I have an idea for a new business opportunity for shrinks. You know how they have anger management classes that judges, employers, and spouses send people to when they keep losing their cool? The kind like in the movie with Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson? Yeah, that. Well, anger’s not the only emotion that needs to go to class. There ought to be disgust management classes, too.
Disgust is that feeling of revulsion you get when you comes across anything gross, grody, ghastly, gruesome, creepy, hateful, horrible, nasty, nauseating, stinking, loathsome, objectionable, obnoxious, odious, hideous, beastly, detestable, distasteful, repugnant, repellent, rotten, vile, vulgar, cloying, foul, horrid, scuzzy, icky, lousy, sleazy, noisome, offensive, or yucky. It’s often accompanied by a narrowed brow, a curled lip, a wrinkled nose, and a tongue sticking out for all the world to see. You feel it in your stomach. It makes you want to hurl. It’s closely related to hate, contempt, condescension, snootiness, and the reason bands of villagers go marching with torches and pitchforks.
Who would go to these classes? You’ve got people who’ve got to keep their peas and mashed potatoes separated and the kind who lays toilet paper on the seat. There are those who can’t bear the sight of blood, won’t do CPR, and are useless at an accident scene. You could send anyone who runs away whenever there’s a spider, gets grossed out by handkerchiefs, and nail clippings give them the shivers. If you can’t keep down a perfectly good tapioca pudding, that’s it, you’re going to disgust management class.
It’s not just the persnickety people who would be sent to disgust management. The emotion shows up anytime there’s something different. Homophobes, transphobes, and xenophobes should apply, as well as anyone who can’t bear the thought of Blacks and Whites marrying, if there’s anyone left. If you can’t ride in a subway car with a homeless person, it’s disgust management for you. If you get all nervous and jerky when there are too many wheelchairs in the room; if you don’t know what to say to someone who looks funny, then come to disgust management and tell us all about it. Whatever’s your thing; maybe you can’t stand Jews or Palestinians or Somalians or Syrians, or anyone with a turban on their head. If Indian food makes you retch, if the thought of Mexicans taking jobs away disgusts you, then I have a seat for you at disgust management class. If the thought of Donald Trump taking the oath of office turns your stomach, then there’s a place for you, too.
When the police pull up in their paddy wagons and get all the protesters off the street, they can take them right to disgust management class. Congress should go, both parties, and all the state legislators. You should have to graduate from disgust management before you get your own radio show, get a twitter handle, or be permitted to comment on the internet.
I can see people volunteering to attend disgust management. If it weren’t for disgust, you could eat a whole plastic pumpkin full of halloween candy without throwing up. No longer would creeps give you the creeps. If you wanted to, you could have sex all day, every day, with anyone in every way. Then, afterwards, you could tolerate talking and cuddling and stay. The morning after would be like the night before.
You’d get along better with difficult people after disgust management class. There would be no eye rolling or lip curling to get you get in fights. You’d listen better, hug longer, and meet fascinating people. You’d have more friends on Facebook and actually stomach reading their posts. You’d get more news from more sources and have something positive to say.
If it weren’t for disgust, dead people wouldn’t be half as scary. You could make friends with a zombie, share a meal with a vampire, or go to a wake and actually look at the body. You could see your dying grandmother in her hospital bed and not have to run away. Bats would be nothing; rats would be fine; a Quentin Tarantino movie would be OK with you.
Disgust is a perfectly good emotion when kept in moderation. It keeps you from eating spoiled food and stepping in dog shit. But people go wild with it. They take it too far. Disgust gets imported into morality, theology, ethics, and politics. It shows up in things for which it was not designed, like arguments, seating arrangements, and public policy. You end up treating someone who disagrees with you the way you treat putrid vomit. What’s meant for month-old fuzzy leftovers is used for people with skin darker than yours. There’s nothing wrong with the emotion, it’s what you do with it. If resentment is a poison you drink to hurt someone else, disgust is a poison you drink to keep from drinking a poison.
What would I do in this disgust management class? What is the treatment plan for disgust? Simple, I would ask you what disgusts you. I’d solicit your pet peeves. When I find out what gets you going, whether it be snot or spiders, creamed corn or cripples, people who speak a foreign language or someone who uses your language wrong incorrectly, I’ll go get it and set it right there by you. Oh, not right away. Little by little. Enough to make you squirm, but not enough to make you barf. Enough to challenge, but not so much that you’re running screaming from the room. It’s called basic systematic desensitization coupled with progressive relaxation. I’m an expert in it. Relax, I’m like a doctor.
Love, respect, and civility suspend disgust. You’d have a whole group with you in my disgust management class, encouraging you, cheering you on to trust. Everyone knows where you’re coming from, despite being disgusted by different things. Even if you are disgusted by me; well, I could be disgusted by you. We’ll help each other get over our habit of disgust and make a party of disagreeable things. Dogs and cats sleeping together! A good time will be had by all.
What’s that you say? We already have disgust management classes? They already exist?
I can’t find them in the yellow pages. They’re not called by that name. What do you call them?
A global economy, a multicultural democracy, a civil society, a diverse workplace, a heterogeneous classroom, a functioning military unit, a family, a marriage, taking care of someone. Any setting where different people come together is like a disgust management class. They all, if not one, then the other, will put you right next to everything you detest. They provide social support to help you get over and manage your disgust.
Why aren’t they working?