So Wentworth wasn’t even on Extinction Island for 24 hours before Reem blew up at her. Then again, that should just be assumed with any new arrival. Online fan comment boards are now, probably predictably, using the similarity of Reem’s name to a particular sexual act. (“Wentworth got Reemed!”) Unless they’re using that verb to imply that Reem is giving people enormous quantities of paper. Reem said she blamed Wentworth for “killing her Survivor dream”, which is obviously false, since Reem killed her own Survivor dream by being so difficult to live with. The sleep-deprivation and hunger could also be addling her brain, which leads to the question of whether people on Extinction Island will be a far worse final jury than people at Ponderosa who are well-rested and well-fed (but that’s a subject for another blog entry).
After her blowup, Reem tried to explain her behavior by saying it’s better to get anger off your chest than let it fester. Is she right? Is venting anger part of the “healing process”? This is an idea that seems to be widely held, so I thought I’d examine it today.
Despite the fact that no one but aspiring wolverines should view Reem as a role model, there is some truth in what she says. Our emotions do not simply float disconnected inside us. They have a physiological dimension involving muscles, nerves, hormones, etc. Like any behavior of the body, if the urge to emote is repressed for too long, the stress could possibly cause internal damage.
Some people, like the philosopher Sam Harris, urge us to treat negative emotions like ocean swells. Let them come up, observe them, and then let them flow away. All without expressing them outwardly. Doing this will supposedly allow us to avoid repression-related damage, yet also not let the negativity affect other people or take root inside us. Of course, doing this is much easier said than done, which is why Harris encourages people to train their patience and focus with regular meditation.
The “affecting other people” part seems to be key there, because for better and for worse, each human mind is closed to each other. The only way that we have to determine each other’s mental states is through outward manifestations that we can observe. We don’t know how angry someone is unless she expresses it in some way. Then once she’s expressed anger, we don’t know if she’s calmed down unless she expresses that too (like Reem later showing concern about Wentworth lying in the sun too long). The larger the outburst, the larger the later expression of forgiveness needs to be in order to cancel out the belief that someone is still angry.
If nothing else, it would seem to be more efficient to avoid this whole cycle of manifestations by not expressing the negative emotions in the first place. Reem might argue that the negative emotions will come out in some form anyway, and the delay will only increase the damage. She believes that once the negative emotions are out in the open, then they can be dealt with honestly and true healing can begin. That relationships are made stronger in this way than by letting negative emotions “fester”.
But even Reem would probably agree that it’s not helpful to be completely unfiltered in our negative emotions. If an elderly woman in front of you is taking a long time to order coffee, I doubt that Reem would approve of you saying “Hurry up, you fucking bastard!” even if you’re thinking that. So why does that negative emotion not become worse by being delayed? Because the distress that it causes in the elderly person is greater than your momentary frustration about not being able to order coffee. If everyone were completely unfiltered with their negative emotions all the time, it would likely lead to an angrier and more fearful society, where people would frequently have their backs up in response to the hail of negative comments. For example, the company Amazon encourages its employees to be extremely open with criticism of coworkers, and the result has been an infamously horrible and stressful place to work.
In the Reem system, where would we draw the line between negative comments that should be kept to ourselves and ones that we should “get off our chests”? Everyone has a tipping point for this and Reem’s tipping point is apparently much lower than most people. It might be helpful in these situations to examine how other people are responding to you, instead of demanding that they accept your behavior because it’s your right. That might even help you get past the first tribal council on Survivor.