Thursday, August 12, 2010


Even when I vow to be positive, I have a hard time staying that way. I don't think it is just the result of autism; I think I have always found myself more on the side of worry and frustration. I have been thinking a lot about the source of my most recent bout of anger. I suspect it stems from a combination of the "Just-World Hypothesis" and a sense of entitlement.

The just world hypothesis is the idea that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. It is something we all KNOW is false but it still lurks somewhere in most of our minds. We perpetuate it by saying things like "what goes around comes around" when someone does something mean (because we assume something bad will come back this person) or "You sooo deserve that" when someone gets something good. We don't mean any harm with these comments but they present the idea that if you are a good person you should get good things and if you are a bad person you should get bad things. So when bad things happen to you, is it payback for some earlier wrongs you committed? Probably not. Plenty of bad things happen to good people but this hypothesis lurks and prompts thoughts like "why me?" and "what did I do to deserve this?"

Then there is entitlement. I think many of us who were raised in middle class homes are guilty of this. We assume that if we follow the "rules" and work hard, we will end up better off than our parents. That is how is works in America, isn't it? My parents were immigrants and I saw them move from supporting us on an assistant professor's salary with very little to their names to earning a pretty good middle class income (my father an ivy league researcher and my mother a full time teacher and part time classical singer). It didn't hurt that they came here with Oxford degrees and did not have to face the racial prejudice many immigrants deal with. My point is, I saw it work. They followed the rules - they made the most of their educational opportunities, worked hard, and they "made it". Halfway through my childhood we moved into a 3 bedroom home on a pretty street in a neighborhood with good schools. We took vacations - nothing too crazy - a week at Cape Cod one year, a visit to the rest of the family in England the next. THey put 2 daughters through college - Barnard for me and Brown for my sister. I guess a big part of me assumed that if I followed the same "rules" I would have a similar life.

But really, just because you do well in school and work hard,
Who says you are entitled to a pretty suburban home?
Who says you should get to go on vacation?
Who says you should earn a great salary?
Who says your children should be "typical" and grow up like everyone else?

People with what look like "perfect" lives may have done very little to deserve them or they may have been the most wonderful people in the world. The Just World Hypothesis is false but it creates frustration regardless.

I realize that happiness is a choice. I can attempt to appreciate the small things that go right in a day or I can moan over the life I wish I had. Happiness is a choice but it is one I am just not very good at making. Obviously, I need to work on that.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Emma...wishing I had some profound words of wisdom for you...but simply hoping there is happiness, abundant happiness in your day today!