad behaviors (i.e.,, maladaptive, externalizing behavioral problems), but I could nonetheless understand and learn from them. In fact, I have understood and learned from them, in part.

        I learned how to forgive in my own “spiritual” way during a time I was in a trauma treatment facility and attending trauma-focused modules on “spiritual healing” as well as “sexual healing” (two different modules among many other modules offered in an inpatient program). Whilst there, I learned different ways to think about things, some of which borrowed from Eastern traditions, including various forms of Buddhism (such as mindfulness). I learned to accept my feelings of anger and go deep within to figure out why I was angry. It wasn’t JUST the person I was angry at, or JUST the betrayal from the type of relationship I engaged with that person prior to my traumatic victimization experience with that person; it was also what was robbed of me, what meant most to me, what I might have taken for granted prior to that incident.

        For example, I didn’t realize how much I cherished the feeling of “innocent” or “being innocent” or being “good” until I felt ashamed, de-virginized, “ruined,” “impure,” “gross,” “sensitive,” “afraid,” etc. I felt a level of insecurity, fear, sensitivity, and vigilance that I had never felt before the traumatic event. This taught me that not only has my body responded to trauma, my identity had responded as well. I was no longer the same person I thought I was – good, strong, independent, courageous, triumphant, loveable, likeable, etc. Of course, there’s a lot of cognitive distortions that came along with bodily and sensory responses to trauma, which then shaped my cognition, my executive functioning, my decision-making, and my behaviors after that, which in turn shaped my identity – both global and internal. My identity, I suppose, could not handle all these changes at once, or all these repeated trauma-based changes, so it shifted to adapt to the circumstances I could not control. My reactions, including some OCD-like reactions, were based on feeling out of control and wanting that control back in some way – even in pseudo, unrealistic ways. I understand that about myself and my own responses to trauma, regardless of who the perpetrators were or what they did to me. I realized how much grief and loss issues I have based on those things. I realized what I didn’t recognize as much before those traumatic things happened. I also realized how much I grew to understand other victims and to empathize with them – as best as I could without getting triggered myself.

        I grew more passionate about equity, equality, democracy, humanity, science, and the environment. I grew more cognizant about my surroundings and the potential dangers in them. I also became aware of the various arguments presented by peace builders who studied “peace” in college (I took a course on peace and realized how many discussions and arguments included “violence versus non-violence” amid their approaches toward peace, and how psychologists like Freud had contributed to that field as well).

        I learned how some people do make mistakes, and that their mistakes can be intentional or unintentional, or even a combo of both. I learned that people can change, and that reconciliation through forgiveness is powerful when people are authentic in both their repentance and forgiveness. Authenticity is key.

        I learned that different parts of me are NOT fake or “false selves,” but rather different selves within me to handle different things that my mind couldn’t fathom as an “integrated person.” I learned that I feared being a whole person in the wake of certain adversities, whether they be “traumatic” or not. I learned this early on – before my conscious brain could fathom what was going on until years later – well into my adulthood years – when I discovered I had DID.

        I learned that my fragmentation is similar to those without DID, but with PTSD and dissociation comorbidity. I learned also that my different parts internalized what I had witnessed and/or experienced from my perpetrators, and that parts of me feel ashamed for having witnessed and/or experienced those things – as if we feel like we are partly part of the perpetrators now. But then, there are parts of ourselves (like spiritual, older Ethyl inside, or like helper Lilly inside) who do forgive our perpetrators and, in according to a similar belief style as Buddhism, feel that those perpetrators have a long way to go to learn from their mistakes or their mishaps or even themselves and what they missed out in life – what their consequences to their actions truly meant within the spiritual realm toward themselves – such as the hurt and pain get rebounded to their spiritual self whenever they harm others; a similar approach was used on a female child psychopath who was traumatized prior to her antisocial behavioral problems, but she learned in this lifetime early on and went on to be a nurse as an adult (her story can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YhxerkkHUs

        I think I will eventually need to re-read your post with different lenses, but I wanted to add on what some of my other, more mature parts inside helped me to understand just recently. It’s painful to accept because our anger and grief run deep.

        Hopefully that’s kind of what you meant, Dr. S. If not, it’s still hard for us to comprehend. It’s not you or your writing, but rather it’s our triggers that cloud our interpretation. I hope that makes sense. Hope we didn’t upset you, Dr. S, with our responses. Our responses are at least honest though, which is important for us to hold some integrity for ourselves. We don’t like to hide as much anymore, and we at least have one outlet (our therapist) where we can be ourselves and honest with how we are feeling, even though we are still learning to build trust. It’s not easy to build trust, which is another thing we’re learning about ourselves.

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  4. I found this to be extremely useful, but I won’t stop getting ticked off at people who refuse to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines.

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    • I have had that feeling, too, Steven. We might ask ourselves, however, about anger’s value, except as a motivator to engage in political action (which I imagine you are doing). Of course, a Buddhist monk would be withdrawn from the world He wouldn’t be writing blogs. He would be begging for alms. As I said in an earlier response to a comment, escape from suffering takes an almost endless number of lives. Only a few are thought to be capable of arriving there. My non-Buddhist response to you is this: glad to hear you are in the fight. And my Vulcan (Star Trek) response is: “Live long and prosper.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • gb fragmented gumdrops

      Steven, finally – one person who is brave enough to speak out against anti-maskers, etc.! I get ticked off, but from a distance – and when I say distance, I mean I’m socially distanced inside my apartment for 6 months going on 12 to 18 more.

      Earlier on, I had to report my neighbors to the old landlord, who has since been replaced by a new landlord, that my neighbors were not in compliance with the social distancing or mask-wearing orders, and were instead ordering pizza and eating in the hallways or speaking in the hallways without masks, thinking that the entire apartment complex was their “home” and therefore safe to be without masks. It irked me to see the stupidity of people during this pandemic, and especially how we have many elderly living on our floor. I lost the new friends I made because I reported them, but I figured that it was better to lose friends and possibly save lives than to say nothing at all and potentially watch lives get harmed.

      If we all just stood idly by while our “enemies” or non-enemy-yet-ignorant-non-law-abiding persons continued to do harm to our country for the sake of “freedom” or “learning” or whatever have you, we would have lost wars, we would not have had the freedoms we do now, we would not have a Constitution, we would not have the kind of balanced social order needed for both liberty and justice, we would not have the kind of democratic republic our nation prides itself on, and we would not have a nation.

      There are reasons why there are lawmakers, policymakers, argumentation and debate courses, victimology experts, those who fight for social justice, those who whistleblow, those who bring forth justice (within the confines of the law), those who codify law, those who sue, those who defend our nation by any means necessary (whether that mean clandestine work under cover or outright war) – all those have been codified by law with as much ethics that is purportedly in line with our Constitution, and with as much intelligence to gather the information necessary to back up such decisions (at least for those decisions that were, in fact, ethical and warranted for the sake of the protection of our nation). If Orders require us to wear masks and socially distance for the sake of protecting others as well as our economy (since those who wind up dying and/or on permanent disability from COVID-19, and those who wind up on permanent disability for PTSD from witnessing traumatic grief and loss from those they knew who died from COVID-19), then such Orders are codified laws that protect us and, by extension, our freedoms fought for by those who swore an oath to our Country and defending our Nation’s Constitution. Thus, those who get irked by non-mask-wearing and non-social-distancing individuals have every right to get irked, in my humble opinion.

      In the Bible, there’s Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, which also tell us that there’s a time for everything (including different emotions). Additionally, in non-religious psychological teachings, there’s also a thing called “toxic positivity,” which seemingly praises the emotion “happiness” over any form of “negative emotionality,” which minimizes people’s pain: https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/toxic-positivity-during-the-pandemic …See also https://www.health.com/condition/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/what-is-toxic-positivity Although research on “negative emotionality” does exact increased interpersonal relationship problems as well as increased internalizing and externalizing disorders, toxic positivity can also cause unnecessary harm. Research studying one area should not infer that its purported opposite – positivity, as opposed to negative emotionality or negativity – is better. There’s a time and place for everything, and there’s balance. There’s more philosophies than one, and there’s more than one path toward enlightenment. We, too, can learn from many different sources and paths. Who knows; maybe there are many paths to nirvana, only, nirvana is defined differently. There’s flaws in nearly all religions or those who claim they are non-religious (but are still seen as a “religion” nonetheless).

      I’m not going to pour sugar in this bowl and call it candy! I’m not going to say that anti-maskers are teaching us lessons about freedom, about (blind) “faith,” about “saving the economy,” or about the “Republican way.” Freedom is not intended to harm, and not wearing masks harm. We are NOT “all in this together”; we are divided, not a nation indivisible anymore. We will have a worsening economy either way – whether 200k more people die from COVID-19 or whether 20% of all COVID-19 cases get severely infected to where they are permanently disabled for the rest of their lives – an estimated count from our nation’s scientists as well as from the WHO. We can learn from their antisocial, non-empathetic perspectives, just like we can learn from offenders/criminals/perpetrators, but learning need not encompass one emotion – happiness – in order for us to learn and appreciate who we are in this diverse world.

      There’s also the “martyr complex” that is problematic among interpersonal relationships, and can, too, be impulsive. Toxic positivity can be impulsive, as can exact interpersonal relationship problems and behavioral/externalizing problems, and ongoing denials about this-worldly issues, as opposed to blindly focusing on other-worldly issues. We can appreciate many different philosophies and religions for what messages they have to offer in order to enlighten us, teach us, and even help us with our negative emotions, but there’s a time and place and balance for everything under the sun, snow, rain, hurricanes, red-and-ashy skies, etc.

      Righteous anger has its place. Sublime has its place. Mourning has its place. Happiness has its place.

      We are human, and we were made with different emotions. We can embrace each emotion as a learning experience, too. We can appreciate the ability to feel empathy through tears and pain when we see others hurting and/or being victimized. Happiness doesn’t teach us that. We can know that we’re not complete psychopaths, narcissists, or megalomaniacs because we can feel pain, shed tears, and exhibit empathy.

      With any extreme side of philosophy, there comes some sort of imbalance. We can’t always be sad all of the time, but we equally cannot always be happy all of the time. We also cannot be stoic all of the time. There’s no way to remove such biases if we’re unbalanced. Our mind’s eye is blinded whenever our belief systems lack balance. IMHO

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  5. Acceptance, yes. Happiness? That’s a stretch I haven’t been able to make.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Did enjoy the Religions of the Eastern World class in college.
    Very introspective post.. as painful as it can be sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Laura. It is a perspective-altering way to look at the world. To take such a novel perspective, one has to not only reconfigure one’s thoughts, but move away from the ever-present training and world view we are presented with daily. Additionally, we have to move from our evolutionary tendencies with respect to attachments to ideas, things, and people, as well as gut-driven judgments about enemies and friends — tribal judgments that helped us survive. Evolution, of course, drove us to survive and procreate. Our happiness and minimization of pain was not the target, except to the extent they factored into the survival/procreation agenda. As you know, I’m sure, this is just the tip of what would be a long conversation. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. On Sat., Sep. 12, 2020, 8:00 p.m. Dr. Gerald Stein, wrote:

    > drgeraldstein posted: ” Is it possible those who harm us might, after a > passage of time, appear to be people who helped us learn something > important? Is it possible their very same cruel act enabled our growth and > happiness? I appreciate what I’m suggesting sounds odd, u” >

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ßd

    On Sun., Sep. 13, 2020, 12:16 p.m. Nicole Charlton, wrote:

    > > On Sat., Sep. 12, 2020, 8:00 p.m. Dr. Gerald Stein, comment-reply@wordpress.com> wrote: > >> drgeraldstein posted: ” Is it possible those who harm us might, after a >> passage of time, appear to be people who helped us learn something >> important? Is it possible their very same cruel act enabled our growth and >> happiness? I appreciate what I’m suggesting sounds odd, u” >>

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Hardship invites us to redefine it by the actions we take. When the dark invitation arrives, we do well to open it to find its hidden light.”
    ~ I’ve lived through many hardships along life’s journey and know that they have made me stronger and more compassionate towards others. These days, I’m working hard, through reading and an open mind, to open and understand the darkness that envelops us as a nation. Only time will tell if we can find its hidden light.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The last line of your comment is perfect, Rosaliene! Let’s hope we don’t have to survive beyond this lifetime to see some light when our calendars turn to the page to November. Be well and thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I understand what you have written here Dr. Stein, and I think all of us have unwittingly heeded this advice from time to time, only to return to old habits such as frustration while standing in a long line. I know I have. If you are interested, I will update you on my situation as progress is being made. Just prefer to do it quietly.

    Like

  12. Thanks, Nancy. Yes, I’d be interested.

    Like

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