Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mother of All Victims

With the recent developments in the Gulf, a there has been a great deal of sympathetic discussion of the environment.  I've heard outrage, despair, blame, horror and disgust.  With each image of an oil covered pelican, or increased estimation of barrels per day, the reaction seems to intensify.  Some seem to be almost suicidal, or homicidal, with grief, anger and species-guilt over what we, as humans, have caused.  A friend of mine, who is getting frustrated with her well meaning friends who get highly upset over every perceived injustice beyond their control or influence, was asking "why the people I know and care about jump to other people's horror and hell...?"

I spent DECADES of my life being this way and have just started coming out of it in the last few years. It breeds in the idea that caring means suffering with another, and anything less isn't caring. We have romanticized this idea. 'I care more about their pain than I care about myself' sounds like a line out of badly written fiction, doesn't it? You can almost SEE the hand against the forehead in a gesture of helpless surrender.

But I think it really has more to do with avoiding dealing with ourselves, in a way that seems virtuous. In an attempt to resist our own pain, feelings of helplessness, unworthiness and shame, we strongly identify with these feelings in others. Or our projection of them, anyway. We even go so far as to personify things like 'mother nature'. We say she is 'angry' over the oil spill, she is being 'raped' by mankind, etc. I used to say ALL of that, and I now think it's all fucking bullshit drama. We see victims everywhere because we feel like victims ourselves. It's ALL projection. What's worse, we tend to perpetuate these conditions when we behave this way (after all, we have a vested interest in things staying as they are). People who feel strong within themselves, who really feel connected to the universe around us, do not see victimization everywhere they look. They see actions and consequences. I'm not quite there, yet, but I'm closer that I used to be. 

As we pull away from the victim mentality, and see it passionately practiced by others, especially those we care about, we really want to show them what they are doing. But they will not see it until they get tired of being victims. People used to try to show me, and I thought they were just unwilling or incapable of truly caring, and I felt superior to them for my selflessness in "putting my own happiness aside in deference to another's pain."

I know it's going to sound funny, but I learned a lot from watching the 'Dog Whisperer' for a while. His message is that dogs respond to our energy. When it came to dogs that were abused/neglected or had been through some trauma, he showed how people who emapthized with the dog's pain made the dog pyscho. The empathy validate the pain and fear in the dog, perpetuating it. He would come in, be calm, expect normal dog behavior and the dogs would respond. They relaxed, they were able to find their happy dog place, because an alpha dog was calm with good energy. They didn't have to 'worry' anymore. Humans are not so very different. If you take an abused child and expose them to confident positive people on a regular basis, their lives have a much greater chance of being radically changed for the positive than if you give that child therapy, focusing on all the bad things that happened to them.  I think sympathy and traditional therapy are okay and can be helpful, but only if practiced in small doses. The focus needs to shift to positive outcomes as soon as possible.

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