E. Hey Revenger
R. Hey Ernest
E. So what’s the deal with my man X?
R. You mean the one who’s always blaming certain groups for all the problems in the world?
E. Yeah, him. At first I thought X was trying to build a coherent argument. But now it seems like he’s just angry, and randomly posts articles that justify his anger.
E. Is that true? Is it really just anger? And why does he pick those people to scapegoat?
R. Why do you care?
E. If I’m being honest, two reasons. One, he annoys the hell out of me. Two, he does seem sad and lonely underneath his bluster, and I’d love to find some way to actually connect with him emotionally.
R. Why do you find him annoying?
E. Because he takes powerful words like “justice” and “fairness” and uses them unjustly and unfairly.
R. So his actions literally contradict his words?
R. And this is offensive because?
E. It is an anti-relationship. I consider X someone I value and (try to) respect. But it feels like he is just using me to make himself feel better, under the guise of actually communicating.
R. Aren’t you doing the same thing?
E. Eh, maybe. But I’m trying to break the cycle. That’s why I’m asking for help.
R. Okay. Anyway, do you understand now how he feels?
E. That he was in a real relationship that he thought was genuine, but turned out to be a sham?
R. Yeah. That feeling of loss, betrayal, shame, and an inability to make sense of anything.
E. Wait, why do we lose our sense-making?
R. Because humans live in an inter-subjective reality. We know our perceptions are fallible, so we need an identity group to cross-check what we see. When that group — or significant relationship — betrays us, we literally can’t trust our own minds anymore.
“Humans live in an inter-subjective reality. We know our perceptions are fallible, so we need an identity group to cross-check what we see.”Revenger
E. Like the CEO Dal-Mi in the K-Drama Startup.
R. Exactly. We need a new foundation on which to stand. The easiest solution is a new community (formal or informal) that validates our pain, and offers a new narrative for sense-making.
E. So where does revenge fit in?
R. Call it a trope, instead of a community. The person feels great loss, and that the universe is unfair, unjust, and unsafe. And so they seize on a trope that allows them to impose order on the universe by fixing the flaw.
E. Oh. Just like I myself am doing to X.
E. So how do I escape that trope?
R. Don’t ask me. I’m just the part of you that understands revenge. I’m self-aware enough to know my purpose, but not enlightened enough to transcend it.
E. Fair enough. So what do you want, as that part of me?
R. For X to stop pulling your emotional / rational levers, without you having to be the bad guy and cut him off.
E. Really? Is that all?
R. Well, no. You’d also like to crush him and make him admit he was wrong, and bow to your superior logic and insight.
E. Now we’re getting somewhere!
R. In fact, you really want to rub his face in his own hypocrisy, to shame him into submitting to you.
E. Awesome. But why?
R. So… you no longer have to choose between relationship and relevance.
R. We all have our perspective on reality. When we feel dissed, it implies our perspective does not matter. That we are irrelevant. An unimportant cog in the social machine.
“When we feel dissed, it implies our perspective does not matter. That we are irrelevant. An unimportant cog in the social machine.”Revenger
E. Which is why he is so caught up in asserting his perspective, he doesn’t see he is trampling that of others.
R. Exactly. We can’t give others the empathy we never received.
E. So he’s trapped in a self-isolating narrative, where the whole point is to invalidate contrary perspectives to prevent him from having to face the existential abyss of his own pain.
E. So, the key to escape seems to be finding a redemptive way to honor a core part of his perspective, without losing my own.
R. Or maybe BY losing your own.
E. Boojum goggles?
R. Exactly. Or a small child. Who has no
opinion, but just sympathizes.
E. Huh. Thanks, R.