Forgiveness is like the horizon. Everyone says it exists but you can never get there. Forgiveness is like lotto winnings. I remember being at a gas station and there was a LED ticker denoting winnings in towns around us. And we hear about the big wins in the news. What this sets up is we think lotto winnings happen more than they actually do. The same goes for forgiveness. We are taught from the cradle that it exists and, especially with Christian upbringing, read and hear about it all the time. So it makes it seem like it happens a lot more than it actually does. Which is bad because we think we can wrong and be forgiven when this is usually a lie.
As for me people have done things to me that have ruined my life and I don’t have the capacity to forgive, I can treat them cordially but I can’t change my emotions around what happened. Of course therapists would want to guilt me for not being able to let go, because guilt is like the jackhammer you pull out when none of your other manipulative tools have worked. You wrong me, the wrong stays in my muscle memory for future dealings with you. You can label me bitter and angry (which implies I am culpable for my emotions which I have little to no control over).
For the NT world I would offer the advice, “don’t fetishize and romanticize forgiveness and pretend it happens more than it actually does”. I have found (particularly looking at my brother’s divorce) that the words you say are either water off their back or mercury in the blood (remaining in them indefinitely). Everyone opines about forgiveness but, especially for people struggling with depression, damage of words and actions is often permanent (because people struggling with depression often don’t have control what pops and remains in their mind so your wrong’s effect is amplified).
Also stop demonizing people like me who say forgiveness is a farce. Because more often than not, it is.
Imagine if you had the ability to clone adults with technology similar to the Star Trek transporter. If you cloned a desirable women there would be another desirable women. If you cloned a desirable man not so much. This is because you’d have to clone his good job as well and simple economics wouldn’t make that possible.
But most people with disabilities will not be remembered by history. They are usually living challenging lives with little to show for it: Unemployment rates are disturbingly high, health care costs are often debilitating, and the emotional toll of living with an “aberration” can rend families apart. The only thing that a fidelity to positive stereotypes accomplishes, then, is to absolve society of maintaining commitments to the disabled, like making places more accessible, since it would be ridiculous to aid people who already have a leg up with added perks.
I think modern psychology has latched on to the brain as computer model of the brain and do their detriment. It’s an easy thing to fall into. A computer has an operating system, files, and programs. As long as everyone has the same operating system, programs will work seamlessly on any computer you try to run them on. Therapies seem to presuppose this brain uniformity and when one doesn’t have a brain like this they’re left not knowing what to do. For example some therapies try to strengthen one’s positive voice in their inner monologue. But what if they don’t have a positive voice to begin with? Therapies claim to work seamlessly on all brains (at least ones acculturated to western values). But the brain is messy, there is no operating system/programs/files trifecta. I know my experience has been just tearing apart the things therapists tell me, clearly seeing them as false. But for some people believing what makes them feel good is preferable to believing what is factual. But my brain doesn’t play that way, especially because eventually wishful thinking will bite you in the butt. There is some understanding in the psychology profession that therapies aren’t supercultural and that’s a good start. But even within western culture there is such variation from brain to brain.
I actually think the brain is more organized like a regime. Depending on where in the world you go there can be many types of regimes. Democracies, dictatorships, failed states, tribal power sharing arrangements, etc.. sometimes it’s better to work with the patterns of thinking that are already there than try to go full on and try to throw them all out. Just like it’s not a good idea to forcibly change regimes in the Middle East.
If it weren’t for psychology America would be much less religious. A lot of the millennials’ move away from Christianity can be seen as a result of them being resistant to strains of psychology that worked on the older generation. We are in touch with our thought processes so when someone tries to get us all emotional about God it’s harder for us to believe there is an actual entity besides us involved. “Your feelings are from you”, we’ve been told. God just seems contrived to us, as if someone projected their fantasy upon an infinite slate. But anything we make up is going to comprise our greatest fantasies as well as our worst fears. But things that impose themselves violently on our senses are a lot more mundane and boring.
One of the things that will offend your pastor and especially your therapist is the idea that hope is social. The proof for this is how people draw away from those without hope (that’s been the story of almost all my interaction with the church). The thing the modern psychology hates about hope being social is it posits that the more hyper individualistic a society is, the less hope there is in it (particularly for those at the bottom). This remains true controlling for other things that make people happy such as wealth. The second problem with hope being social is it asks something of us, to take a hit on our personal happiness in the name of collective happiness of the community. That’s not something modern psychology is keen on.
We can view this by contrasting the help people need verses the help modern psychology offers. Not to knock modern psychology, people really benefit from it, but its help becomes so limited in furnishing a hopeful future.
“hope is social” help
modern psychology’s help
a ride to the store
a hot, home cooked meal
several hours of company
imperative to love and be loved by others
ability to think for oneself
a path to virtue
expression of our shared sorrow
someone visiting you in the hospital
reasons to live
training on playing cognitive tricks
company until the 45 minutes is up
imperitive to love yourself
ability to think one is thinking for themself
navel gazing self interest
expression of our personal depression
hospitalization for unclear thinking
The events of the last six months have kind of gotten me jammed to silence. Kind of like those old 80’s synthesizer keyboards, if you maxed out their polyphony—playing more notes than they could output at a time—you just got silence. I just feel numb and I really shouldn’t, there are millions of people in Africa and Yemen on the cusp of starving to death in addition to everything the news makes you aware of. I think the Buddhist notion of compassion with detachment is a feat. Not something I can muster, maybe because of my neurophysiology I don’t know. Detachment for me doesn’t come without the consummate numbness.
Therapy is supposed to give you access to all kinds of extra tools and emotional experiences, kind of like being an organist and getting an upgraded organ that has twice as many registers. Perhaps the psychologically healthy person can be compassionate and detached. But I don’t get how that changes things in the realm of observable action. Our actions are often an answer to pain or discomfort. For example getting something to eat because you’re hungry. If one is detached that takes the “pain” of the compassion which is the thing that would goad a person to action. Because love is so often borne out of pain.
The further you are away from privilege the more virtue you have to exhibit to get the same amount of reward of one of privilege. Just image if Trump would have been black and exhibited the same (at least to Christians) immoral behavior. He would not have had a shot in hell at getting elected.
It’s bad growing up as well. Virtuous people treat you worse the further you are away from privilege (at least that’s been my and many others experience). The friendship groups that are accepting often revolve around vices like drinking or drugs.
I’m the only one I know who predicted Trump could win this thing. I think it might have been because I was his target demographic, a poor white person who lost his livelihood to outsourcing. I was ran out of the suburban area I went to college in due to disability and forced to live in a town of ~500 where there were no jobs except a janitor one (which after years finally swallowed my pride and took). This is when I started working remote for outsourcing wages since there weren’t any local clients, something I continue to do to this day even after having moved away from that town eight years ago. So I understand where Trump supporters are coming from. Some thoughts:
White privilege doesn’t really help the majority of rural white people all that much. Our media is urban centric and focuses on the white people whose white privilege has gotten them all kinds of amazing things but generally those people had wealth and connections in addition to whiteness. White privilege dosn’t feel like it confers any benefit at all for the average rural poor white. This is because for these people white privilege is experienced not as additive but as non subtractive. Yes, things would be worse if they were a different race but they are already very bad and it would take a ton of introspection or thousands of dollars of therapy (which they don’t have) to see how they could be worse. Also drug sentencing in rural areas is actually worse for all races than it is in the city so some white guy busted cooking meth and thrown in the slammer for 15 years is not really feeling the “white privilege” thing. Also, in small towns, getting any job above janitorial or food service depends on your connection to the few families that control most of the wealth in your town. Most poor whites don’t fare much better than minorities in pleasing these families. The flip side of white privilege is that when we fail, it’s all on us. We get no sympathy from the culture or the media. Poor whites are one of the remaining groups it’s OK to make fun of.
Poor rural whites are sick of condescension and contempt from the elites. It doesn’t appear to them that the people occupying most of the surface area of the country might have something of value to say. Polite society bemoans the rise of the alt right without realizing it’s serving a demographic everybody else seemed to have forgotten. I don’t agree with much the alt right has to say but I do agree with them that the elite are arrogant. It might not be something that is politically correct to say but it’s true. We talk to them but they don’t respond and aren’t willing to “stoop to our level”. Political correctness is a blessing but can interfere with honest, forthright discussion. For example, frank and honest discourse on race that goes beyond 140 characters is messy and often involves a lot of political incorrectness. It’s like sausage being made, not pretty at all and sometimes produces bad results. But being forthright about one’s racism (which is verboten in the culture at large) is the only way a poor white is going to make any progress away from it. For example, the state’s denial of the Medicaid expansion of Obamacare. If people were more forthright about it being so the poor blacks wouldn’t get healthcare maybe a lot of the poor whites would have seen through the logic and objected. But instead everyone is tiptoeing and trying to be politically correct as possible while simultaneously taking the course of action that is the most hurtful to all involved.
Poor whites often don’t have the social support of the church anymore. There has been a precipitous decline in church attendance by poor whites over the last 30 years. A lot of this has to do with the encroachment of the prosperity gospel into mainstream Christianity. Poverty is stigmatized and shamed enough in America as it is, the church was the last bastion where it wasn’t, until the people worshiping the dollar got a hold of it. Even churches that don’t explicitly practice the prosperity gospel have the implicit idea of “God’s plan” to prosper you, and if your life isn’t going according to that plan you are looked down upon. In rural America there are less governmental social supports so when one loses the church they lose a whole lot more than their urban counterparts. The precipitous decline of hospitality and community happening throughout America is also felt more acutely in rural areas as there really isn’t much opportunity to form new social bonds.
Poor whites don’t have any forces countering the bad information they take in. Where there is solidarity there is a check on bad information. For example the black church can counter narratives seen in the media with better ones. It is an open secret that the poorer you are, the more bad information you are exposed to on a daily basis (and because you’re poor you also have less tools to fight it). This makes sense because power comes from utilizing good information as powerlessness comes from utilizing bad information, and those in power will do everything in their power to keep the powerless powerless. For example for me going to the indigent clinic where they say a back ache will just go away if you wait it out, and then taking the bus home and seeing a Michigan Lottery ad in the red ticker. TV is the worst for this, all kinds of predatory lenders and other shady people advertise on the shows they know poor people watch. Denying that there is truth always serves the oppressor. Because power is spoken to truth rather than the other way around.