Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Karma Crusader

After talking with friends and thinking seriously about my anger, I think I know why I haven’t fully let it go.

True, it doesn’t affect me like it used to, meaning I don’t physically feel the anger even when I spend so much time reliving the memories that I can taste the blood in my mouth as though I was biting my cheek hard enough to stifle an urge to lash out.

But as Helen pointed out, the lack of a physiological reaction to the anger doesn’t mean I’ve let it go. Somewhere in my cells, I'm housing anger toward Dr. HC and Dr. Second Opinion because , at the very least, their negligible diagnosis made it incredibly difficult for me to get the proper diagnosis, which put my life at risk.

This week, I was listening to a radio interview with Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. Ariely talked about an experiment in which one guy overpaid for an item with two different groups of people: one control group, and one group of people that were purposely annoyed by the guy right before he overpaid. (The guy took a call in the middle of the interaction and rudely made the people wait without acknowledging it). The first group gave him back the extra money most of the time; the second group kept the money most of the time.

Ariely said that people didn’t keep the money because they were dishonest, but because they were trying to restore some kind of karma. In other words, the guy who treated them badly didn’t deserve the break they would have given him by fixing his mistake (paying too much).

What he said resonated with me. Big time.

I’ll admit it here and now: I am a karma crusader. If I see a wrong, I think it’s my job to right it – especially if I feel someone is being treated unfairly. My style is a bit different than that of the people in the experiment. I wouldn’t have kept his money, because I don’t think that’s right and I consciously make decisions on an hourly basis to stay in line with my morals; but after he hung up the phone I would have made him wait a bit longer than he made me wait.

So yes, I spend too much time trying to restore balance and justice into the most insignificant events. Why? If I don’t, I hold on to the anger of being unfairly treated.

Before I heard this interview, I had just realised that I’m worried letting go of my anger will give the two specialists who messed up a free pass, and they will never have to answer for their actions. My first thought to resolve it, then, was to find a way to file a formal complaint against them. Maybe it would stop it from happening to others.

Thanks to Ariely, I think there is another solution. In most cases, I will fold up my cape and let karma figure things out without my help.

(Because Dr. HC may misdiagnose more people, I think I have to do more, but Dr. Second Opinion was just a jerk, as far as I'm concerned, so he will fall into the 'most cases' category)

Folding the cape means giving people a break for no reason at all, and especially when they don’t seem to deserve it. If I can dole out at least one break a day, I think I can change my life. And if you do it with me, we might be able to change the world.


  1. You've probably heard the AA's "fake it 'till you make it" line. I think that it's much easier to let go of the negative stuff you want to change if you pretend you already have. Or, if someone is annoying you for example, you smile at them and act like you aren't annoyed.

    In any case, any suggestions on how to handle your emotional stuff are probably not much help. One has to discover one's own way.

    But you sound like you are trying to let go of stuff that's certainly not helping you. And guilt is a real sneaky and subversive emotion. I think many of us don't recognize that guilt is the prime driver for some choices we make.

  2. I have heard 'fake it 'til you make it', but I didn't know it was an AA thing. I've tried that and it didn't work out for me. I never did make it when I was faking it!

    I try my hardest to ignore guilt when I know, logically, that it shouldn't impact certain decisions, but it's hard.