Tag Archives: pain

Don’t Get Over It

meetingonthebus_eternalsunshineofthespotlessmind

Good morning, and a very merry Thursday to you!

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to recover from emotional hardships, don’t we?  When we don’t get a job that we desperately wanted and would have been perfect for, we immediately shrug it off.  When a friend lets us down, we want nothing more than to forgive, forget and never discuss it again.  When we get our hearts broken, we put an unbelievable amount of energy into getting over the rejection and recovering our confidence.

My dear reader, I have an outrageous suggestion to put to you: we shouldn’t try to get over these things.  We should try to go through them, instead.

The other day my flat mate asked me whether I would go for an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind situation if the opportunity presented itself.  (For those of you who haven’t seen the film, the basic premise is that a scientist offers people the chance to erase all of their memories of a previous, painful relationship.  This allows them to live without any heartbreak, or any idea that their ex even exists.)  It’s an appealing thought, and it reflects something that a lot of us feel when we’ve just been hurt: we want things to go back to the way they were, or we want to be the person we were before our beloveds messed us up.

It sounds ideal, doesn’t it?  But I ended up saying no to my flat mate, because even though my romantic history is basically one long, embarrassing cautionary tale, it is a part of who I am.  This is true for all of us.  It might be exciting to imagine that we could revert to a previous incarnation of ourselves, and that we could take back the humiliation, regret, wasted time and pain, but we can’t actually do that.  We can’t go back to who we were; we have to go forward being who we are.

So we can’t erase memories or travel through time, but we can recover from the situation.  Excellent.  In that case, we would like that recovery to happen now, please.  We’ve got stuff to get on with and it would be so much easier to go about life without an emotional hangover, thank you very much.

Again, this is not really an option.  We can suppress our thoughts and distract ourselves; we can refuse to think or talk about what’s bothering us and keep ourselves too occupied to dwell, but eventually the grief will find us.  We will eventually have to go through the draining process of recovery.

It’s a difficult period in anyone’s life, but you never know what could happen during it.  You could have some pretty interesting epiphanies about who you are and what you want in life, you might reconnect with a friend who helps you through the pain, and you may even discover a hidden talent.  (For example, I have a friend who worked out that she’s an excellent darts player by throwing darts at a photo of her ex when he left her.  Silver linings are flipping everywhere.)

Recovery is hard, and it also takes time.  We shouldn’t beat ourselves up if it takes longer than we expect, because there are no rules governing the time frame of mending a broken heart.  “Shouldn’t I be over this by now?” is not a good question to ask, because our feelings are not library books.  “You’re three months overdue with your emotional recovery, by the way.  They’ll start fining you if you’re not careful.”

Don’t get over things; go through them.  Also, have an amazing Thursday.

Jeremy Bentham Could Do With A Hug

altruism

Hello and welcome to this year’s gazillionth bank holiday Monday!  I hope that you’ve got some lovely activities planned.

Altruism is a very tricky business, and lots of people don’t really believe that it exists.  The philosopher Jeremy Bentham argued that humans exist to maximise their own pleasure and minimise their own pain, and that supposedly selfless acts are nothing more than our attempts to feel good via other people’s gratitude, social status, smugness, etc.  (Does anyone else get the feeling that poor Jeremy hasn’t had a lot of love?  Someone give him a cuddle.)

Bentham’s bleak assertion may not sit well with some of us, but it actually taps into something that we’ve all experienced in some way.  We all know the phrase “nice guys finish last”, and that’s a pretty fair summary of how we feel about unrewarded kindness: it’s not fair, and if it’s not fair, why should we bother?

Firstly, life is not fair, and we already know that.  We’re working within an unfair system where hard work is not always rewarded with promotion, love is not always requited and people don’t always say thank you when you hold a door open for them.  Therefore, choosing how to treat others based on what’s ‘fair’ is arbitrary and a bit useless, and deciding whether or not to perform a selfless act based on the injustice of the world is ridiculous.  “I will not help that small child get safely out of the path of that speeding car, because last week a child just like him bashed into my knees at the supermarket.  Fair’s fair.”  Fair is stupid, so forget about it.

Secondly, if you’re that fussed about getting rewarded in the first place, then you’re not being altruistic.  That’s not a criticism of you personally, by the way: after all, who doesn’t like to be rewarded?  Altruism is essentially being kind, generous etc. without any notion of reward: a truly altruistic act is performed by someone who does not even think about the pay off, let alone seek it.  This is sometimes difficult to imagine, and it can get very complicated when we have the best of intentions: making some we love feel better when they’re sad isn’t even altruistic, because their happiness makes us feel happy, because we love them.  Aren’t we selfish gits?

So it may not be real selflessness, and it may be that altruism doesn’t exist at all, but being kind and generous without requiring anything in return is very important.  This is partly because we all have systems of morals, and the one thing that just about every religion in the world can agree on is that being kind to people is important, but also because it means that we can be proud of who we are and how we behave.

Let’s be honest: showing someone love, kindness, sympathy and support can be very demanding, and if the gesture is either refused or ignored we end up feeling foolish.  I don’t know about you, but one thing I hate is being made to feel like an idiot (largely because I can do it just fine by myself without any help from others, thank you).  But showing someone love does not make you an idiot: it makes them the idiot if they don’t appreciate it.  And why would you want gratitude from an idiot?

If you’re still feeling a bit under-appreciated, I could always make you some biscuits.  How’s that?

Have a spectacular Monday.