Keeping Them In Their Place

Just like the economic haves and have-nots there are interpersonal haves and have-nots (though obviously the wealthier and closer one is to being of privilege the more likely they will be an interpersonal have).  Unsurprisingly there are forces keeping interpersonal mobility in check as near as your nearest therapist’s office.

The dog-whistle “innate worth” trope.  Therapists tell their clients they have innate worth.  Interpersonal haves go out into the world and this is largely reenforced by their interactions.  The interpersonal have-nots also go out but are just immobilized by the blowback of experiencing how patently false this is.  The have-not is pushed lower than if they were just gently told the truth.

Lionizing vulnerability.  Vulnerability can be a good or a bad thing depending on the response it elicits.  In the case of the interpersonal haves it’s mostly a good response.  However the interpersonal have-nots it often blows up in their face.  People without serious mental illnesses can be vulnerable and be accepted (just look at Donald Miller) but for those with it’s a very different story.

Stigmatizing bitterness.  The interpersonal haves generally aren’t bitter because their life hasn’t contained elements that would make them so.  The have-nots however often are bitter and have good reason to be.  Bitterness is more understood as an evolutionary adaptation to a hostile interpersonal environment than a character flaw or something that needs to be “fixed” through mind games.  People are naturally trusting.  For the interpersonal have-not this causes them to be in one disaster after another.  Bitterness is like an early warning system for events of trust and it has to be constantly in the background (because trusting comes so naturally).  Obviously like any adaptation it has negative side effects but one must take it on balance, have bitterness’s benefits of keeping someone from getting burned again outweigh its negative effects?  In conclusion for the interpersonal haves, the likelihood of being burned in trusting is low enough that bitterness incurs too much cost, but for the have-nots it’s an appropriate adaptation.

Labeling people insecure.  This is the one thing that some of the interpersonal haves have as well but the have-nots have it worse.  Instead of seeing insecurity as personal insight into the way the world judges someone, it is seen as part of a pathology.  When someone is being judged and they take it to heart do we blame them or do we blame the ones doing the judging?  Obviously the victim gets the blame, not because they are wrong but because they have less power.

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