While it’s true that we have a responsibility not to carry our hang-ups into our interactions with other people, we often act irresponsibly by doing just the opposite. This is worse than unfortunate; it is troubling.
Our foul moods and our habitually negative patterns of thought can cause others strife. We are all familiar here with the ordinary players such as anger and despondency, but what about subtler varieties of agitation, recalcitrance, acidity, criticality, stubbornness, and reticence? How much do these cause others either to pick up the slack, to lift more weight than they should, to lubricate the social wheel, or to mollify us when we’re in one or more of those emotional states? Aren’t others markedly worse off as a result of such heavy lifting and mollycoddling?
It could be said that being unconscious of one’s hang-ups should be regarded as an excuse (if not a justification), though more often than not it’s not a terribly convincing one. If we’re old enough, are we really so blind to the discernible edges of our otherwise opaque inner lives? Yet even if we grant that someone remains so unconscious and thus is warranted in our cutting him some slack, what about those who cannot reasonably claim to being unconscious of their hang-ups (maybe, for instance, because they’ve already confided in us about these things) and who still carry them into their relationships with others? Perhaps they may say that they “can’t help it,” but what grounds do we have for believing that these are truly beyond their control?
The harm caused to those submitted to another’s wanton hang-ups goes well beyond the time we share with him because, provided that he is in especially poor spirits and carries himself with that painful, closed heart, that harm will, in all likelihood, body forth in our thoughts long after we part ways. For how long shall we carry that load? For the next day at least yet possibly for days or weeks. Or years.
Let’s not miss the important plot twist, though. Naturally, we have a responsibility to make sense of, while letting go of, our hang-ups initiated (in this case) by his hang-ups. Not to do so is not only inconsistent (for how could all of us have such a responsibility while we’re, in this allegedly special case, letting ourselves off the hook? That would be arbitrary as well as self-serving!) but it is also by virtue of holding onto our hang-ups (flowing from his hang-ups, which were flowing from someone else’s hang-ups…) that we perpetuate the very pattern of suffering. Somewhere the chain must be broken. Why not here? Why not now? Why not this very instant?
* * *
For the past year and a half, this blog has become secondary in my thinking life while a once-monthly long-form TinyLetter on ultimate reality has become primary. You’re welcome to view past letters here or to subscribe here.