Jesus Christ, do I have to be subjected to THAT?

It’s psychologically not so easy to be human. Looking around at the other animals, it seems as if we are relatively emotionally very sensitive. And our consciousness of vulnerability, infirmity, mortality, and the general precarity of life is disconcerting, to say the least. We endure daily small frustrations, lifetime big frustrations.

So each human personality is a complex admixture. There are positive personality characteristics: creativity, kindness, empathy, constructiveness. Each one of us is also a mess of idiosyncratic ideology (nutty ideas) — and negativity flowing from grievance, resentment, jealousies. One can’t live life without getting knocked around and experiencing degrees of trauma.

Everybody winds up with a slightly different balance between the positivities and the negativities. That balance is probably as unique as one’s fingerprints or voice pattern. It can, to some extent, be cultivated. I think, mostly, it’s the luck of the draw if your personality is a relatively good one.

To the extent that it’s not, it’s hard to take. It’s challenging to put up with one’s own personality. Some are so skewed to the negative that life is burdensome. That unfortunate situation can lead to withdrawal into the palliative of substance abuse or other kinds of assuagement. Even suicide. There are successful, creative people who commit suicide. Why? It could be that the day-to-day drumbeat of negative thoughts and emotions is just overwhelming. Short of suicide, a skew toward negativity can lead to behavior which is disturbing, disruptive, destructive and/or self-destructive.

But it’s a spectrum. We all have lots of negativity. We all are sometimes disturbing, disruptive, destructive and/or self-destructive.

The negativity of another person is foisted upon us when we get married.

The initial attention and the accentuation of the positive when we meet and get emotionally involved is usually deceptive. Living together over time reveals the negativity. Mature people understand that — try to thrive together, build a life together, create pleasure and a domestic commonwealth — despite the stuff. It’s invariably a minefield of life stuff and personality stuff. It’s hard.

You do come to hate the other person’s negativity. There’s an aspect of “she puts up with my shit and I put up with hers.” With people who manage to stay together there’s often: “It is what it is.”

Luck of the draw if your life partner (or parent or child) is pretty positive. Pretty rare. In a marriage that endures there are usually periods of being fairly dolorous: “Do I really have to be subjected to that?”

Realistic expectations are good. Pretty rare.

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Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).