Capable Capable
Capable Capable

Do you have an old score to settle?

Certainties, perceptions, beliefs, habits and sentiments that we hold dear may very well undermine the quality of our lived experience. 

We harbor (and reflexively protect) them without realizing what we are doing to ourselves. They may cause us to retreat to a private silent discourse with ourselves, a brooding narrative, a pattern of reasoning leading to an unwarranted confidence in what we say to ourselves. As a result, we may feel disturbed and make self-defeating choices.

Though unaware that this damaging content in our minds is a self-imposed oppression, we compromise our sovereignty, endanger our self-rule and thwart the normative responsibilities and utility demanded of our citizen-subjectivity.

For example, some questions: Are some of your choices and decisions motivated by “an old score to be settled?” Perceived wrongs you can’t forgive? Resentments, grudges, thoughts of retaliation for “slights” or insults that you didn’t competently and creatively address and metabolize at the time they occurred? The shame you feel over your timidity or lack of resource? 

As it happens, we live in a naturally, historically and linguistically integrated reality that won’t bend to our will. Unexpected events have their way with even our best plans. And people! Well, it’s a rivalrous world filled with hordes of people who either lack the ability to play fair or the commitment to make our own ego-driven interests theirs.

Centuries ago we could demand a duel when our pride was offended by the behavior of another, but in today’s world, unless we take our grievances to court, we can’t make other adults act the way we want them to act. Yet, as I have said, anger and shame lead to remorse—as if someone we might have been had died. 

What we can do is learn how to set and reset our reflexive determinism, even as we engage the facts, values and challenges commensurate with managing our lives within the framework constitutive of America’s citizenship so the offense and anger or timidity and remorse no longer control us. 

And we have some choices. Instead of swallowing our voice, we can, for example, show up in a timely way, unflinchingly, in dialogue with the offender. (Of course, even if we do speak up, there’s no guarantee we can control the outcome of our bold encounter.) 

If we didn’t show up in a timely way and handle it to our satisfaction, well, what we must do today, simply said, is get over it. We can transcend our determined behavior. We have the natural and philosophic capacity to reset our reflexive even-the-score punitive impulse. I believe this newly acquired behavior is the superior and more rewarding achievement of personhood.

As you know, the uniqueness of our discipline is to be found in the paradigm-shifting philosophic light it sheds on the structure and form of life we know as the self-ruling subjectivity constitutive of America’s citizenship.

We adopt the discipline and commitment to take enlightened possession of ourselves. Said another way, as autonomous individuals in command of ourselves, we don’t let the behavior of others determine our own.


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Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes.