Monday, November 10, 2014

To Feel Offended

I was once told, by a nutritionist that guilt was a useless emotion. Not useless in and of itself, except as a call to action. There was no reason to sit around feeling guilty. There is no way to un-ring the bell know what I'm saying.

Though I was told it once, I'm fairly certain I've written about it a number of times.

What I can't get a grip on is why I get offended. I actually have found it hard to find out what offense is. Look it up, and you get the legal definition. Not the psychological/emotional state.

But I certainly can get offended. I can feel offended. I'm not sure if I can truly be offended. As in I don't think it is within the power of others to offend me, it is an emotional state, a response that originates from within me.

I feel this is a pretty good assumption because it's pretty easy to observe that people are offended by different things. There are people that get offended by swear words. There are people that get offended by portrayals of violence towards children. There are people who aren't offended by either of those things.

The Buddha says:

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

So if you think of 'offense' as the antonym of defence, then maybe feeling offended is to percieve oneself to have been attacked (presumably effectively). This feeling though holds open a door to multiple responses - counterattack, defense, retreat, pain, suffering.

It certainly feels involuntary, and maybe the key word in the Buddha's offering is 'Holding on to' much like sitting around feeling guilty.

The question 'Why do I feel offended?' often yields curious answers, or no answers at all. The offense evaporates under scrutiny. It virtually always reinforces that it is indeed me that generates the feeling of offense.

I don't have the answer, it is an active and ongoing investigation. I need to observe what happens within me as my sense of self and esteem keeps growing, will others be stripped of any percieved authority to threaten my ego? Will I always be vulnerable to extrinsic validation? Will mindfulness and the shattering of illusion of ego result in their being nothing to offend? Will my physical reality, physical and psychological health deteriorate without feeling offended and defending myself somehow?

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