Grief, grievances, and the courage to forgive


English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


English: A disappointed person

English: A disappointed person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Life can be considered a series of perceptions and responses. For instance, when I experience a sudden decline in my interest to continue doing something, I can call that disappointment. That can lead me to discontinue or pause old patterns of behavior. That disappointment may lead to an openness to exploring new behaviors. IN short, disappointment is the process of a shift toward the conserving of energy (such as toward rest and introspection).




One possible “response” to the experience of disappointment is the intentional refining of perceptiveness. I may be so disappointed that I get very curious and suddenly begin to invest my attention in verifying the accuracy of my perceptions and even in refining the precision of my perceptions.




Contrasting with disappointment is excitement. Recall that disappointment is simply the process of a shift toward the conserving of energy (such as toward rest and introspection). Excitement is the opposite: the arousing of stored energy to be available for investing in to a pattern of action that is already familiar. When some specific action is perceived as a possible source of new favorable experiences, there is an excitement that brings conserved energy to a ready alertness to for increased activity.








Next, a notable mixture of disappointment and excitement is fear. Sadness is mere disappointment, but when combined with a perception of a threat, then reserve energy is aroused for heightened alertness and such responses as fighting, fleeing, freezing, and faking (which can all be methods for avoiding a perceived threat). 




Further, the specific form of fear called “fighting” is generally known as anger. That includes physical fighting as well as verbal aggression such as yelling, shaming, punitive lawsuits, and other efforts to respond to a perceived threat by returning an even greater threat (terrifying the target, frightening them, shaming them, punishing them).




So, disappointment mixed with excitement (such as the excitement of an intense embarrassment over a public disappointment) can lead to other responses. These may include the terror of a jealous rage, or of tenacious character assassination, or the safer distance of gossiping about how one’s own identifying as a victim allegedly justifies a lasting contempt and resentment and obsession about the one(s) vilified (those identified as villainous). The source of the grievance is always grief (disappointment).




English: Disappointment after funeral

English: Disappointment after funeral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




In many ancient spiritual traditions, there are numerous warnings that vilification is a normal response that people can expect to experience. Persecuting perceived heretics for exploring spirituality is the natural reflex of those who perceive a particular exploration of spirituality to be a threat to what is familiar to them.




Perhaps the most terrifying of all spiritual teachings is the teaching about the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness is when someone simply recognizes the validity of the terrified reflexes of disappointment, of a frightened excitement about that disappointment, then of a terrified raging of jealousy and contempt and ill will so on.




Rather than return ill will, one who is not experiencing the perception of an immediate threat can simply recognize the natural human responses of rage (which is a form of excited terror, which is a form of disappointment). By focusing on the root of disappointment (and with empathy for the experience of disappointment leading to terror and rage), it is simple to recognize the attempt to present a threat, then just forgive it.





As We Forgive

As We Forgive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Forgiving the threat does not necessarily mean ignoring it, but there is no automatic need to vilify the threat, nor to retreat. Rather than respond in confusion at “how could anyone ever experience a perceived threat and respond with such intense upset,” one can accept what is present without condemnation.



Harassment is simply noticed as harassment. It can be responded to in a variety of ways: a lawsuit, a warning, or even simply an apology.



I understand that it can be frightening to face the possibility that one’s prior perceptions were imprecise or even totally inaccurate. It can be frightening to face the simplicity of the grief without an addictive dis-association through vilification (through the identifying of one’s self as the pity-deserving victim and of some other as the one who was solely responsible for the disappointing results).



It can be frightening to accept that blame is simply one of many possible behaviors. If blame produces disappointing results, there are really only two logical alternatives: stop displacing responsibility through habitual blaming or… continue the habitual blaming in the hope for new results to the same old behaviors, to one’s own investments of energy.




Once there was an athlete who was not hired back by the team that recruited the athlete for a single season. The player was then called a “Free Agent.” Soon, the old team issued warnings to any other teams that showed interest in that player. Why?



Could it be that there was some concern that maybe the player would perform well with some other team? Could it be that the old team was more concerned about the imagined embarrassment of their former team-mate performing well than about developing their own skills or recruiting new talent? Could it be that creating a grievance is a method of coping with grief (or even with a sense of guilt)?



David Gray Please Forgive Me US promo single

David Gray Please Forgive Me US promo single (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



If there is anything even more frightening than forgiveness, perhaps it is grief. In contrast, anger and rage and contempt and ill will are things that people will go out of their way to cultivate, like seeking out people who agree with their justifications for their terrified raging argumentativeness and madness and animosity. For more doses of terror, even horror movies offer people the cultivation of fear, which may also be valuable as a way to avoid grief (like rage).



However, sad movies (“tragedies” and “dramas”) may be perceived as very dangerous threats. Not only can they produce tears, but forgiveness, gratitude, and even laughter. That kind of vulnerability may be perceived to be a major threat, especially in public.




So, what ever happened with the free agent and the old team-mates? There was drama. There was disappointment. There was forgiveness. There was peace of mind.



Most people agree that the movie was not as good as the book. The movie version was clearly a creative work in regard to how to put the book on to a screen, but whatever criticisms we may have of the movie, it did bring new fame to the book, leading to rumors of the writing of a sequel.



Some critics of the movie said that if a sequel would ever be made, it was sure to be a disappointment. Isn’t it interesting how sometimes some people focus so much on the possibility of disappointment?



They may obsessively condemn the past as a disappointment, then blame a villain for victimizing them. It is almost like they are slowly approaching the possibility of no longer practicing a terrified rage of vilifying their own past, and instead just grieving over having ever had some hopes that were not fulfilled (at least not yet).



Is it ever threatening to experience a new hope? What would be terrified of hope? Is victimhood the most heroic way to champion happiness?



Don't Want to Forgive Me Now

Don’t Want to Forgive Me Now (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Once, I was not happy but disappointed. Can you even relate to that at all? Could you ever forgive someone for being disappointed, for being scared, or for being angry?

Well, what else is there to forgive people of?!?! Being happy? Being grateful? Being mature?



Forgive people of practicing resentment. Forgive people of displacing grief. Forgive people of jealousy. Forgive people of obsessing over the past. Forgive people of perceiving threats. Forgive people of “growing up” and then forgiving you long before you forgave them. Forgive them, yes, of being happy, being grateful, being playful, being hopeful, being


a former team-mate or a free agent.



Forgive them of experiencing all of the things that ever disappointed you. Forgive them of ever experiencing disappointment, grief, or grievances. Forgive them of being present for a part of your life that you might prefer to avoid accepting for a bit longer (as too disappointing, too terrifying, or too enraging). Forgive them of perceiving a future champion in the one whom you perceive as (and label as and relate to as) an eternal victim: yourself.




Once upon a time there was a champion who had never been disappointed. No, just kidding.



The experience after rage, after terror (after the perceiving of a major threat), and after disappointment is… courage. There simply is no courage without grief. There simply is no champion without disappointment.







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