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Places and putting people in theirs
Now I am not violent, I've never been in a fight that didn't take place on a moonbounce and were I to be in one I am pretty sure it would end in the fetal position. I find fighting mostly detestable and useless and all sorts of words that Gandhi has said before me and don't merit repeating. That said, my friend came up with this theory that I completely buy into: Some people just need to have the pork and beans beat out of them.

And even angels know what I'm talking about. There are people out there, you run into them every day, who walk around with airs of douchebagness. Their noses and eyebrows are directed at heaven always and I can smell the smugness oozing from your pores. You are high and mighty, I should be crawling at your feet, I do not deserve these legs. Who am I to even be talking to you, let alone serving your coffee with 3 cubes of sugar, fresh cream churned this morning, and at 110 degrees exactly? I know there's not a giant puddle at your feet sir, but please step on my jacket anyways.

Just once these people need a fist into the eye. Just once and they'll be set right. You're not high and mighty, you are not the treasure of your community, you are a mean and selfish prick who walks into every room like not only you own it but you built it with your own two hands without help from anybody. Stop smiling at your own jokes, I know you sleep really well at night. I don't owe you anything, nobody does.

But of course I am not the one to put these people in their place (that place being the exact same as mine and everyone else in the world). I don't have that type of gall, but I wish I did. Instead I toy with them and play into their egos. I exaggerate adoration and propel them to the seat of Olympus. I look at them eye-wide as if this was my life's culmination and end goal. I do this because in these moments I can see their eyes flicker for a second. They question for just a moment if I am being genuine, they all come up with the same answer, sure I am, why wouldn't I be?

Self-awareness for those unaware is something that has to be beat into you because it is going to hurt depending on how delusional you are. There should be a governmental task force going door to door with the census this year putting people in their places free of charge. What was that movie? The Game with Michael Douglas. You've got to get hurt a little bit to realize just how small you really are.
I know the feeling. I also know people of that ilk. I do not agree that "beating sense" into them would in fact accomplish that task: it would allow you or me to vent our frustration, but nothing more.  We are all only partially in control of our actions; our brain chemistry allows us a few degrees of freedom.  If we have no sense of fairness, how could we recognise unfairness when we deal it out? If we have not the use of the empathy circuit in our brain, how could we imagine ourselves in another's shoes? Quite impossible.
Brain function is not well understood yet, but there is much evidence to show that shortcomings of parts of the brain cannot be cured by a good solid beating. There is the possibility of affecting a behavior change in our dear subject through rigorous training, but that is superficial. It is certainly possible to make some people behave as though they had empathy or cared in the least about our feelings; that, however,  is far from the Real Thing. If you are interested in this sort of problem, some of the books by Antonio Damasio make delightful reading.
Coming from the NYC metro area I am no stranger to quickly passing judgement on others. Someone cuts you off in traffic - you lean on the horn mutter "you F****** A++++++" and flip them a bird. Feels good in the moment, but really provides no remedy and makes the world a harsher place. Buddha would say the the negativity of the thoughts involved creates more damage in me than harm to the other.

In my angry and intense years I fully indulged in reacting emotionally to the behavior of others. I didn't give anyone a beating but I held ill will for plenty of people who seemed ignorant, selfish or mean spirited. In my 40s I began to practice compassion.

One of my favorite stories is of the Tibetan monk who was held captive by the Chinese communists and tortured. After many years he was released. When asked what was the most dangerous time of his captivity he said that there were times when his immortal soul was in danger because he almost lost his capacity to feel compassion for his captives.

When studying Counseling Psychology in my 40s I came to a realization. I did much better when I asked myself what was the underlying source of someone's behavior rather than just passing judgement. Substituting anaylsis for judgement helps me to maintain a sense of equanimity (one of my favorite words). Going deeper - I can acknowledge when I have been triggered by the actions of another and ask what is the source of my reaction, thus learning more about myself.

It seems that there are many disturbed and unhappy people in the world who cause pain for others. It would be nice if a beating would change their behavior. Unfortuantely, pain and retribution are probably a very familiar language to them. It's love and forgiveness they can not understand.
It's amazing the illusions people have about themselves and their capacity to keep them in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary.
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Latest Post: April 15, 2010 at 4:08 AM
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