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Resentment and the latest thing

July 1, 2022

Long ago, back when school consisted of a log with a teacher on one end and a student on the other (thank you RAH), I learned something. The professor teaching one of my classes, Dr. Verkler, was a Transactional Analysis kind of guy. With apologies to both him and Eric Berne, I’m going to take a term he used and rip it fairly violently from context.

There are two types of feelings or emotions (the two aren’t synonyms but I’m using them interchangeably, anyway). The first type we call “authentic” emotions. They’re real and arise spontaneously. They aren’t learned or artificially produced. The second kind are called “racket” emotions. They’re a little different. They don’t arise spontaneously. Instead, we have to work at them. What makes them a racket is not simply the work. It’s that they aren’t how we would feel if we were being authentic. Allow me to explain.

There’s a fairly common trope for movies that involve some version of the Mafia. That trope is the protection racket. Protection rackets offer to protect someone, someone’s family, or someone’s business from harm. Good, so far, right? The problem is that the protection is not from other threats in the area, but rather from those offering protection. “Nice place you have here. Be a shame if something happened to it,” is not an authentic offer of protection. It is the very thing from which one is ostensibly being protected.

Resentment is similar. It seldom, if ever, arises on its own. We might complain about not wanting to feel the authentic emotion called anger or the hurt which lead to it. But, we don’t let it go. Instead, we nurture it. We take it out periodically, feed it, hug it and love on it. We feed the very thing we say we don’t want. Over time, with love and attention, as we experience the hurt and anger again, it turns into resentment. It poisons us and our relationships as we cling to the thing we would say we don’t want.

All of which brings us to the latest thing (whatever it may be).

Regardless of your political, economic, or social leanings, the world and/or our republic are not and cannot be experiencing an existential crisis all the time. The sky is not falling and the republic is not going to implode tomorrow. No one, and I most assuredly mean no one, can live full time as if it is. The anger and fear, if held onto, if taken out regularly and loved on and nurtured, will turn into something ugly. Even worse, they’ll turn that person into something equally ugly. The eventual resentment and bitterness will destroy a person and all the relationships they touch.

What do we do, then, about the Current Thing?

  • Recognize that the end is not necessarily nigh.
  • Learn to recognize your own authentic feelings and how they differ from racket emotions.
  • Recognize that there are those who will, if allowed, manipulate you and how you feel for their own ends. These people need your anger, rage and resentment. They don’t care about you. Many times, these are the people who share your perspective on the Current Thing.
  • Realize that no one, including you, can live in this heightened emotional state all the time.
  • Recognize that people who disagree with you are not responsible for your feelings and that your feelings about something are no more pure or righteous than theirs.
  • You are not responsible for saving or fixing the world. Sometimes, regardless of how important you think the issue is, you simply have to walk away – sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently. That’s okay. Remember, the world is not your responsibility; your mental and emotional health is.

Note: If you think this only applies to “those people over there who disagree with me,” you’re an idiot and will, if you hold onto what you see as your no doubt righteous indignation, eventually become a self-inflicted casualty.

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