Let me back up a couple steps. Those of you, like me, who find yourselves obsessed with the USA Network show Mr. Robot will know who Darlene is. If you haven’t watched any of Mr. Robot, be aware that mild spoilers lay ahead.
Within the semi-apocalyptic hacker-ruled world inhabited by the characters of this (wonderful) show, Darlene is the sister of Elliot, the chief protagonist. To further set the stage, Elliot is a mentally ill, often psychotic, individual who plans and executes large-scale acts of world changing computer hacks, then forgets about them or switches personalities. This leaves Darlene holding the bag, doing routine maintenance, leadership, and making decisions related to follow through. It’s sort of like having a severely forgetful business partner, if your business could get you killed or arrested.
We find Darlene at the beginning of season two leading the hacker group known as F Society. This group is persecuting a huge conglomerate known as E(vil) Corp, and working with a cult-like Chinese cyber terrorist group called The Dark Army. As things spiral out of control Darlene and her core team begin to wonder if they are being manipulated or possibly marked for death by one or both of these groups. She is not even sure that the two groups are distinct, possibly being led by the same people. At the same time she is forced to confront her own internal drive for revenge, and confront exactly how ruthless she will be forced to become.
Guys…it’s a really cool show.
Whether or not you should go back and watch all the episodes of Mr. Robot isn’t the point of this article (you should).
The point of this article is to point out my favorite line in season two so far. It is an effective, powerful accusation that tells an important secret about communication.
It takes place in a diner, where Darlene is talking to her boyfriend, Cisco, about how scary things currently are.
(No not the scene in the diner from last week’s episode, super fans….I know right?…that was crazy!)
Darlene begins to show signs of extreme stress, perhaps even being close to tears, which is unlike her. Cisco, seeing this, begins to become visibly disturbed, then attempts to console her with a standard “Hey, it’s gonna be alright…” level of comfort.
Darlene snaps back at him:
“You want to help? Be a man and let me be upset!”
Not “be a man and protect me,” or “be a man and fix it.”
“BE A MAN AND LET ME BE UPSET.”
I am not sure if my wife wrote that line or not, and since every couple needs an air of mystery I’m not going to ask her. She could have, thought, just as I am sure a lot of people could have.
The urge to repair a tear in any situation super quick has been with us for a long time, but it still pops up as a major obstacle to happiness in our relationship. Men particularly are well known to tend towards being fixers, often before we have even really listened long enough to know what the problem is. Nothing is more threatening than leaving a problem sitting there unfixed.
It shouldn’t be that way. Some problems are worth getting upset over. Darlene is not moping over catching a cold, or upset about her bank statement. She is worried about major responsibility, safety and mental health of a family member and decisions that affect her own morality. Not to mention the possibility of being machine gun murdered during dinner. You guys! Coolest show on TV!
The point is she actually doesn’t know if it will be all right. In real life many of us do not know this either.
We hug tight onto stories of struggle as a sort of inspiration porn, but the thing they have in common is that they all have happy endings. Check it out the next time you see these stories told in the form of Facebook or Twitter posts. They will all end with some version of “this is what I learned,” or “this is why it happened.” The Twitter versions will admittedly end more quickly than the Facebook threads.
Stories without happy endings, or even worse stories in which the struggle is still ongoing, have less Internet commodity value than stories all wrapped with a bow.
Why don’t we want to let someone be upset? Well, there are two answers.
It sounds good to say that we care, and that we don’t like to see people we love in the middle of suffering. This is the reason we say that we comfort. Most religions or moral traditions encourage selflessness. Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam all advocate comfort and compassion. There is obviously something about the human experience that makes us desire for suffering to end.
Psychologically there is another, perhaps less elegant, reason. Psychologists theorize that one of the reasons we are so eager to comfort the woes of others is that they make us uncomfortable. Another way to say that: one reason we don’t like other’s to suffer is that it bums US out. We are so unhappy watching their unhappiness that we try to give them advice, propose a solution, or otherwise shut them up as quickly as possible. You can read about that a few places, like HERE, or HERE. Or HERE. Or HERE, HERE or HERE.
Yeah, it’s a thing.
It makes sense if you think about it. Recall to yourself the last time that someone gave you advice, preferably about something super important.
Now ask yourself, how did they react when you ignored it?
By the way, I am assuming you ignored it. You didn’t make it this far into the article without being the kind of punk-rocking-anti-social-live-free-or-die-rebellious-hacker type who scoffs in the face of advice, good or bad. You are Elliot! Or at least Christian Slater.
When you didn’t take their advice, they were thrilled. Am I right? Happy to see the independence of your own free will blossoming like a flower on a spring morning?
Nah, they were probably mad. They probably kept telling you why their advice was the right thing to do. Maybe criticized what you planned to do instead. Perhaps they even yelled at you.
They probably wanted you to get over your problem, rather than work through it in whatever way you thought was best. It isn’t uncommon. There’s even an active genre of web articles you can find that address a specific type of caretaker burnout that comes from those who actively resist your efforts to help them. Why would we
It turns out that Darlene’s frustrated retort stumbled onto something important when it comes to helping others. It takes guts to sit with someone else in their discomfort, mostly because we feel like by simply validating their feelings we haven’t done anything. But sometimes the kind of help you want to give is not the type of help they need. Sometimes you need to allow someone the right to be upset, especially if becoming upset is a healthy reaction.
Oh, and if any of your readers actually are Christian Slater, then great work sir! I love the show.
Photo: Getty Images