the emotional equivilent of the copernican revolution: we interpret experience

The world is not just going to impress positivity onto you. If you want it to be positive, you need to be the positivity. You need it to come from your perspective, from the fact that it’s you doing the looking and you see shit that way, and not just from the fact of what you’re looking at. The world isn’t gonna give you positivity, it’s gonna give you negativity; unless you don’t look to it for your affect at all. You won’t be handed happiness; you have to take happiness.

When somebody does something fucked up to you, you should consider why they did it. When somebody does something good to you, you should consider the fact that they didn’t have to, and that they made a choice. If it helps, you can also consider that they didn’t owe it to you, and that it probably cost them something. That way of responding to what others’ give you is yours, it doesn’t depend on them. It gives you back control over your own response. At least, it takes control over your response from the other person. If they’ll help you, then great; if not, you’ll help yourself.

One reason for doing this is that our natural inclination is to do the opposite: to overestimate the role of personal choice in other people’s actions when they hurt us (even as we overestimate the importance of external causes when we hurt others ourselves). Directly counteracting this bias can bring our beliefs into closer accord with reality. But I don’t actually think we should be setting equanimity- that is, the act of assessing the positive and negative actions of others in exactly the same way- as our goal. Even if it was possible to achieve such a state, which it may not be, we would still have to judge for ourselves whether or not we had reached it. And the conclusion to which we came by the asking of this question would be meaningless: if we’re not being equanimitous, we won’t be able to correctly assess what equanamitous behavior looks like. The result is that we end up telling ourselves that we’ve gone too far and surpassed equanamity, when in fact we haven’t even reached it yet.

But even if it is possible to move past the halfway mark and create a worldview in which others always have good intentions on some deep, unseen level, and it is their circumstances which conspire to thwart them, I think that I would still want to do it. It honestly seems more useful to me to go through life choosing to assume that other people are better than they really are than to go through life doing otherwise. I have many times been inspired to become a better person than I previously was because someone mistakenly thought that I was better than I really am, and I didn’t want them to discover their error. So I pretended to be a better person than I was, and as a result became one.

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