My Little Black Book: Dissolving the Fog of Vengeance
The world would be so unfair if people could do bad things and get away with it. But it happens, so it’s time to cross people off the black book and understand vengeance – so it can be dissolved. Spoiler alert: there are injustices in the world, and not everyone who is doing something wrong is eventually punished.
I have this imaginary black book where I’ve been writing down all the people, companies, situations, animals, organizations… you name it, who have wronged me. I’ve been carrying it with me since I was a kid, and I see life through it: I’ve canceled this person because he wasn’t there for me in time of need, not talking to that friend because he wasn’t honest with me about some aspects of his life, not buying from this company because its CEO made homophobic comments, and not going to that dentist because the receptionist was condescending and mean. It’s all about making sure to get people what they deserve. In other words: it’s all about vengeance, really.
I have high expectations from myself, and I also have high expectations from the world. I’m judging the world according to my theory of “how things are supposed to be,” I keep score, and I “punish” all those who are “not doing it right.”
Black Book Maintenance
In a conversation that I had with Alex earlier this week (Alex, by the way, is a disgustingly forgiving person- which could be the reason why I married him, yin and yang, blah blah blah…), I mentioned a neighbor that moved out but whom I refuse to say goodbye to because I’ve been painfully disappointed to find out that the friendship I thought I had with him was empty. “WOW,” Alex said, “your black book is so heavy. How can you manage to walk around carrying that thing everywhere?” Yeah, the book is imaginary. But it weights like all participants in that reality show “My 600-lb Life,” in all 9 seasons, combined.
Alex’s little comment sat with me. I know that it’s unhealthy, even a little crazy, to have this black book and keep maintaining lists. I also know (surprise!) that we’re all human and all have a dark side — and if I refuse to except people’s dark sides— then basically everyone is doomed to end up in my book, and I’ll just be alone.
With that in mind, this week in gay group therapy I posed the question of maintaining a “wronged-me” list and how do other people deal with injustices that were done to them. While everyone jokingly agreed to reason why I don’t purchase Barilla products anymore, I did receive some perspective about canceling individuals—most of these perspectives were healthier than mine, mainly because of acceptance of other people’s flaws. On the way back home I thought about the original goal of even maintaining this black book.
Judgment, Justice, Vengeance
When I was younger I was different. I was effeminate, I didn’t like what most boys liked, I wasn’t like other boys. I was bullied every time I went out to the street, and at home I was emotionally abused. I didn’t feel like anyone protected me, but I have always had a strong sense of justice (not sure where it comes from) that basically says:
“If you did something wrong, or you are doing wrong — you should be punished.”
The world would be so unfair if people could do bad things and get away with them. Therefore, the black book was opened as my own solution to the unfairness; It wasn’t only about vengeance — it was like my way of helping the world maintain its good balance and not allowing the bad stuff to float around with no certain consequences.
Looking now at my original solution for a flawed world, I see two major issues:
- Am I really focusing here on the betterment of the world, or is this more a matter of my inability to accept the flaws, the weaknesses – the humanity – of others? And, of course, my inability to accept the same in myself.
- Why am I even trying to take on this ‘God-like’ function deciding who is bad and who isn’t and making sure everyone gets what they deserve?! Not only is it endless work, it’s not my job!
The Original Feeling is Exposed
So now my seeking-vengeance-in-the-name-of-world-balance plan is seeming even more insane. And after a couple of days thinking about how often they’d let my kids visit me at The House of Fruity Nuts, I found another layer to this black book mess:
Seeking vengeance and maintaining lists comes from anger, which is the feeling I was projecting to the world the whole time, trying to protect the actual feeling that I was actually experiencing, but mostly didn’t get to because I was busy being angry. That feeling is mostly pain and hurt.
I’m guessing now that anger has been an effective shield against the potential for pain and hurt to overwhelm – but turns out it can be so effective that it outlasts the other emotions, leaving fury without understanding.
So my solution to the imaginary black book is to open a new notebook – this time, a real one, with paper. And not a black one but, perhaps a blue. Here, rather than focusing on how bad that guy or that group had been to me – how wrong they were – I will focus instead on – brace yourselves for some psychobabble – how the experience made me feel. Embarrassed? Hurt? Small? Stupid? Helpless? Ashamed? I’ll make sure the notebook knows how I feel. How I hurt. And that, in turn will give me the time to feel, to understand myself. And as difficult as these are to write down, it somehow feels as if those words will make the pages… lighter.
Hope it works. But – not like I’ve burned the black book yet. So… y’know… watch out, especially Pages 23, 72, and 248.