The justice trap
If the world were so organized that everything had to be fair, no living creature could survive for a day. The birds would be forbidden to eat worms, and everyone’s self-interest would have to be served.
Dr. Wayne Dyer believes that we are conditioned to look for justice in life and when it does not appear, we tend to feel anger, anxiety or frustration. Actually, it would be equally productive to search for the foundation of youth, or some such myth. “Justice does not exist. It never has, and it never will. The world is simply not put together that way.” The world and the people in it go on being unfair every day. You can choose to be happy or unhappy, but it has nothing to do with lack of justice you see around you.
DR. Dyer accentuates that this is not a sour view of humanity and the world, but rather an accurate report of what that world is like. “Justice is simply a concept that has almost no applicability, particularly as it pertains to your own choices about fulfillment and happiness. Too many of us tend to demand that fairness be an inherent part of our relations with others.”
“It is not fair,” “You have no right to do that if I cannot” and “Would I do that to you?” We seek justice and use the lack of it as a justification for unhappiness.
The demand for justice is not the irrational behaviour. It becomes a self-destructive behavior, what Dr. Dyer calls “erroneous zone,” when you punish yourself with a negative emotion as you fail to see evidence of the justice that you so futilely demand. In this case, the self-defeating behaviour is not the demand for justice, but the immobilization that may result from no-justice reality.
PROMISE OF JUSTICE
Our culture promises justice. Politicians refer to it in all of their campaign speeches. “We need equality and justice for all.” Yet day after day, century after century, the lack of justice continues. Poverty, war, pestilence, crime, prostitution, dope, and murders persist generation after generation in public and private life; and if the history of humanity can be used as a guide they will continue.
Injustice is a constant, but you, in your infinite new wisdom, can decide to fight that injustice and refuse to be seduced into being emotionally immobilized over it. You can work at helping to eradicate injustice, and you can decide that you would not be psychologically defeated by it.
The legal system promises justice. “The people demand justice,” and some of them even work to make it happen. However, it generally does not. Those with money are not convicted. The powerful buy some judges and security personnel. The poor frequently fill the jails, and have next to nothing of beating the system. It is not fair. But it is true. A visit to any local courthouse or police station will prove that the influential have a separate set of rules, although the authorities relentlessly deny this. Where is the justice? Nowhere! “You deciding to fight it may be admirable indeed, but your choosing to be upset by it is a neurotic as guilt, approval-seeking or any other of the self-flagellating behaviour that constitutes your erroneous zone.”
INEFFECTIVE RELATIONSHIPS SLOGAN
The demand for justice may infiltrate your personal relationships and prevent you from communicating effectively with others. The “It is not fair” slogan is one of the most common – and destructive – laments made by one person against another. In order to consider something unfair you must compare yourself to another individual or group of individuals. Your mindset goes something like this: “If they can do it, so can I.” “It is not fair for you to have more than I.” “But I did not get to do that, why should you?” On and on they go. In this case, you are determining what is good for you based on someone else’s conduct. They, not you, are in charge of their emotions. If you are upset because of not being able to do something that someone else has done, then you have given them control over you. “Whenever you compare yourself to anyone else, you are playing the “It is not fair” game, and shifting from self-reliance to other-directed external thinking.”
Fairness is an external concept – a way of avoiding the taking of charge of your own life. Instead of thinking of anything of being unfair, you can decide what you really want, and then set about devising strategies for attaining it, independent of what anyone else is the world wants or does.
The simple fact is that everyone is different and no amount of your grumbling about others having it better than you will bring about any positive self-changes. You will need to eliminate the other-references and throw away the binoculars that focus on what others are doing. Some people work less and get more money. Others get promoted out of favouritism, when you have more ability. Your spouse and children will continue to do things differently from you. But if you focus on yourself rather than compare yourself to others, then you will have no opportunity to upset yourself with the lack of equality you observe. “The backdrop for virtually all neurosis is making others’ behaviour more significant than your own.” If you carry around the “If he can do it, so should I” sentences, you will be running your life based on someone else and never create your own life.
DEMAND FOR JUSTICE SIDESHOW
John Dryden called jealousy “the jaundice of the soul.” Dr. Dyer admonishes that if your jealousy gets in your way, and creates any amount of emotional immobility, then you can set as a goal the elimination of this wasteful thinking. Jealousy is really a demand that someone love you in a certain way, and you saying, “It is not fair” when they do not. “It comes from lack of self-confidence, simply because it is an other-directed activity. It allows their behavior to be the cause of your emotional discomfort. People who really like themselves do not choose jealousy or allow themselves to be distraught when someone else does not play fair.”
You can never predict how someone you love will react to another human being, but if they choose to be affectionate or loving you can only experience the immobility of if you see their decisions as having anything to do with you. That is your choice. If your partner loves another, he or she is not being “unfair,” they are simply being. If you label it unfair, you will probably end trying to figure out why. A perfect example is a woman who becomes furious because her husband is having an affair. She often becomes obsessed with trying to figure out why. She could be asking, “Where did I go wrong?” “What is wrong with me?” “Am I not good enough for him?” and similar self-doubting questions. Such a woman would be thinking about the injustice of her husband’s infidelity and may frequently even contemplate having an affair herself as a way to right the balance.
Such a woman’s emotional condition will not improve until she decides that the husband made the decision independent of her, and he might have a thousand reasons of his own, all unrelated to her for his exploration. Whatever the reason, it has nothing to do with such a woman. She could see the affair as something between two people rather than something against her. “The upset rests solely in her. She can continue to bruise herself with the self-flagellating jealousy or she can recognize that someone else’s affair has nothing to do with her self-worth.”
Dr. Dyer labels the “If he can do it, so can I” game as one in which you justify something by someone else’s behaviour. He cautions that this can be the neurotic rationale for cheating, stealing, flirting, lying, being late, or anything that you would rather not admit into your own value system. He reiterates that this is the “He hit me, so I hit him” routine that is largely employed by children who have seen this behaviour so many times in their own parents. “It is the cause of war when extended to the ridiculous extreme.”
Begin to view your emotional life as independent of whatever anyone else does. This will free you from the chains of being hurt when others behave differently from the way you want them to.
BY CAPT SAM ADDAIH (RTD)