#16: What the story of Narcissus can teach us about justice.

My daily writing challenge ends.

Thank you! 

Thanks for joining me on this past week’s writing challenge! It was a lot of fun to try to get one of these out every day (or almost every day, as it were). Maybe I’ll try it again soon?

In today’s newsletter, we’ll talk about how to let go of anger, seeking justice, and what that has to do with the story of Narcissus. But first…

Some housekeeping…

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I’m fixated with someone who hurt me, and everything they do. How can I get over it if I’m still angry with them? 

Letting go of anger when someone hurt you is hard, even when that person’s apologized to you. 

It’s not enough for someone to simply say, “I’m sorry I hurt you.”  

We want to be sure that they know why what they did hurt us. We want our pain to be meaningfully acknowledged. To some extent, it feels like the only way for the cosmic scales to be balanced is for them to feel our pain at the precise intensity we felt it. 

To me, this is what the story of Narcissus is really about. It’s not about the dangers of self-absorption, rather, it’s about just how complicated our desire for our pain to be understood is. 

Narcissus didn’t fall in love with himself because he had always been self-obsessed. I would argue that the story isn’t about self-obsession at all. After all, Narcissus doesn’t even know his reflection is him. 

Narcissus fell in love with himself as a punishment for scorning Echo’s affection. The punishment was that he would feel the pain Echo felt—the pain of unrequited love.

The bigger question then becomes… to what extent is Echo’s memory owed that justice? Was Narcissus’ fate just at all? Maybe, but it still doesn’t solve things quite as neatly as we’d hope.

I think the first piece of this is doing the work to own that your pain is real. Your anger is justified. 

This person’s future actions—success, a continuation to hurt others, even just going on to lead a normal life—can never and will never take that away from you. It’s not just acceptable that you feel this way, you are owed your own emotions! Don’t suppress it, give yourself time to explore these feelings. Even if it’s been years. The timer starts again today, and it’s time to explore this emotion as deeply as you need to. 

The second thing I’d do is ask yourself what you lose in the face of this person’s life trajectory. You don’t say whether you’re fixated on their success, or future abuses, or that nobody’s calling them out, just that you’re fixated on them. If you were at risk of crossing paths with them again, I might have different advice here. If it’s just the specter of their social feed, their memory, I think that requires separate treatment. 

Third, I really believe in these cases that out of sight, out of mind works. It’s good to own your anger, but don’t wallow in it. There’s a lot ahead for you. You can’t change what this person did to you or will do in the future. You can take control of your own time, though. 

So, block them on everything. Mute their name on Twitter in addition to blocking them. Get rid of everything you need to that might trigger you. 

It’ll be like quitting smoking at first, and you’ll be tempted to edge back into it. But don’t. Work hard to fight it off. 

Fourth, trust time. Time makes these things easier. You might still be triggered, but you won’t be a prisoner of it forever.