I write a post for this blog twice a week. When or if possible, there is a connection, however tenuous, between one post and the next. Much of the time daily life intervenes and what I write feels quite separate. I try to make my peace with that. Then again, sometimes it takes a short remove from the writing to perceive the linkage. Since I do largely believe that the best of what I write “comes through [me] not from [me]” (cue Khalil Gibran poem **), this experience of awakening to connections is not entirely surprising.
**I apologize for the digression, but I must offer you two links: first to a printed version of the Gibran poem from which I’ve borrowed the phrase quoted above. Then a link to a recording of the amazing A capella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock, performing a song based on the poem. I’ve been fortunate to hear them in concert a number of times and I love this piece more each time I hear it.
The post ‘Unapologetic’ apparently resonated with a few people. I’m very glad about that. This morning I found myself contemplating the ‘Why?’ of excessively saying ‘I’m sorry’. What popped into my head was: ‘Oh yeah, resentment.’ Hustling to meet the needs of others, to be of service in order to feel worthy (from 2/19 post) is linked to reflex apologies for being alive. Does this make sense? Well, of course it doesn’t actually make sense… it’s maladaptive behavior. What I might privately call ‘stupid’. However I want to poke around here a bit and see if I can unravel the thought.
Perhaps if I start with anger the picture will be clearer. Even when I am thoroughly caught up in the unholy pattern of ‘feel unworthy, therefore serve others in order to create a sense (an illusion) of self-worth’, that’s not all that’s going on. Although I may deeply believe in my unworthiness, at the same time I am pissed. Underneath, inside, in a parallel sense of self, I’m angry. The situation, that is, the behavior, is self-perpetuating, so a LARGE quantity of anger gets pushed aside, repressed and, in fact, saved. Yeah, saved. That’s scary, but true… I’m not sure that it can be called righteous anger, but a perverse value gets connected to ‘being wronged’.
Okay, that begs the point that I made in the 2/19 post, that while deeply ingrained, this ‘serving others’ behavior is still in some way my choice. But therein lies a link back to shame. If I blame myself for my choices, then I shame myself. If I hoard and hold close my anger, then I feel shame. In fact, in the universe of my childhood, to feel anger, much less express even a tiny speck of anger, was prohibited and therefore, quite shameful. What I’m getting at is that collecting anger = resentment. Yes indeed, there is a connection here.
A stockpot of anger, pushed onto a back burner where it simmers for years, yields a potent and volatile reduction called resentment. One of the by-products of this stewing is the pervasive and scalding vapor of shame. The thickened and reduced sauce is sometimes served as bitter and sarcastic apologies. Uh huh.
That analysis relates to the angry/resentful wellspring of sorrys, but what of the others… like the ‘sorry for being alive’, the sad, hurt, pathetic apologies? I don’t think that the stew of anger, which becomes concentrated into resentment is necessarily what produces the sad sorrys. There’s disappointment in the mix. Some blend of ‘I’m disappointed in something or someone’ and ‘I believe that I’ve disappointed others’. This linguistic and culinary de-contruction obviously needs further investigation. Anon.