People like you and me care about fairness. Injustice riles us, festers in us, and torments us. How unfair is that? Isn’t it really unfair that, given how we’d prefer spending our time, maybe writing a spellbinding novel or tackling a scientific conundrum, we have to concern ourselves with the billion injustices perpetrated every day, from the tiny to the tragic? It would be one thing if we only cared about those injustices that directly affected us. But no, every single injustice that we learn about bothers us and provokes us.
Let’s take one example of injustice. Some passing men, who take it as their birthright and public duty to stone to death any woman who shows her uncovered face in public, stone a woman to death. This is intolerable to us; we enter the room that is our mind in a frenzy not knowing what to do with our rage and our incomprehension. We sit in our easy chair, which feels anything but easy, and play out a revenge fantasy; or we commit to redoubling our activism, knowing for certain that no amount of activism on our part will spare the next poor woman these men encounter; or we write a poem of anguish. Or, more usually, we sit there stewing until we do the following.
Most often what we do is pull open one of the drawers of the chest that is sitting there in the corner of the room that is our mind, the drawer containing a thousand other injustices that we have collected over time and that we have no way of rectifying, and we stuff that new unbearable thought in there. Then we slam the drawer shut. We do this for our mental health, since we simply couldn’t function if those thousand memories of monstrosities were allowed out to freely populate our mind.
Take a very different sort of injustice. Every month we get a certain bill and every month we are overcharged in the same cavalier, cynical way. It’s only a few dollars; but still it’s maddening. We know that the corporation sending us this bill is doing this on purpose, stealing these two or three dollars from millions of people. How amazingly irritating this feels! What can we realistically do? Stop their service and spend all that time finding another provider? Make an angry call to an underpaid customer service representative? Inaugurate a class action suit? Heavens! No; eventually, after fifteen minutes or half an hour of stewing, we open that drawer and stuff this injustice away, thus adding to our storehouse of miserable memories.
Take a third sort of injustice. Your mate never really treated you fairly. But you put up with all that unfairness for all sorts of reasons. Now that you are divorced, you find yourself asking two insidious questions, “Why did I put up with that?” and “How can I get even?” Because the answer to the first may be, “I don’t really want to know” and because the answer to the second quite likely is, “I really can’t,” you sit there stewing. Eventually those injustices go into the drawer kicking and screaming, becoming some of your worst memories.
We have stuffed into that drawer a really diverse and amazing collection of injustices. The way we were unjustly overcharged on a bill. Holocausts. That rude, unfair thing a friend said about us. Corrupt politicians. That time our mate selfishly ate the last slice of pie. Killing fields. The objective size of the injustice has never been our criterion for holding onto it: if it feels like an injustice, we stuff it into that drawer, we add it to memory, and there it squirms, making wailing noises and too often crawling out to beleaguer us.
Is there a better way to handle these countless injustices? Well, you might try the following. Set aside a good portion of an afternoon. Enter the room that is your mind and pull up a stool in front of the chest of drawers where you’ve stuffed all those injustices. Take a deep breath and ask yourself the following question: “Would it serve me to open this drawer and sort through these injustices, maybe taking some large number of them to the trash? Or would that prove too overwhelming, painful and risky?”
The answer may be that the task feels too daunting, in which case leave that room and go out in the sunshine. But it may be the case that you feel equal to the task and that you intuit that it would serve you to rid yourself of some of those thoughts and feelings. If so, get your sorting bags ready and make sure you’re armed with plenty of twist ties. You will want to get those bags securely shut, as those injustices will be squirming! When you are done, shut the drawer tightly on whatever remains and celebrate that you’ve made a little room—because you’ll need that room. The truth is that you’ll be adding to that drawer because more injustices are coming along to confront you and confound you.
This was lesson #13 of the Your Best Mind Ever series written by Dr. Eric Maisel.