We’ve all been there. You’re struggling with some insurmountable difficulty, other people see you struggling and suddenly you’re overwhelmed with the outpouring of sympathy. It seems to be coming from everywhere and everybody. Everyone that becomes aware of your predicament wants to help out — perhaps with hug, an earnest look, some good advice — God bless’em. In extreme cases they may try to give you canned goods or antibiotics, but before you know it you’re overwhelmed. You’re drowning in a sea of pathos and you just want to feel solid ground under your feet so you can continue your struggle in isolation and despair.
If only there were some easy way to transform that pesky flood of goodwill into a large puff of vapor that would float gently up and away into the sky, thus leaving you free to obsess about your real problem.
Well, guess what? Turns out there is a way to do exactly that. It’s called ingratitude and it really must be if not the fastest then certainly one of the fastest and most effective ways to encourage — dare I say coerce? — even the most fanatical otherwise-would-be sympathizer to buzz off and sympathize with someone, er, more grateful for it.
As it turns out, sympathy is what economists refer to as a “scarce resource”, and folks (all of us) have to make tough choices about how and when and to whom they’re going to allocate that resource. In making those hard decisions one highly favored piece of information they use is whether and how much gratitude is felt and expressed by the sympathy recipient. A total lack of gratitude — a.k.a. ingratitude — is widely interpreted as a cue to go away and sympathize with someone else.
So, there you have it. No longer need you feel overwhelmed by the sympathy others may express when they observe your struggles. Whenever it all gets to be too much, all you need do is express some ingratitude and believe me they will get the message. If they don’t get the message, then it’s probably because you’re holding back in some way. Maybe you’re being too polite. Maybe you don’t want to hurt their feelings. Maybe you don’t want to seem, er, ungrateful?
Hope that’s useful! 🙂
Image Credit: Pixabay
If you’re new to this blog, let me quickly catch you up on what you missed last year. To summarize in a sentence: yet again I ruined everything — destroyed my marriage, my health, my financial status — by trying to defend myself against a bully. The whole fiasco was thoroughly documented in many of the 285 blog posts I deleted back in October, but for various reasons, well, I decided to delete that whole mess and start over.
This sort of craziness is a core theme of my life. I could probably list dozens of examples. The details are always different and the scale can range from trivial to spectacular, but the structure of the story is always the same: someone with power over my life abuses that power, I try to defend myself, and as a result, everything goes to shit. Although this most recent fiasco was without a doubt the most spectacular of them all (at the end of October I actually spent two weeks in jail!), the core structure of the overall narrative is the same one that’s been running my life for as long as I can remember.
I hate it. I’m so sick of it. And for the moment it really seems to me that a central cause of this nonsense is what I wrote about in my previous post — the chronic false assumption on my part that my anger will seem rational and legitimate to those who witness it. This is just wrong. When I take a good hard look at the facts, it is abundantly clear that something quite the opposite is true: to the extent that my anger is witnessed, it will almost certainly be viewed as irrational and unprovoked by those witnesses.
Ergo: if I want to change this tendency of mine to ruin everything by defending myself against the bullies in my life, I need to stop letting people witness my anger — either by not getting angry in the first place, or at least if I do get angry, then at least hiding it from observers until I calm down.
In other words, I have to seem unangry — friendly, kind, gentle, etc. — all the fuckin’ time!
I think probably the worst mistake I’ve ever made was to chronically imagine — over the course of decades — that my own anger would be perceived and understood by its diverse observers as rational and justified when rather to the contrary it has for the most part been construed as irrational and wholly unprovoked.
I can’t speak for anyone else in saying this, but I feel quite confident at this point in asserting that whenever I personally feel anger — or any of its siblings and cousins (frustration, annoyance, irritability, etc.) — it’s a safe bet that anyone who finds out about these feelings will judge me to be overreacting or out of line, perhaps a bit ridiculous.
At least in my own case, it seems clear that my own anger is only rarely seen as legitimate or taken seriously as a rational and valid communication of useful information regarding a problem that should be solved. As a direct consequence of this pattern, my own anger has rarely accomplished anything useful and has often contributed to the failure of many interpersonal relationships.
Conclusion: good rules (for me, at least, to follow) appear to be, in the first place, don’t get angry, and second, if I do get angry, keep it hidden till I calm down.
Image Credit: Pixabay