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A strange kind of shame

by Math Is Hard
Tags: kind, shame, strange
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zoobyshoe
#19
Aug17-04, 05:42 PM
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Quote Quote by Math Is Hard
I was not expecting anything like the news that came next.
Same thing happened to me once. A boss I had who was on the "difficult" side, and whom I wished were not there, get into a bad car accident and had to stop work indefinitely. You just end up feeling really yecky because you're glad they're gone but you certainly didn't want it to happen that way. You may hope they get fired, but you'd be really happy if they just quit and went somewhere else. Then, if they're gone because something really bad happened to them you get thrown into guilt.
Math Is Hard
#20
Aug17-04, 06:12 PM
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And then there's that subtle but illogical gnawing feeling that perhaps you actually wished that person into the cornfield. <shudder>
Ivan Seeking
#21
Aug17-04, 06:14 PM
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My business often puts me in highly ego competitive situtions. I am usually intruding on someones turf and things can get quite nasty. I recently had a guy sabotage a major system that I had just approved for operations. He did it in such a way that someone could have been killed - he actually hotwired a floating ground that then energized an operators platform.

I find that the older I get the less forgiving I am. It is really hard to not wish ill on the a-holes of the world. At the same time I have learned that the negative thoughts only hurt me [negative energy if you will. I didn't want to get new-age about it]. I used hear that and never understood what it meant. It's true though. The bitterness can only turn inwards. I have really struggled over the last couple of years to move beyond anger as a response to injustices. The level of stress that I used to operate under was enough to kill a horse - and it was killing me. I had to let it go.

I guess the point is that there are many good reasons to get beyond the anger and "judgement" response - guilt, misperceptions, heart attacks, strokes - even if the offender richly deserves to be hated!
zoobyshoe
#22
Aug17-04, 06:36 PM
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Quote Quote by Math Is Hard
And then there's that subtle but illogical gnawing feeling that perhaps you actually wished that person into the cornfield. <shudder>
Exactly. That's called "magical thinking" in psychology, and it's actually pretty common. I imagine it's something we believe as little kids that you never totally shake off as a adult. It comes into play in situations like this where there's a coincidental overlap between your general dislike of someone and something bad happening to them.
plover
#23
Aug17-04, 06:44 PM
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For whatever reason, this woman did not deal with her situation in an open fashion. The possible reasons for this are myriad; they range from excess pride to timidity disguised as ferocity to paralyzed indecision, and from neurological complications of her illness to a lifelong habit of bitter contempt for those around her to dread of other people's pity. I'm not necessarily saying that she should have been more open about things, there is probably no good way for a person to judge that issue without an intimate knowledge of her circumstances. Nor am I suggesting that "openness" need consist of any more than making sure that the bare minimum facts become known in some indirect fashion. It just seems that, in the event, as things played out, she put herself effectively beyond the reach of other people's compassion.

Your reactions to this are, of course, your own. But from my point of view, it appears unnecessary to condemn yourself for not exhibiting a compassion that you have no way of knowing was even desired. Some misanthropes probably feel satisfaction at the idea that people might still curse them after they're gone.

Perhaps, one question to ask yourself might be: what if things had been as you expected? What if she had given a long speech delineating the sort of vermin she thought the Dean was descended from, and was promptly ejected with a well earned boot print on her backside? Do you judge that, in that case, your original schadenfreude was indefensible? At any given moment, we can only work with the information we have. In many cases, it is how we react to new information that counts.
Math Is Hard
#24
Aug17-04, 07:33 PM
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I guess the point is that there are many good reasons to get beyond the anger and "judgement" response - guilt, misperceptions, heart attacks, strokes - even if the offender richly deserves to be hated!
I guess I just haven't evolved to that point yet. I still have to work on that whole "water off a duck's back" response.
That's called "magical thinking" in psychology, and it's actually pretty common.
There really is an element in of that in there. It's like we never really trust that bad thoughts can't do damage to another person or another thing. It is probably especially hard for those of us who were brought up to say our prayers every night, basically to wish good things upon people we love. Of course it would seem natural that the opposite would work, and that we could send negative things rather than blessings. (even by accident)
Perhaps, one question to ask yourself might be: what if things had been as you expected?
I have been giving that a lot of thought, actually. This is what I see happening in the imaginary parallel universe where she didn't die, but only got fired. At first I am happy because she's been punished. Justice has finally been meted out, and universal karma is restored. But then I start to worry and my imagination starts developing all these horrible scenarios that make me feel sorry for her. What if she can't find another job? She wasn't all that young and the job market is awful. What if she can't pay her rent and loses her place to live? etc.
So ultimately I am unhappy with this ending too.
sigh. I can't win.
I have to figure out another ending where she learns her lesson but isn't harmed. This is why I never became a fiction writer. I'm terrrible with villains!
The other thing I've been questioning myself on is how would I have felt if she had been in perfect health and just gotten hit by a bus. I wonder if my sympathy would have been as deep if that had been the case? I think not.
the number 42
#25
Aug17-04, 08:03 PM
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Some people will take illness as an opportunity to go in for a major bout of self-pity, and we shouldn't indulge them by pandering to them or letting them dump on us i.e. don't reinforce their dysfunctional behaviour. I'll leave it up to Saints and Buddhist types to have compassion for those who behave without compassion. I'm on the side of the French radio guy, Pierre Desproges, as it sounds like he didn't give in and showed us another way of dying. I don't know what he said, but I am guessing that he was provocative (thought provoking) rather than crude and unfeeling. And unlike a work colleague, if you don't like what he says you know where the dial is. However, I don't think any of us can judge him until we've heard what he said and the context in which he said it, but I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt based on what humanino said.

Speaking of ways of dealing with it, Bill Hicks was one of my favourite comics, and he just seemed to get a tad spiritual towards the end, as I recall.
Evo
#26
Aug17-04, 09:37 PM
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MIH, you're so sweet and you're being too hard on yourself.

I'm guilty of much worse. A few years ago a guy transfered into our department from another area. I knew this guy from the other department. He was one of those "pretty boys" that thought he could get along on looks alone. I couldn't stand him.

The guy was dumb as a rock and he was a huge brown noser.

He'd only been working a few weeks when he didn't show up for a monthly meeting on a Tuesday. He didn't call in. We couldn't reach him. But that was not too uncommon since we worked out of our homes and sometimes we'd have to rush out to see a client on short notice. It wasn't unusual for people to be unheard from for a few days, but not a "new" person.

Wednesday, no word from him., Thursday, no word. I started joking that he'd better be dead, because he was in serious trouble. I was so happy, our boss was going to fire him as soon as he showed up.

Well, they found his body that Saturday. Apparantly he had fallen down the steps in his house Monday night/Tuesday morning and broken his neck.

You can't beat yourself up for what you didn't know.
plover
#27
Aug17-04, 10:22 PM
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For some reason, I keep getting images of people holding some kind of Irish wake for this woman, where a few (dozen) glasses are hoisted in her honor, alternating with people telling long stories about how rottenly she treated them, but how you had to respect that you always knew where you stood with her, even though it was generally true that the farther away you stood, the better; someone (could be a man or a woman) gets weepy and admits they were sweet on her; then there's an attempt to get a song going to sing her soul to peace, but by this point everyone's too drunk and the effort peters out as everyone falls asleep...
Moonbear
#28
Aug17-04, 10:28 PM
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Quote Quote by Ivan Seeking
It seems to me that one possibility is overlooked in all of this. It is always possible that she was a terrible and nasty person. Your reactions might have been right on in spite of her illness. Even mean and nasty people get sick and die.

I don't mean to sound heartless or unsympathetic, but the assumption that while in good health, she was other than as you perceived, is unfounded.
This is the thought that first came to my mind as well. Math Is Hard, it sounds like you ARE a compassionate person, and nothing you said suggested you ever wished this woman harm despite her meanness to you. Your reaction to being asked to delete her accounts was that you were relieved thinking she was fired and finally going to stop berating you. There is no ill-intent to this. Illness is not an excuse to be mean-spirited. If anything, one would have hoped that woman would have learned the importance of enjoying life in her last days rather than holding onto such bitterness.

As a post-thought...another possibility of why this woman was so mean to the bitter end is that she didn't want pity. For her, it might have been better to have people dislike her and treat her like a normal, albeit mean, person rather than have people be extra-nice just because she was dying. And she may have been mean to protect others from getting to friendly with her and then being hurt when she died. Maybe your reaction was exactly how she wanted things to be. If you had known, perhaps your attempt at compassion would have been unwelcome, a sign of giving up on her. You treated her just like you would any other person who behaved the way she behaved, and that may have been the best thing you could have done for her.
Moonbear
#29
Aug17-04, 10:55 PM
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Quote Quote by Evo
Well, they found his body that Saturday. Apparantly he had fallen down the steps in his house Monday night/Tuesday morning and broken his neck.
That's so sad for someone to be dead a week and not have any friends or family close enough to notice.
Math Is Hard
#30
Aug18-04, 01:15 AM
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# 42 you bring up some interesting points. There is no "Miss Manners Guide to Dying",
(and who really cares if there were) and we all get to choose to do our last days as we see fit.

Evo, thank you for sharing that story with me. It makes me feel less alone in this situation. It reminds me of a video I saw of a Cultural Anthropology grad student who came from a small tribe in Africa. He had come to the U.S. to study North American ways in Urban Society. He was completely floored that a situation could exist where someone could become homeless in our culture and not be taken in, or that someone in our society could pass away and this could go unnoticed for days.

plover, I have wondered what a tribute to her might be like. I am sure it is exactly as you described.

Moonbear, thank you for the insight, this is something I have not been considering.
Faced with death, a woman of her position and attitude would certainly not want sympathy or pity. Nothing could be more irksome.
And since she was considerably older than me, to establish her position of power, she probably came up through that philosophy of "if you want to compete in the boys club you better act as tough as you can or you'll never get respect". It was a different time then. I can see how she wouldn't want that undermined after all those years of hard work establishing this. And then there is the defense mechanism that you mentioned - that she might have alienated people in those last days to avoid hurting them in the end. There certainly is a valor in that.
Well, I suppose the best I can do is drink a toast in her honor, and I plan on doing so. I could do the traditional Franciscan penance of putting on the hair shirt and going out in the snow to flail myself, but snow is so hard to come by in Los Angeles.
zoobyshoe
#31
Aug18-04, 02:41 AM
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Quote Quote by Math Is Hard
There really is an element in of that in there. It's like we never really trust that bad thoughts can't do damage to another person or another thing. It is probably especially hard for those of us who were brought up to say our prayers every night, basically to wish good things upon people we love. Of course it would seem natural that the opposite would work, and that we could send negative things rather than blessings. (even by accident)
Boy, you're right. I didn't even connect it to prayers when I suggested we learn it in childhood, but now that you mention it, that is probably where it gets reinforced the most: if praying for someone helps them, then it's natural to assume mental negativity toward them would have an authentic bad effect.

David Burns does an excercize with his cognitive therapy patients: he has them sit there and think bad thoughts about him for a while. At the end of it he always ends up just fine. They, however, may find themselves in a bad mood. Which demonstrates the point Ivan was making before: we are the ones who have to sit and listen to our negative thoughts. The other person is unaffected. It's usually not worth the stress.


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