Fundamental vs. Emotional Rights
As citizens of free countries, we are all aware of our fundamental rights. We enjoy the right to education, the right to travel, right to worship, freedom of speech and many other privile ges. These rights, mandated by our Constitution, govern how society must treat the individual.
Similarly, we are also citizens of an internal or emotional world. In this universe, we have our emotional rights, which govern how we react to circumstances-our rights to react. These are our “emotional rights”, given by the individual, to the individual and for the individual. While the fundamental rights define how we should be treated by organizations or external entities, our emotional rights dictate how we treat ourselves. These rights are universal, being prevalent in free societies as well as dictatorships or monarchies, and have existed since time immemorial. Many of these rights are destructive. It is interesting to enumerate some of these emotional rights.
The right to carry a grudge
Perhaps the right to carry a grudge is the most utilitarian. We can carry a grudge for whatever anyone did or said, as well as for whatever anyone did not do or did not say. Also, it comes with a great warranty; carefully nurtured, it can last a lifetime. In some warring clans, grudges have been lovingly tended for generations, in the form of family feuds. Sometimes the rationale for the grudge has long been forgotten, but the enmity grows stronger – this is truly miraculous, like a car accelerating long after running out of gas. Grudges can be against friends, colleagues, parents, spouse, in-laws, children, etc. All in all a very flexible right, easy to use and long lasting.
The right to be ungrateful
The right to be ungrateful is almost as useful. It sets us free from any type of obligation-whether to country, to society, to parents, siblings or to an employer. Let’s face it- being obliged to anyone is extremely irksome. It reminds us that there is a debt to be repaid. However, unlike our mortgage debt, which takes 15- 30 years (plus interest), personal debts of gratitude can be easily dismissed. To exercise this right, we have to find just one thing where we feel that we have been shortchanged. This can be used to set up a complaint. After this, all it takes is one ingeniously crafted grudge and it can wipe off everything anyone may have done for us. (I wish my mortgage debt could be dismissed as easily.)
The right to be perpetually angry
We can also be angry at other people because they are either too refined or too rough in their mannerisms. Perhaps they belong to a cultural or ethnic group we despise. Also, we have the right to be angry or irritated at other people’s or any organization’s incompetence. This makes us feel superior and enables us to forget our transgressions and omissions.
The right to feel sorry for oneself
Another excellent right, it sets us free from the responsibility of taking any constructive action. This is sometimes the precursor for another great privilege, which is…
The right to self-destruct
Finally, we have the right to ruin our health, by smoking, by drinking, and unhealthy food habits. Similarly, we have the right to ruin ourselves mentally, by reading junk, watching inane TV programs, watching movies or reading stories full of violence and depravity.
Master or Slave of power
Whenever we have a right, our first impulse is to exercise it because we believe that a right empowers us to perform a certain action. This is a dangerous half truth. The full meaning of any right is that it empowers us with an option – whether to perform an action or to not perform it. This is where we often make a mistake, by automatically opting for action. (This is natural, because it gives a feeling of power and control, of doing something even if it is self destructive. Men in powerful positions-dictators, kings and presidents are especially prone to making this mistake). However, we need to understand that sometimes non-action or restraint represents mastery of our rights while action may represent an abject submission to our rights. Put differently, we want to be master of our powers and not the slave.
Negative Emotions-Feeling cheated or feeling generous
There are two ways that negative emotions may be neutralized or rendered harmless. The first way is that of suppression- wherein the rational mind refuses to recognize their existence. This works only temporarily, since the emotional mind feels cheated of its’ rights, feels helpless and asserts itself by rebelling. The second route involves recognizing the existence of these emotions, renouncing them and moving ahead. The renouncing makes the mind feel more empowered, as well as generous, because it is giving up something by its’ own volition rather than being cheated out of it.
As an analogy, when we lose even a small sum of money due to fraud, we feel very indignant, since we have been cheated. However, we will donate considerably larger sums of cash to a good cause, and actually feel happy, because we feel generous (rather than cheated) in parting with that cash.
Being with the crowd or rising above it?
You might (correctly) counter that the vast majority of the population believes in exercising their emotional rights, so why not you? If you want to belong to the majority and be manipulated by its’ emotions, this reasoning is correct. However, if you want to rise above the crowd and be free of the tyranny of emotional reactions- you will have to take the road less traveled, the route of renouncing at least some of these rights.
The pros and cons
Choosing to reject this emotional tyranny has several pros and cons. The biggest advantage is that the external world, circumstances and the past will not be “pushing your emotional buttons”. You will be free to make life’s decisions impartially, based on sound judgment. On the other hand, you will need to be more responsible for your own actions; you will not be able to blame others for them. Also you will not be able to have the (perverse) pleasures of anger, resentment and jealousy.
So we have the choice-either to continue exercising our emotional rights or to renounce them. The emotional universe is a free world and we are free to choose. IT IS OUR RIGHT.
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