I’m watching a tv series where once again maturity is being depicted as the ability to make “tough decisions”, them being decisions ignoring pain and suffering of others for the sake of personal or business profit. And for the first time, I am formulating a clear chain of thoughts and questions about this matter, starting with, that’s kinda bullshit. Making a decision for profit is easy. The world around us runs on hedonism.
The next thought in line is, why is this such a common belief. Where does it come from? Why do even I kinda believe that being mature means having the ability to disconnect from empathy? Why are we taught from early on that involving on an emotional level is a sign of.. stupidity? Or immaturity?
Seeing that particular scene of the tv series made it strikingly clear: the people behind this way of thinking are the ones benefiting from it. And when you think of it in the real world, it is true aswell. It’s the bully that will tell everyone to mind their own business. It’s the corporate criminal vouching for secret operations. It’s the narcissist isolating you from other people and their help. All this to stop people from seeing how their actions cause hurt and pain because if that would be seen, people would step in and stop them.
Or would they?
I have been now twice in my life in a long lasting situation where I have been quite clearly a victim of narcissistic abuse. In both cases one of the most difficult things to deal with has been the way even my closest friends have chosen to look away and to stay silent. I’ve heard reasoning like, “well that person hasn’t done anything bad to me” or “the things between you two aren’t really my business”. In other words, these friends have chosen to ignore how I have been treated, how much it has hurt me and how wrong this other person has done. Going to an extreme now, but I’m sure Hitler was nice to some people aswell so maybe these people really weren’t in a position to do anything. Agree? No?
These situations have been a real life example of how society has molded our thinking and rooted deep the beliefs that all personal matters should be dealt with behind closed doors. People sharing their difficulties openly get all kinds of labels from attention seeking to difficult. And again, discrediting the victims by labeling them is a powerful way for the abusers to get away.
Perhaps going through those episodes and having to heal from them, being more aware of abuse of the same kind in my social environment and studying these issues deeply due to the seed of interest and need to understand that my own experiences planted, I am firm in my conclusion that this kind of thinking is poisonous. By disconnecting from empathy, by isolating people to deal alone with their issues, by looking away and not interfering, we create a culture of enabling – for the wrong doers. We do exactly what is “good” for them.
We steal away each other’s opportunity to truly experience communities’ healing power. We isolate our sensitivity and vulnerability and enforce masks and roles. If we do not have a culture of empathy, listening and reciprocal care taking, we end up lonely. True connection becomes a rarity and alone we are so much more easily taken advantage of. Talk about a negative cycle…
During human history there have been certain individuals brave enough to look into how whole cultures have been dealt wrong. I’m sure that Dr. Luther King Jr was seen as an extremely difficult person by some folks at that time. Why be so loud about those things? Why not just deal with it quietly like everyone else? And heck, Gandhi if someone is a pain in the butt. For the wrong doers.
So, why are there people who can and will put their lives on the line just to do good? And we cheer for them. We call them heroes. Inspired by them, we share news and articles on social media, we endorse feminist values, environmental values, we say we want to fight racism, pollution, violence, war… and yet, when faced with a real life situation where a simple act of good could change so much, we choose to do nothing. We don’t want to interfere in what is “not our business”.
I suppose that having to go through what I’ve been through, I am more prone to actually say it out loud if I see something I think is wrong. I am also not afraid to behave in ways coherent with this view. I most certainly do not applaud for “diplomats” who want to stay neutral in situations where there clearly is a wrong doer and a victim. There are situations where simply because of the pain of the victim, there is no such a thing as neutrality.
I am forever thankful to the two women who stepped up and tried to do what was right even when both of them were also different level victims the same situation. Knowing how hard it was, how much courage it took and how uncomfortable it must have felt, I cannot be more thankful that at least someone was on my side and was not hesitating to say and show with their behavior that what was happening was not ok.
The interesting and scary thing is how I am still ashamed and scared to talk about these things. I talk about them again, and again, and again because I have to. Words are what slowly take the poison of those people out of my system. Being loud about these things is what makes me feel like at least I’m trying to do something about it and not just enhancing the culture of silence and playing into the pockets of the abusers. Words are my only weapon of fighting what I know is still going on. Words are my hope that someone out there, going through similar shit, reads this and understand that it is ok to talk about it. It is ok not to be alone with the pain.
I would like to encourage anyone who reads this to be that person who doesn’t just look away, who doesn’t find “reasonable” excuses to keep ignoring someone else’s suffering. Be the person who takes the extra step, be the one talking about these things even if it makes others uncomfortable. Don’t just mind your own business. Mind about other people aswell, mind about what’s right.