Perception management

Sometimes somebody in a disagreement will insist that everything is simply a matter of perspective.  Everyone has their own perception, and different people can see the exact same thing from very different perspectives.   There is a certain universal truth to that.  Think of any work of art that shows the same event from multiple points of view, it appears like a completely different event, depending on whose version you accept.  

It is a small step from the undeniable truth of how our perceptions shape reality to the conviction that no two people can necessarily ever agree on anything that took place, if it aroused strong emotions, since we all see things from our own point of view based on our emotional histories.  The trouble with this view is that it removes the possibility of ever agreeing about anything based on actual events or evidence of any kind that can be agreed on.  It leads to the acceptance of “alternative fact” as well as a perfectly defensible difference of opinion about those ever pliable, transactional “facts”.  It fosters the idea that since everyone’s emotions are always true to them, everyone’s perspective is equally true to them and that persuasion, learning and improving are therefore also strictly subjective matters

An easy way to refute this kind of solipsism is the punch in the face.  If I punch you in the face, I may perceive that you made me do it, you may perceive it was a vicious, unprovoked attack, but we won’t be disputing the actual punch.  If you are susceptible to self-doubt, or if you can acknowledge that you provoked the violence, I may be able to convince you that it was your own goddamned fault I had to sock you, but the fact that I socked you is not a matter of perspective, it objectively took place.  Just look at your bloody nose if you have any doubt.

Take the case of an unappeasable parent. The child finds herself locked in a war she has no insight into, turned into a combatant from before she can even speak. Nothing the child can ever do, even as an adult, can appease someone who is unappeasable.  The parent will insist the kid is the source of all the hostility, tension, anger, misunderstanding, stubbornness, refusal to be reasonable or well-behaved, a plague on the family.  A family friend will likely have a different perspective, caring for both parties and wanting to help both.  Tell the kid their parent is unappeasable and make an enemy of the parent.  Tell the parent it’s not the kid’s fault and you will face the ire of the unappeasable parent now outraged that you are blaming them for the kid’s genetic predisposition to be a provocative, angry, mean, needy little asshole.

It is a tragedy of human history that many of the most angry people in the world are the most adept at blaming their victims.   It is the true genius of homo sapiens (the “wise ape”) to justify our actions, no matter how badly we act.   We can justify them intellectually, when we have facts in our favor, or emotionally, when the facts will not so easily support our hurtful actions.   We never, with no exception I can think of, act not believing that we are right, or at least justified, in doing what we do.  Every act of violence is committed in a moment where the angry person believes 100% that what they are doing is righteous.  After cooling down, many will have regrets about the damage they did, but in the moment of attack they believed in their righteousness absolutely.   That’s what it takes to hurt people, true belief that they fucking deserve it.

A feeling can’t be right or wrong, it is what you truly feel.  The important thing is to analyze the feeling after you calm down, see what in it is reasonable, and to be heeded, and what part is purely your old pain kicking up and making you feel bad again. And if you keep reacting out of pain, and keep inflicting pain with your reactions, and learn nothing from it, you’re just an asshole I’m sorry to say.

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