I reached a horrifying realization a few weeks ago…
Please bear with me as I explain the backstory, a backstory that includes personal health puzzles and ancient cultural medicine systems; I thought about omitting it, because on the surface, it doesn’t have anything to do with resentment, but then I would be holding back on sharing the joint thought process that led up to this realization, which might be useful for someone. 🙂
My partner and I are trudging through some of the details of my recent stubborn health issues of late. Being an Aspie, I know that there are multiple ways to look at any situation, and health issues are an especially pointed example of this.
There’s the modern western physiological way of looking at things. Low thyroid, excess carbohydrate intake, and overactive adrenal glands, secondary to PTSD and compounded by genetic variations in stress hormone deactivation. These explanations resonate with me.
There are also ancient medicine systems that also do remarkably well in explaining what might be going on. In Traditional Indian Medicine, known as Ayurveda, my “dosha” or type is primarily Pitta, with Vata as my secondary influence. But I’m suffering from imbalances in all three types: Pitta (making me irritable), Vata (making me anxious), and Kapha (making me sluggish and heavy (mentally and physically)). These explanations resonate with me, too.
My partner is a student of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and he has found that he has to dive into energy meridians and Chinese/Japanese Five Element Theory. Apparently I have imbalances in all five of those elements, too (not surprising), with the Wood (Liver) element standing out as the most significant. He concurs with another dear friend and fellow blog writer (separately; they’ve never spoken with each other or compared notes). These explanations also make sense to me.
My health issues seem to stump practically everyone I’ve worked with thus far, no matter what their specialty (med school professors, supervising attending physicians in school, various specialists I’d seen throughout the years, instructors and presenters/speakers at post-doctoral training and conferences, and my partner). It’s almost as if my body didn’t bother to read any physiology textbooks; it doesn’t work like it should. My problems are obvious, but everyone so far has been at a loss trying to locate the root causes (and it’s safe to say that there’s more than one). I come so close to fitting any one of several “patterns”, whether viewed from a contemporary western standpoint or through an ancient traditional medicine system view, but there always seems to be a symptom (or several) that run completely contrary to those patterns.
Whenever that happens, my partner and I have found that it’s important to look at the more esoteric elements. In conventional contemporary medicine, this would be considered psychology (which, not too long ago, was considered a bunch of hoo-ha, and it only became more accepted and utilized with the advent of classification of–and medication for–the catalogued disorders).
In Chinese Medicine, the liver meridian is definitely dysfunctional. Each meridian has a corresponding emotion. The emotion that corresponds with the liver meridian is resentment. So, my partner asked me, “who or what do you resent?”
I thought for a minute, then said, “well, I resented the hell out of my father for about 35 of my 39 years…” Deep breath. “…and although we’re past this now, I had resented you for 16 out of our 17 years together.”
Thankfully, he took that in stride. I’m pretty sure that it helps that he knows it’s no longer true. 🙂
But I realized that it went even deeper than that. Much deeper, much more widespread.
I had resented every classmate who had made fun of me during my school years.
I had resented my partner for what I had interpreted as detached, narcissistic behavior.
I had resented every steady significant other before him for being absent and unloving.
I had resented every former subordinate coworker who judged me or disrespected me.
I had resented every massage therapy client who had no-showed for an appointment or asked for illegitimate services, insulting me in the process.
I had resented every other employer who had taken advantage of me. (Thankfully, there were only a few.)
I had resented every patient who bitched about our prices or policies. Or accused me of failing to do something that I actually had done (which they would realize, if only they had listened).
I had resented several family members for passing judgment about who I am, how I am, how I operate, what I’m really doing versus what they think I “should” be doing, and so on. I had resented their criticism, their inaccuracies, their scolding. I had resented their failure to take me seriously when I actually had really good ideas. I had resented their insistence that I was an underachiever, lazy, too sensitive, stubborn, picky, controlling, and so much more. I resented the accusations that I wasn’t telling the truth or that I was being a sarcastic smart-ass when actually I was being genuine and straightforward. I resented the nicknames and the teasing. (And, it looks like my feelings toward these behaviors might still be lingering, rotting in my system, and indeed rotting my system itself.)
I had resented several teachers in school (mostly K-12) that scolded me in front of the whole class when I didn’t even realize I was doing anything wrong.
I resent every aggressive (or, conversely, excessively slow) or inattentive driver on the road who simply can’t or won’t observe the common-sense, straight-forward rules of the road and exercise basic courtesy. Especially if they’re weaving all over the road, tailgating (following too closely) other drivers, cutting people off (changing lanes in front of you with insufficient room to spare), failing to stop at a Stop sign or red traffic light, or otherwise decides to make a move that comes very close to hitting your vehicle (and costing you money, energy, and time, and causing injury or worse).
I even resent every intrusive commercial break that uproots me and distracts me from the show I was watching (and really into), trying to sell me something I’ll never buy, using tactics I find insulting to my intelligence.
I resent every magazine ad that features an (airbrushed, altered) photo of an impossible “perfect” woman, not-so-subtly hinting at the rest of us that that’s the ideal that we “should” “live up to”, and that we’re somehow worthless slobs if we don’t. I resent the corporations and advertising agencies that promote these “ideals”. I also resent the people who buy into this and perpetuate such harmful thought processes.
Especially, I resent every weight-loss advert I see for implying that 1) we “should” lose weight, that 2) being thin is synonymous with looking good, that 3) being thin is synonymous with being healthy (it isn’t always so), and 4) that all of us can do it if we only had the “willpower” (i.e., if only we weren’t “lazy” “overeaters”), which, in fact, reeks of anonymized, generalized character assassination on millions of people, namely females.
I resent every puzzle piece organization or other “expert” who tries to send me (and all of us on the spectrum) the message that we’re not OK as we are, that we need treating, fixing, preventing. That somehow, it is we who are wrong and we who must do all the work to live up to standards we had no say in setting and no desire to meet.
This resentment is reflected in social media as well (after all, social media has been said to be a reflection of offline life). I resent every Twitter account that follows me that does NOT value me personally, but simply looking to boost their own numbers (website SEO, online marketing, advertising, lifestyle/health coaches, etc, who are not actually involved in Asperger’s/autism or interested in forming a friendship/kinship with me in any way). I resent the people who simply drop out of my life on Twitter or Facebook with no attempt to clear the air or make amends.
I resent the hoards of people at the stores, the malls, the supermarkets/grocery stores, etc, just for being there. They’re mindlessly bumbling along while staring into their mobile phones, their desire to check their email more important than the fact that their cart is about to run over my foot.
I resent every nagging notification to “upgrade your software”, “update your browser”, “invite your friends”, “allow push notifications”, and other such nonsense. I resent the people who write these OSs and apps, especially when these “updates” and “upgrades” don’t deliver any additional benefit for me, but take up a lot of finite space, and especially when my device (desktop, tablet, mobile, or cable TV box) actually downgrades in performance and usefulness to me as a result of said upgrade/update.
Indeed, I’ve come to resent almost the entire world.
Every day, I feel ignored, shut out, and shot down by mainstream society, except that I’m faced with my own self-made dichotomy: that world and those standards aren’t necessarily worth their salt or my efforts.
Or are they?
I haven’t been able to answer that question. But what I do know is that my outlook is taking its toll. It’s costing me my health, my mind, my spirit, and my soul.
I can’t go on like this. It’s unsustainable. I have to learn to reconnect. I have to learn to love. I have to learn to accept.
For resentment creates disconnect. It creates isolation. It creates disdain.
In turn, it eats not the world, but my body, my energy, my spirit. It robs me of my sleep, my happiness, my peace, my serenity, and my life.
My attitude doesn’t do anything to them. It does everything to me. Everything I don’t want. Everything that is detrimental to me and those who immediately surround me.
That’s a big NO. As in, arms folded across the chest. I can’t do that to myself. More importantly, I can’t do that to my loved ones or the people at my work.
How to move past this? …
Well, I’ve found a few possible strategies…
I’ve found that positive affirmations, positive thinking, etc, don’t work as well for me.
But I have found that I can read well-written books or websites about paths and concepts like Buddhism, Paganism, Hinduism, energy medicine, and a few others, with success. The book or website doesn’t even need to focus on or be specific about a particular spiritual path; it can be philosophical instead (Alan Watts is an excellent example of this). It can also be an ethereal-esque fictional story, such as those written by Richard Bach (“Illusions” and “One” are excellent books that I started with).
I can also remember that, according to my own spiritual path, there is energy in everything, that everything in the universe is connected, that we are all made of the same Stuff. We’re all made of the same material as that of stars (in different ratios and with a few other differences, of course), and that at the end of the day, (again, according to my view), we all melt back together like drops in an ocean, separable and inseparable, distinct and indistinct at the same time.
Another strategy I can enlist is to remember that, as my wise mum would say, “everyone is doing the best they can. Not everyone is at equal points along their own journeys of personal progress. Not everyone has the same tools.” And it’s true. Taken to a literal and basic level, for example, not all of us have convenient or affordable access to counseling services (the primary source of “tools” in our contemporary society). Sure, there are self-help books available at bargain prices, but we may fail to recognize parallels between the concepts discussed in those books and ourselves.
Awareness being a first step, sometimes that’s a difficult hurdle to surmount, because we may not have the ability to recognize our own patterns of dysfunctional behavior or erroneous thought processes. When I was a child, I was privileged enough to have access to counseling. We had the financial means and my parents “believed” in the idea, and we were also lucky enough to happen upon a talented and insightful counselor who actually offered proactive and productive analysis and strategies, thus arming us with some of those “tools” my mum refers to.
Remembering that everyone is doing the best they can helps me soften my judgment. Maybe an adult is throwing a temper tantrum (not a meltdown; we’re talking neurotypical adults here) in the customer service line at a store. They’re wanting something their way and they’re not getting what they want. But maybe they have a headache, maybe they’re nauseated, maybe they’re over-tired, or hypoglycemic, or maybe their child is sick or their dog just passed away, or they’re worn out from caring for a terminally ill family member. Life happens, and shit happens, too. Some people reach their limits and they know they do, but their to-do list is not yet done. So, they must go out into the world and accomplish the rest, even though they’re low on mental/emotional energy and running on mere fumes. And maybe, just maybe what we witness (and stand in line behind, waiting endlessly) is simply that person’s breaking point.
“They’re an adult; they should know better”, come the protests (including from my own lips sometimes).
To which I issue a rebuttal to myself, “yeah, their behavior might be pretty atrocious. But at any given moment, every person is simply doing the best they can. And sometimes, the best they can muster may not be very much. Or at least, it may not look like very much to the outside observer.”
Good point, Rebuttal Self. Who am I to judge what’s going on with a stranger whom I know nothing about?
It’s possible that the aggressive driver is simply being an arse. But it’s also possible that they’re racing up the freeway to their partner, who is having their child this very moment. Or maybe to see their aging parent as that parent breathes his or her final words before their heart stops beating. Who knows? I certainly don’t, and I have to remind myself not to pretend to.
As I write this, I can feel global resentment washing away. But it’s always a work in progress. It might “click” in my mind today, only to be forgotten tomorrow in a streak of judgmental thinking. As I mentioned at the end of my previous post, this, too, is a work in progress, and old habits die hard. ❤
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(Image Credit: Cyril Rolando)