suffering: oh, how we love a good train wreck
Last week I shared a traumatic experience with readers. I was rewarded, in a weird way, with well over 300 hits on that post over 2 days. Now, I’ve gotta say… I have logged 200 plus posts in my 2 years of blogging: uplifting, funny, emotional, quirky, informational posts that I write with loving intent. Never once have I received that many hits on a post in such a short amount of time.
What this tells me, is that people love a good train wreck.
We’re all just a bunch of rubberneckers. None of us can resist the temptation of watching someone suffer. We love to watch each other burn, don’t we? Public hangings, courtroom dramas, war footage, animal attacks, car accidents, couples arguing on the sidewalk, school kids fighting after class, anything on Jerry Springer… We gather around with curiosity to watch as others suffer. Sick and twisty, right? But we’ve all done it.
And this is nothing new. When I read books or watch movies about King Henry’s England (one of my fave topics) I’m always amazed to see mothers and fathers bringing their kids to watch public executions. There is one scene in the movie Elizabeth I, in which QEI is tricked into thinking her beloved Jewish doctor, Dr. Lopez, is poisoning her. She feels she has no choice but to have him executed. We are flashed forward to a grizzly torture scene where Dr. Lopez watches as his very own intestines are cut out of his body and burned. Did I mention he is still alive watching this??? Oh, and there are families standing around cheering? Horrid. But we watch anyway.
We are voyeurs.
We are curious.
We are glad it’s not us.
We might even feel happy it’s them.
Suffering doesn’t always mean blood and guts. Suffering can be much more benign. And I’d bet that we can all relate to certain joys and reliefs found in observing others’ pain. Watching that woman who always wins first place as she falls down during a race. (Good, she won’t win this time.) Finding out your son didn’t make the varsity soccer team, but your neighbor’s son didn’t make it either. (Phew, he’s not the only one who was cut.) Learning your co-worker has to cancel his vacation to Barbados b/c a storm damaged his hotel. (Ha! Now he’s stuck here like the rest of us.)
There’s nothing to feel bad about. These are things we think b/c we are wired to think this way. But. (There’s always a But.) We don’t have to think this way. These thoughts are not creating a better world. These thoughts are holding us back from standing in the spotlight that is meant to shine on us. Instead of focusing attention on our own identities, our own stories, our own intentions, we are busy applauding someone else’s failures or feeling jealous of other people’s successful journeys.
Each of us has a path designed specifically for ourselves. Once we set our intentions straight and start working towards our goals, there won’t be any time to watch others burn. In fact, when we do come across others’ moments of suffering, we will discover a heightened sense of compassion. Successful people help others succeed. Michelle Obama said this beautifully at the DNC last month:
When we succeed in our own stories, we will no longer have the desire to poo poo other people’s efforts to live their best lives. We can succeed by living mindfully, compassionately, purposefully… and with intention.
One important addition to today’s story: I know that spike wasn’t all about rubbernecking. The high traffic last week tells me something else, something that especially warms my heart. There are a lot of mommies, friends and readers who appreciated the peek inside a really horrible day in my house. Through my embarrassing admission, others could see their own households reflected. And through this reflection might spark the desire to actively heal. I know that’s what it did for me. And for that, I’m totally in love with you. 🙂 Well, then again, I was pretty much in love with you already anyway.
From mine to yours,