As human beings, we don’t want the feeling of being ashamed, canceled, or simply failing. But why does seeing these happen to others instead of ourselves bring most people pleasure and joy? Join hosts Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen in this episode as they dive deep into justice and people’s misfortune. They depicted that as we are now in the Digital Age, current trending technologies can empower people who gain pleasure from watching somebody fall. We must always pause for a while and reflect. We need to be more aware of our actions for the good of others. Tune in to learn how to make better decisions and be a better human being as well.
Listen to the podcast here:
Are We Obsessed With Justice?
Confessions Of Delight In Other People’s Misfortune
The topic of shame is something that we have covered at length here in previous episodes of the show. We have a phenomenal episode with a gentleman named Nick Jaworski who has a podcast called Shame Rules!. He has some alternative perspectives on the nature and the mechanics of shame, not just psychologically, but also in terms of our culture and our societal construct. He also purports that there may even be some benefits to shame depending on how it’s utilized in which context. We encourage you to check that out.
The last time I checked our blog stats, one of our most popular blog posts is also dealing with shame. This was a blog post that we released all the way back on April 22nd, 2019. It was one of our first blog posts at Wellevatr.com. The title of the blog is Our Collective Addiction to Shame. I’m proud of this. I feel like it’s a good collective scope about collective evolution. Does shame even hold any benefit in our society? It’s the counter perspective to Nick’s perspective. If you do read Nick’s episode, be sure to check out this blog post on our website. Whitney and I trade texts about a lot of things. If I look back at our text thread, it’s a pretty diverse and myriad amount of subjects we text each other back and forth.
You texted me and said, “We got to watch this. There is a documentary called 15 Minutes of Shame that you told me about. We’ve both taken a watch. We want to talk and dive into their perspectives on shame. This was co-produced by Monica Lewinsky. I walked away from it with a lot of feelings. I know you have watched a significant portion of it. I want to pass the ball back to you because you’re fresher with it than I am. I’m 5 or 6 days after. I’m curious emotionally and mentally about how you feel, having it fresh in your brain?
One thing I would like to do and I was hoping to do before this was to go back and watch the beginning because the first five minutes of that documentary, I was like, “Whoa.” The reason I haven’t finished it yet is that it got a little less, “Whoa.” I was like, “I have to watch this. I committed to watching it for the show.” Halfway through, it got “Whoa” again. It’s a bit of a journey. There is a show about Monica Lewinsky called Impeachment. It’s an American something story. It’s by the guy that did Glee, Ryan Murphy.
I’ve been watching that on FX. I’m deep into the Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton story and it’s so good to watch it be acted out. The actors are awesome and it’s well done. I’ve been thinking a lot about that Monica Lewinsky time because I remember it vaguely. It’s so hard when something historical happens like that. The same is true with 9/11. I don’t remember what I witnessed at the time it was happening versus what I witnessed by people talking about it. Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” I don’t know if I saw that live on TV. My parents remember that and they watched it live.
It’s possible that I did. It’s also possible that I didn’t care. It’s interesting to look at it through the lens of shame. One thing I do distinctly remember is when Monica Lewinsky was on Saturday Night Live. I was at Saturday Night Live because I was on a school trip and they took us to tour and she was the guest that day. We got to see her rehearse a scene that she did with actor Tim Meadows from The Ladies Man. We watched that in real-time on the Saturday Night Live stage.
I remember being so fascinated by Monica Lewinsky. I remember when she went on SNL. It was her taking ownership and no longer being a victim of shame like, “I’m going to make the most of this.” I think that that’s amazing. I also remember in 2020, she was in a documentary about the Clintons. I remember feeling deeply fascinated with this story. She says in 15 Minutes of Shame how she was one of the first big, if not the first examples of shame in the digital age. That must have been 2000 that that happened.
This was in ‘98.
The SNL skit was either ’99 or 2000. Where the internet stood in 1998 was not nearly what it is now. We didn’t have social media. I remember getting into AOL back then. That was probably the closest. At that time, people were getting into emails and doing chat rooms, and maybe doing some research online. It’s so fascinating that that coincided with everything that happened with her. Watching this reenactment and that narrative version of the impeachment is so fascinating because it’s being acted out. She’s involved with that impeachment show as well.
To see as much in a narrative form of that perspective of what she went through is so interesting. They do such a great job of painting the story of a young woman who was enamored with an older, powerful man. She seemed to enjoy that relationship but didn’t understand the consequences of it. She certainly did not seem to even think it was a possibility that the entire world would find out. That to me is part of what’s interesting about both of these pieces. The stories of people doing things that are either truly innocent and somehow, they get twisted around into shame.Nobody knows that we have those guilty pleasures until we say it or actually it out. Click To Tweet
I’m sure Monica Lewinsky was well aware that not only was she having an affair with somebody who was married but also was doing something that a president would not look good on him. What’s also interesting is I didn’t realize how many relationships Bill Clinton had. This is probably because of my youth. I want to look back into the history of it because apparently, it was her and Paula Jones. I didn’t realize how deep that story went, and that’s part of what makes the shame interesting. Monica was not the only one.
When you think of that time with Bill Clinton, you pretty much only think of Monica Lewinsky. Maybe you’ll think of Paula Jones who’s part of that story too. From what I know, Paula Jones didn’t do anything with Bill Clinton. He tried to get her to do some sexual things. I don’t recall the details of that. My point being is why was it that Monica Lewinsky became such a huge target and victim? If you watch the narrative version, which I imagine closely lines up with all the facts of this, she was used as a pawn.
Part of what’s super interesting about this 15 Minutes of Shame documentary is how people were utilized for others’ agenda, which is a part of shame that we haven’t dug into. The subject of that documentary that I’m most excited to talk about with you is schadenfreude. That section was eye-opening, especially the way that that is discussed in this documentary. I was like, “This makes sense.” When people are taking pleasure from shaming someone and using it as a way to feel superior, and to have fun because people love the ridicule.
There is even the phrase in that documentary called the community of losers. To me, loser is a strong term but it depends on how you use it. One of the examples is how people who are competing against each other like sports teams. Obviously, there is a winner and a loser. You can only have one or the other. She gave examples of how they will use the pleasure that they get from watching other people fail as motivation to play better. According to her and this part freaks me out, “We enjoy seeing people fail more than we enjoy winning ourselves.”
That hit me so hard. That study she was talking about of soccer fans in Europe found that their quotient of enjoyment of watching the opposing team misses a goal, they got more joy and satisfaction. Their neurochemical activity was higher than when they saw their teams score a goal. That was one of the biggest holy shit moments taken away from this documentary. They get more pleasure watching the other team fail than watching their team win. That’s mind-blowing. It does speak to the corollary of this forum of public shaming.
You mentioned Monica Lewinsky being one of the first figures in the digital age to be subject to early blog posts, newscasters, people calling her a whore, all of that stuff. Collectively, especially here in America, we revel in waiting for celebrities to fuck up so we can cancel them. It feels to me that the energy on the internet feels like a swarm of vultures waiting to smell blood. At the first drop of blood, they swoop in and start tearing the flash off the carcass. It does feel to me that if anybody has a modicum of fame influenced celebrity, I feel like the blood-thirsty hordes are waiting to rip them apart. I feel that people are so ready for that and it’s sad.
Part of the reason that this resonated with me is I can relate to that. I’m curious if you feel the same way, Jason. When she said that, I identified it within myself. I do take guilty pleasure from seeing people that I’m envious of fail, mess up and get canceled. A great example is when I see someone on social media who I’m like, “Why did they get all this success? How did they get that many followers?” All of these things that I wish I had in some ways. When they are canceled, the first that comes to mind is David Dobrik. It’s like, “Great. Knock them off.”
All of these other people that we used to see as the pinnacle of online success, it’s satisfying to me when they are canceled. It is not an easy thing to admit but an important thing to admit. I feel that satisfaction and pleasure. I don’t want to partake in calling them out, canceling them or dragging them. That’s not within my nature. That gets brought up too, about the history of this, as well as how we have been doing this for very long, much longer than the internet has been around.
I wrote some notes on this part in particular. There’s this idea of moral outrage and injustice. We want to do the right thing so badly so that we feel it’s our duty to cancel someone. It’s gotten so out of control. That’s one of the main themes of this documentary. It’s too much and it’s too common now. To your point, Jason, almost every day, I bet you could find an example of someone being called out and canceled. It’s so common. Remember when it wasn’t that common.
That’s why Monica Lewinsky is so interesting because she stood out in that timeframe as that example. Now in 2021, there are countless examples of people being canceled and called out for their behavior and dragged and all of that. That’s where it’s disturbing, but I’m hoping that we reach this point where it’s so saturated that we have to go back to it being less saturated. From not seeing the second half of the documentary, I don’t know our solutions. Is there hope for the future? How does it go from there in terms of where we are now to where maybe we could be?
To be honest, it doesn’t propose many solutions. As it goes on, the parts to me that were equally shocking is that you can be caught in a moment on a video or a photo taken from someone’s smartphone at any time. Now everyone has the ability to record high definition videos and photos all over the world. There was this example of a gentleman who worked at San Diego Water and Power and was stretching his hand out of the window and looked over at a car. They captured him in a pose that his hand was like a White power symbol.
Someone puts it on Twitter and tagged San Diego Water and Power. People are like, “Cancel this guy. He made a White power gesture in front of a Black Lives Matter rally.” This guy was like, “I was stretching my hand out.” He’s a Latino guy. He’s like, “I’m not a White supremacist. What the hell are you people talking about?” This guy, one frame, one photo, not even a video got passed around the internet because he was making a White power gesture with his hand, which he was not intentionally doing. He got fired from his job. He got destroyed on social media and that was never even his intention.
Of the examples that they gave, which there were many here, that was the one that stood out to me as people can take something that’s not even real and create an entire secondary narrative around it that has nothing to do with what happened and people do not care. Once the lie has enough momentum, the truth gets so buried under the lie in the momentum of the angry hoard canceling someone. Even if you present the truth, people don’t even believe it anymore.
It’s how propaganda works. In some cases like his case, cancel culture and social media have become part of the propaganda machine where a lie will get spun. People believe it so much that when the guy was like, “I’m Mexican. I’m not a White supremacist. I don’t even know what the symbol means. I was stretching my hand because I have arthritis.” No one believed him. His job and people on the internet didn’t believe him. It was sad. That one broke my heart.We're hardwired to laugh at people. There's a reason America's funniest home videos exist. Click To Tweet
I felt the same way. When I was in between that phase of not sure if I wanted to keep watching the documentary, what I kept thinking of was that man and how much it broke my heart as well. Especially how they framed it. The documentary was so well done that they started off his story with, “I got this great job. I felt financially set. I was set up for retirement.” He was celebrating how much he loved that job. I was like, “Where is this going to go?” Seeing that photo, I immediately believed him but part of me was like, “How do we know if someone’s telling the truth? What are the chances that someone is going to catch him holding up his fingers that way?”
I don’t know if I ever hold my fingers up this way. Certainly not out of the window. It was one of those things where you start to wonder about it. The way it was positioned with his job, it’s not that they necessarily didn’t believe him, they had to fire him because the mob demanded it. That’s the more disturbing point. The position that they’re in as a company is probably motivated out of bad PR. They’re like, “We got to do what’s best for the company. We got to fire this guy even if he is caught in a bad situation.”
That also reminds me, I don’t know if the documentary touches upon this. What’s scary is the rise of deep fakes. Because people take so much pleasure in manipulating others, that deep fakes are going to be a problem. We depend on evidence to determine whether somebody did or didn’t do something. In that guy’s case, the evidence was him holding his hand out the window. While he’s stating that he was stretching, the evidence is pointing to otherwise. There is enough detail within that story to make it seem like he was doing what they called him out for. It’s his word against the evidence. That’s going to continue being a problem and that disturbs me.
I have hope. I imagine there’s got to be some system developed in order to combat deep fakes. For those who don’t know what that is, the technology exists where it’s very easy to take someone’s photo or video and put it on top of somebody else’s photo or video and make it look like the original person is doing something that the actor or model is doing. It’s commonly used in porn. You can take a picture of a girl and superimpose it on top of another woman in a sexual act and say, “Whitney is doing porn here,” and use it as a way to drag someone down.
That’s probably the evolution of this because we are still bystanders for the most part. We are witnessing other people being canceled, dragged and called out. We can participate as bystanders and point our fingers. Technology is allowing us to participate in dragging people and manipulating them. That’s a whole different story. It’d be nice to think that morally and ethically, we would not do those things. Given the power that even I feel of the pleasure of watching somebody fall from grace or whatever, is it that far-fetched? I can’t imagine myself creating a deepfake.
Maybe deepfakes are just the beginning of this type of behavior. We have to admit as human beings that we participate in things that we wouldn’t expect ourselves to until we’re called out for it. In a way, that documentary is interesting because it’s calling me out for my thoughts that I don’t usually publicly share because I feel shame. I would feel ashamed to admit that I enjoy watching somebody fail. Now I’m not ashamed to admit it because the documentary called me out. I was like, “Guilty as charged.”
Do I like that I do that? No, but that’s how my brain currently works. I now have to actively stop myself. It’s all the different ways in which we participate in guilty pleasures. Nobody knows that we have those guilty pleasures until we say it or act it out. It also begs this question of, how much of this pleasure can we change within ourselves? Is that part of what it means to be a human being, to find pleasure in watching people fail or mess up?
I wonder neurologically, chemically, mentally, what is the gap or the bridge between watching someone on the internet fall down a flight of stairs? There is that favorite video from several years ago of this guy falling down an escalator and he gets right back up. You see him fall and you’re like, “Shit.” Once you realize he’s okay, you’re like, “I can laugh now. That’s good.” We’re hardwired to laugh at people. Blooper videos of someone jumping off the roof onto a trampoline in their yard and totally bites it. They landed face-first on the grass. There’s a reason America’s Funniest Home Videos exist. There’s a reason @FuckJerry exists on Instagram. There’s a reason we do take pleasure in watching people fuck up.
The jump between, “Ha-ha, you fell down a flight of stairs. You’re okay? That was funny. You’re such an asshole trying to fall down an escalator while you’re drunk,” versus, “This person lost hundreds of millions of dollars. They just got canceled. They’re going to jail.” To me, one feels like a very innocent thing and the other is like, “We’re delighting in a person’s life being ruined.” They feel like they occupy the same space a bit. There is a degree of severity from one to the other. Mentally, I wonder if they are lighting up the same parts of the brain when we see both of those things. I’m very curious about that.
The second thing is I do want to echo what you said, Whitney, and also commend you on being so open and transparent about how you feel about these things. After that segment about the soccer fans and how they take pleasure in watching people fail, I thought, “I do this too.” I noticed though that I do it in very specific ways. To me, it’s not as much watching a YouTuber or an influencer or a celebrity have their lives meltdown. It’s more like my ex-girlfriends. I have taken a twisted amount of delight in hearing when an ex goes through a breakup, and that their heart is broken.
If things ended badly between that person and me, “She broke up with so and so, and she’s fucked up about it.” Honestly, my reaction in the past has been like, “She deserves it. Good. I’m glad she’s broken.” It’s sick to even admit it a little bit but just saying it out loud, I have thought those thoughts. I’ve taken delight in knowing that the previous partners I’ve had are going through heartbreak. It’s like, “Good. Now you know what it feels like. I hope it lasts,” like nasty shit. I think those thoughts and I have those thoughts more so about people in my life and previous partners than public figures.
I have felt that for public figures too. You brought up David Dobrik. There was a moment in 2021 when there’s a musician, Marc Rebillet, who’s an improvisational musician much like Reggie Watts. He has beats and he does loop. They call him Loop Daddy. He’s huge on YouTube and Instagram. Fun stuff, comedic, improvised music. He was playing a slot at Lollapalooza in Chicago earlier in 2021. He had an after-party at the House of Blues in Chicago. David Dobrik was trying to get in the sold-out show and found Marc Rebillet’s manager’s phone number.
Marc Rebillet posted on his social media the text thread with his manager with David Dobrik trying to get in like, “We love Marc. Can you just let us in through the back entrance VIP?” Marc Rebillet was like, “Fuck David Dobrik. Don’t let him in. Fuck that guy.” David Dobrik was trying to use his fame and his money to get into a sold-out show. This guy Marc was like, “Eat shit and die.”
I took so much delight in that because here is this millionaire celebrity YouTuber trying to be like, “I can get in. I’m going to throw my weight around,” and this artist was like, “Do not let this guy in.” Part of my delight in that is how much privilege and advantage rich and famous people take in our society, and to see them get shut down, I love it. Your money and your fame can’t get you in here. Fuck off. I do. That was one thing. I was like, “This is amazing.”
It’s relatable and that was part of why that woman in the documentary called it the community of losers. In that context, you and I may feel like a loser because we feel inferior. When we feel inferior, it feels good to see people who are superior to us fail because it puts us more on the same playing field. It makes us feel more equal. We desperately want to feel equal but we don’t.
This is part of the reason why many people are so frustrated with the percentages of wealth and how unequal we feel financially. It feels good to hate on someone like Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk or whoever else and find all of their flaws, make fun of them, look for opportunities. I am sure there are people who spend all day, every day watching everything that Jeff Bezos does and looking for an opportunity to call him out, “Can you believe blah, blah, blah?”
There is this website that my mom reads called the Daily Mail and she is obsessed with it. She is probably obsessed because she finds pleasure in how the media tells these stories. It’s also not far off from how we find pleasure in awful things. We talked about Gabby Petito. I don’t think we’ve brought it up since that episode. I listened back to a part of that episode because I remember when we record it, her body had not been found. We didn’t know what was going on. There was still hope that she was still alive.
To listen back to it now knowing that she is no longer alive was a little creepy. I also was reflecting on how at the time, I was not that into that story, but a day or two after we did that episode, I got into that story. I found myself deeply interested in following it because I want to know what was going to happen next. It was this weird experience because what happens next is typically how we feel when we watch a movie or when we read a book. To wonder what happens next to somebody’s real life and misfortune is disturbing.
It’s similar in the sense of using someone else’s bad situation as a form of entertainment, but that’s a collective experience. I don’t think many people can say that they don’t feel that way unless they’re completely tuned out and they’re maybe very Buddhist. That’s part of how our brains function. I’d love to look further into the purpose that that serves. Another part of the documentary that I liked about halfway through is Loretta Ross. She’s an activist for people of color. She said, “Shaming isn’t effective because it doesn’t take into account humanity. It doesn’t set up an opportunity for accountability.”
That’s part of why this documentary feels so important. It’s for us to recognize our role in the shaming and become aware of the fact that it’s not making the change that we may hope it does. Oftentimes on the surface level, call-out culture and cancel culture and shame feels like a moral thing. It’s like, “This person shouldn’t be allowed to do this stuff.” It’s like, “Why does this guy’s privilege allow him to do things that I can’t do with less privilege? That’s not fair. We should call him out. We should make fun of him. We should publicly shame him.”
It’s not fully taking into account his humanity as a person. It’s not necessarily holding him accountable. It’s probably making him feel worse or resentful. Is it going to make him change? Probably not. That’s the thing that I feel more committed to. I try to think a lot beyond putting myself in their shoes because I’ve been publicly shamed in small ways, nothing major. YouTube is not a place that I feel good about because a lot of people love to shame on YouTube. Shaming happens on Twitter. I have not experienced it there that I can recall, thank goodness. We see it happen on a lot of different platforms, TikTok, for sure.
Any of these popular gathering spaces can be this collective experience of opportunities to shame one another. Sometimes that’s scary, especially if you’re a content creator. We talked about this in a previous episode. That book, The Coddling of the American Mind, touches upon how important it is for us to feel comfortable making mistakes. In this time of so much shame, it makes people terrified of making mistakes. It’s not working to the advantage of this correction thing. I also know firsthand that criticism does not work well for me.
Constructive criticism maybe, although the criticism angle still within that is hard for me. What works well for me is when somebody acknowledges what I’ve done well, the efforts that I’m making, and finds a very kind way to direct me in a better direction. I imagine a lot of people function that way. I also imagine that very few people will change because somebody has ridiculed them.
They’re probably less likely to change than more likely to just shrink away and never be heard from again. Is that the aim? Is that the hope that somebody will disappear and they’ll stop doing the things that we don’t like them doing? That’s a weird form of manipulation and control. Especially as a rebel, I feel like your response to this would be super interesting.Technology is allowing us to participate in dragging people and manipulating them. Click To Tweet
I feel it’s ineffective because as Loretta said, the activist in the documentary, “If we go about canceling people, I feel we are not getting to the root of what we are enraged about.” As an example, if we decide to cancel someone who we perceive as racist, it’s not like that is going to make racism go away, the mentality of racism, the concept of racism, the world view of being a racist. We’ve just simply tried to proverbially destroy a person’s online presence. We’re not destroying that person, but we’re destroying their ability to connect, communicate and share ideas in the open form of the internet and social media.
We’re not actually solving racism, misogyny, inequality, speciesism by like, “Fuck that person.” The angry mob is going to descend and cancel that person. It doesn’t eradicate any of those global issues. It’s not giving that person a chance to reflect on, “Maybe this deeply embedded belief system is something I don’t want to follow anymore. Maybe there is a chance to rehabilitate my worldview and start to embrace people of color, LGBTQ+ people, or have a different and more compassionate relationship to animals and the environment, whatever the case is. “Fuck you, you’re dead to me,” doesn’t get rid of the problem. People are under the impression that it does.
This is a nuanced conversation. I’m going to try and explain it as simply as I can. We look at wars on the planet. In a previous episode, I mentioned some insane statistics that in the entire swath of human recorded history, there’s been some minute amount of time that the world hasn’t been at war. I can’t remember what the statistic was. We’re at war a lot as human beings. It seems like we’re constantly at war with each other.
This idea of we’re going to destroy communism or socialism. We’re going to overthrow that dictator. We’re going to blow up that junta. Are people not noticing that the more we say, “That thing is evil and we need to destroy it and eradicate it,” some new “evil” pops up somewhere in the world? We’re going about this business as human beings, trying to kill things, trying to eradicate things that threaten us.
“We don’t believe in it. That’s wrong,” but we end up inevitably either canceling or killing those people. More people just pop up in their place. War, killing or canceling is not working because it’s not getting to the root of the issue. They’ll die. They’ll go away. Someone’s going to take their place. Have we not noticed this as humanity in thousands of years? That’s what happens.
That’s where this awareness, education and understanding of history is so important. I am amazed every time I read about the historical roots, contexts and patterns. We can often think that this is a temporary thing, a current thing, or a trendy thing that we’re only going through in this limited amount of time. We tend to repeat ourselves over and over again, to your point with war, when you look at the whole context of it. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again without getting results. That feels like that sort of thing. I have judgments too of the bystanders as well.
Another example, I wanted to give such a small one. I was telling Jason how every time we post a video on YouTube, somebody gives it a thumbs down. I was thinking about how I noticed there were two views on our video at this specific time. We don’t get a ton of views on YouTube at this point. In the earliest stages, there will be a handful of people watching. Two people had viewed our video and it already had a thumbs down.
Within a very short amount of time after I posted it, I was like, “There you go.” I’m not 100% sure but the evidence is showing to me that this person is probably subscribed to our channel. Every time we post, they give it a thumbs down. That’s the definition of hate-watching. It’s like, “I don’t like this person. I’m going to follow them closely so I can immediately shame them by giving them a thumbs down or making fun of them.”
You’re looking for that opportunity to drag someone in your own way. Giving a thumbs down on YouTube is a fairly innocent act. I’m also willing to bet because I’ve spoken up about this a few times, thumbs downs on YouTube discourage me. I’m very sensitive to criticism. Every time I see a thumbs down, I feel upset. I wouldn’t be surprised if this person knows that about me because they’ve heard me talk about it. They know that one way they can hurt me and exert dominance and control over me is by giving me the thumbs down.
My part of this is to continue working on not caring quite as much but also knowing that that’s not going to stop me. That’s part of this too. I don’t know if this person’s objective is to give us so many thumbs downs that we stop our show and make our videos. Spoiler alert, we’re not intending to do that. If we ever stop, it’s not going to be because we got one thumb down on a YouTube video. I don’t know if that’s the intention of that act. I don’t know if it’s the intention or they just feel out of control, helpless, frustrated, angry and resentful towards us or humanity in general. They’re doing anything that they can to feel superior and to show their control.
I’m willing to guess it’s more of the latter. I invite that person if they’re reading and anybody else who does that to others. We can catch ourselves in those moments where we are hate-following somebody, hate-watching them, looking for opportunities to dislike something. We can do this in so many ways. It’s not necessarily on social media. It can be seen somebody in person like, “What is that person wearing today? How much weight have they gained? What have they done lately?”
Talking to our friends and gossiping. Thinking like, “Can we dig up dirt on somebody?” I find myself doing that. It’s so tempting. I have this one friend and I find myself wanting to talk to that friend about our mutual friend and see what we can dig. Every time I’m thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I’m doing it because I get pleasure from it. That’s where the big question is like, “Is it necessarily bad to get pleasure from someone’s misfortunes?” I guess it depends on your actions.
I could go down this role of beating myself up and trying to control myself, stop myself and force myself not to have pleasure, but what if it’s a typical common human urge? Just because we’ve identified it and we perceive that as being bad or immoral, does that mean we have to change it? Can we just quiet it, minimize it, catch ourselves and say like, “Whitney, you’re finding pleasure in somebody’s misfortune. Let’s move on to something better.”
That’s how I practice this with my understanding and tools. I catch myself. It’s similar to meditation and how you can catch yourself getting distracted, losing focus, thinking a lot of things and spiraling. Take a breath, acknowledge yourself and say, “There is the thought.” Not even judge it because I don’t want to start catching myself. In a way, you can be a glutton for punishment and be like, “Look how bad I am.” Wouldn’t that in itself be like finding pleasure in your own misfortune?”
That’s a whole another exploration of maybe masochism for lack of a better label. This is real, some people identify with victimhood, “Why do bad things always happen to me? No relationship ever works out. I should never try and create anything ever again because I failed at everything.” There are so many tentacles to victim consciousness. If you identify probably as a child that you get sympathy for your misfortune. When things are going bad for me, I get attention. I get sympathy. I get like, “It’s okay, Jason.”
In some ways, there can be a perpetuation of misery in one’s life. If you get something from it, you get pleasure in the form of attention, comfort and coddling. Subconsciously, you seek out detrimental situations because you know you’re going to get attention, support and coddling when you find yourself in a bad situation again. A lot of human beings and myself included, if I look back on certain situations that maybe I feel lonely or I don’t feel like I’m getting enough sympathy here, I need to complain about it.
Let me complain about it because I know when I complain people go, “It’s okay, Jason.” We all need emotional comfort. I don’t think there’s any human being who can exist without some form of emotional or physical comfort. That’s intrinsic to the way that we relate to each other as humans, but when we rely on seeking out the perpetuation and the cycle of bad situations so we get that comfort in that sympathy, that’s something we need to take a look at as human beings. I say that myself included because I have done it.
Going back to your question about whether or not it’s even bad to find pleasure from people’s misfortune, it’s an interesting question. I know we talk about awareness so much on this show because awareness can lead to choices, and choices can lead to different actions. When you find yourself in the situation of triangulation where you’re talking to your friend about your other friend, or I find myself in a situation where I’m reveling in the misfortune of an ex-girlfriend or a previous partner. To have the mindfulness and the awareness to stop ourselves and maybe be aware of what we’re doing.
I’ve never done this in real-time before of like, “I feel good this person is suffering.” In terms of a pattern interrupt, this is going to be an interesting experiment to play with. It’s so easy to keep going with that feeling of, “We’re equal now. I’m superior to you now because you’re suffering. Now you know what it feels like. Justice has been served.” We’re almost obsessed with justice. When we feel life, the judicial system, the government, or God is not doling out the justice we want, when life or social media hands it out, we’re like, “Life is fair. The scales are balanced now.”
In a way, we are hard-wired to want that. Whether it’s good or bad, maybe it’s important to stop ourselves at the moment and say, “Do I want to get pleasure from this thing?” The reality is that pleasure doesn’t last. It’s not the rest of my day is like, “I’m walking on sunshine. The bitch got what she deserved.” That’s not my feeling throughout the day.
It’s almost drug-like. You get high from watching someone’s pain and then it goes away very quickly. It’s not that this is a sustainable form of happiness we’re talking about like, “I’m going to seek out people’s pain because I feel good about it.” We know it doesn’t last. I don’t know if I want to put it in an addiction category, but it feels that way a little bit.Continue working on not caring quite as much, but also knowing that that's not going to stop you. Click To Tweet
We’re curious how you feel about this as we always do. Whether you find yourself taking pleasure in other people’s pain or misfortune. Whether you find yourself looking to cancel people who are celebrities, influencers or influential people. It’s always a safe form here on the show for you to share your thoughts with us. We want to know what’s on your mind or in your heart around shame and the digital age. You can always shoot Whitney and myself a direct email. It’s [email protected]. You can follow us on social media. @Wellevatr is our handle on all of the major platforms.
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With that being said, this has been a juicy one, Whitney. I feel it was a bit documentary exploration, a bit confessional booth for both of us. We’ve got some experiments. Next time we start to observe ourselves getting off on another person’s failure or misfortune, it’s a chance to pause and take inventory if that’s how we want to go about seeking our pleasure in life. I know I’m going to try and be much more mindful of that. Until next time. Thank you for reading. Thanks for supporting the show in all of the ways. We’ll be back with another episode. Stay tuned. Thanks for reading and take care!
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- Shame Rules: The Relationship Between Shame and Power with Nick Jaworski – Previous episode
- Shame Rules! Podcast
- Our Collective Addiction to Shame
- 15 Minutes of Shame
- FuckJerry – Instagram
- Travellers Gone Missing: Tips On How To Prepare Yourself and Stay Safe – Previous episode
- The Coddling of the American Mind
- [email protected]
- This Hits the Spot Podcast
- Wellevatr – Instagram
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