[ 6 min read ]
Diary of an artist, Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Woke up 4:15 am
Before I’ll go to the topic of caring about the opinions of others, one more thing. Yesterday I chanced upon a video in which comparing your suffering to the even worse suffering of others was heavily criticized. The main argument against it was that we all care about ourselves the most, and therefore when we’re downhearted we don’t give a fuck that someone else might have it even worse.
Because I touched upon this topic on, I guess, several occasions already, I want to clarify what my take on this is.
I agree that we care the most about ourselves (and thus about our suffering), and that only because someone will tell us that someone else has it worse than we do will not help us. And it could even make us feel worse. But I also think that there’s more to that. It’s not enough to say that we care about ourselves the most and consider the case closed.
The person who made this video also pointed out in her other video that when you’re downhearted it is immensely important to know / remember that you’re not the only person in this world who feels that way. That there are always other people in this world who are going through the same shit or who have been through the same or very similar shit in the past.
So what that they are going through the same shit or have been through the same or very similar shit in the past? Should I care? I don’t give a fuck. I only give a fuck about myself, about my situation, about my predicament. When I feel down my predicament is the greatest! When I feel down, I believe (maybe also somehow want to believe) that I have it worst in the world. When I feel down I automatically assume that I’m the only person in the world who is going through such thing and feels that way. I, I, I. My, my, my.
To me there is an obvious contradiction in both those messages. If the knowledge / awareness that there are other people in this world who are going through the same / have been through the same, it’s obvious that I use their similar predicament (about which I shouldn’t care an iota according to the first video) to console myself. Which must lead me to the logical conclusion that the fact that someone has it even worse than I do should just as well work. As a matter of fact it should be an even greater consolation that there is someone else in this world who has it even worse than I do. That’s logical.
What is not logical is arguing that you shouldn’t tell someone who is feeling down that others have it even worse and at the same time claiming that telling this person that there are other people in this world who have it just as bad (who are going through something very similar or even identical), that he or she is not alone in this, is one of the best things this person can hear.
I’m not surprised that some people think that way. That they utter such contradictory statements. Why? Because I believe that being logical is not one of our strengths. Actually it’s our weakness. Oftentimes we’re very illogical, and what is more, we have no idea that it happens.
Either you don’t compare your suffering to the suffering of others, or you do. Be consistent! You can’t reasonably claim that comparing yourself to others is a very good tool when your suffering is more or less the same (the you-are-not-alone-in-this line of reasoning), and at the same time argue that it sucks as a tool when you tell yourself or someone else tells you that your suffering pales in comparison to someone else’s suffering (the others-have-is-even-worse line of reasoning).
If I don’t give a fuck what others feel, why the heck should the knowledge that there are others who are feeling what I’m feeling help me?
I think the difference (but it takes away nothing from the unreasonable nature of this contradictory thinking) is that when you tell someone that there are other people in this world who are going through something very similar or even the same, then you point more to the fact that there is some group of people in this world of which this person can feel part. And when you tell this person that there are people in this world who have it worse, you not only don’t point to the fact that there is some specific group of co-sufferers in this world of which this person is part (and that this person erroneously assumes that he or she is alone in this — that he or she is the only person in the entire universe who is dealing with this shit, and if he or she asked enough people he or she would find out that it is true that such people do exist), and therefore this person can’t benefit from the thought that there really are people in this world who know his or her suffering and thus understand what it feels like, but you make things worse by implying that this person is ridiculous. This person is not less ridiculous to assume that he or she is alone in this in this world (!), but this message is hidden under the good news which is way more important to that person, which is that there are others (that there is a group of like-minded, like-suffering people, a group to which this person automatically belongs, a group where people like him or her are understood).
When you don’t give this person a support group (when you don’t point to such group — nobody needs to join such group, it’s enough that we draw this person’s attention to its existence), you emphasise the fact that this person is ridiculous to think a certain way. And that’s the problem. Comparison, as it turns out, is not the problem. An emphasis on the fact that this person is ridiculous to think a certain way is the problem. I guess it’s worth repeating that in both cases (approaches) you tell this person that the way he or she thinks about his or her predicament is ridiculous.
When you tell this person that there are people in this world who have it worse the thought that this person is probably exaggerating and should reconsider his or her situation (that chance is he or she is simply ridiculous) is the only thing you give this person. He or she won’t have anything positive to hold on to. That’s the real problem, not the comparison.
We don’t like to be criticized. We don’t like when someone is pointing to big holes in our thinking. Plus we want to be able to feel bad — that’s true. We feel that we should be entitled to it. We don’t like when someone is trying to rob us of this privilege. Just as we don’t like when someone is trying to rob us of any privilege. And that’s why telling this person only that others have it worse won’t work and will even make things worse.
But give him or her something positive (something he or she could use — besides just the critique of his or her approach) and she will be able to overlook the fact that you compared his or her situation to the situation of others and that you also pointed to his or her ridiculousness.
But in both those cases you compare this person’s suffering to the suffering of others. This should be obvious — but isn’t.
Stuff I’m currently reading:
Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare by Philip Short (on Scribd).
POPism: The Warhol Sixties by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett (on Scribd).
Audiobook: Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937–1948 by Madeleine Albright (on Scribd).
The Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and Its Future by Ted Kaczynski (free PDF)
Audiobook: How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship by Ece Temelkuran (on Scribd)
Audiobook: Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958–62 by Frank Dikötter (on Scribd)
Audiobook: Ten Caesars: Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine by Barry Strauss (on Scribd)
Kafka: The Early Years by Reiner Stach (on Scribd) Definitely a great book!
YouTube videos and movies (since my last diary entry):
The Sinner: Cora: “Part I” (on Netflix)
My Brilliant Friend Season 2 Episode 1 Il nuovo cognome (on HBO GO)
Inni mają gorzej, czyli najgłupszy tekst świata | Hania Es
Cejrowski o debacie w TVPis 2020/6/23 Radiowy Przegląd Prasy odc. 1054
Music for this writing session: Frederic Chopin (on Spotify).