I think something that goes often unseen or even unmentioned, yet has been felt by each and every one of us, is that of shame. Often times it is the victim that is surrounded with comfort and “it will be okay”s, that we forget to see the perpetrator in it all. Now, I'm not saying to comfort the perpetrator because they did make a bad choice and need to know that. I'm saying that instead of teaching them, we shame them. But why is that? We blame, shame, put down, tear down, abuse, burden, hate, and even spit on those that have committed an act which accidentally or even purposefully hurt another. Yet, we forget that they are simply humans too. They are like us. They also have feelings and by tearing them down and shaming them, we have now made them the victim and us the perpetrator. But our behavior is so much more socially acceptable, because they did it first right? And they have to be socially punished and ostracized and shamed so that they never do it again right? It’s as if we hurt them and burden them so as to try and rid ourselves of the pain, hurt, and sadness we feel at the incident that took place. We try to make them have an outward expression of the inward turmoil we are experiencing.
I had a dream last night.
|taken from http://junglok.org/archives/574|
In my dream, I was helping this young girl, about 5 or 6, who was afraid of slides. She wanted to go down one but was terrified so I took her up to a slide and helped her go down. It was a small one and she actually did ok and had fun. So then she wanted to try an even bigger slide. As we were going up to it, a bigger kid took her and told her to go down but she was scared, so he just picked her up and slide her down the slide headfirst. She went down the slide really fast and landed head first into the ground and proceeded to do a somersault, landing on her back. The adults around all quickly ran to her and she was crying. In my dream, I remember turning to the boy who was about 8 or 9, and asked him extremely sternly why he would push her down the slide and told him how it was mean and he was mean and that was a bad and wrong thing to do. I did this all without any kindness or even a hint of trying to help him understand what actually happened. The look on his face as I was saying all of this was of guilt and shame and complete and utter helplessness, hopelessness, remorse, and sympathy. At that moment I stopped. I realized that what I was doing was just as wrong and mean as him pushing the little girl down the slide. I was just projecting my embarrassment at having the little girl be hurt, my anger, and my sympathy onto him.
That was when I realized that instead of dealing with my emotions by acknowledging them and saying it is okay to feel them, I lashed out at the boy. How immature and more hurtful is that?
But then, later I asked myself, what is so hard about acknowledging our own emotions and owning them? Is it because we often don’t understand them or have exact words to explain our feeling? That is often my reasoning, but I also began thinking that perhaps there are more reasons. Perhaps we don’t want to own our emotions because we don’t want to think we can be in control of how we respond to a situation whether it is healthy or not? Like, it’s an excuse to act/respond a certain way. As an example, your spouse cheats and you get angry and instead of dealing with the emotion you hit your spouse. Later, you deny it as just being out of anger and not truly you who was acting and that it was really all your spouse’s fault because they cheated- therefore tossing the blame onto them and walking away with little consequences because of your action.
In reality, this just causes more issues and more pain, unresolved feelings, and a never-ending cycle of blame, shame, and immaturity.
Or maybe, perhaps we don’t want to own our emotions because it is too mentally painful. Like in a situation where a loved one died in a drunk driving accident or was raped/molested, or were even murdered. Only God knows how psychologically painful it would be to have to acknowledge the hurt and pain one feels in this situation. The sympathy for the own who was hurt, remorse and shame over not doing something more to prevent that even from happening, self-blame, anger towards the person who committed it, and sadness over the whole incident. By acknowledging all these feelings, we allow ourselves to become open to wall shattering and brokenness. And this is painful and we don’t enjoy being in pain. . .we try to avoid it, so instead, we blame the perpetrator and shame them. We try to take revenge and place all our feelings on them. We begin to believe that if they suffer, we will somehow feel better. But, having studied witnesses and death penalty and such in psychology, very very few (little to none) people feel better when they watch the perpetrator die for their actions. Why? Because we have only simply postponed the grieving process. And some do this for years. We forget that the perpetrators are people too and we treat them as the enemy. When in reality they truly aren’t the enemy. . . they are simply misled by the true enemy. . . evil itself. They have been misled by a lie. A lie that they can take what they want with no consequence, that murder may be the only solution, that they are completely inept and can think clearly when in reality, they too have also not acknowledged their feelings of anger, sadness, desire, etc.
Acknowledging our emotions is part of the grieving process.It is also part of the learning process as well as the teaching process.
With the case in my dream, I should have instead, paused to take a look at my feelings and tell myself the boy is not the enemy and then explain to him how the little girl is now hurt and he needs to understand that what he did hurt her but how he is not a bad person, he just made the wrong choice and how I understand he probably feels bad and that’s ok but that he does need to apologize and how he also may now have a consequence (whether natural or not) to his action.
This would have allowed proper “grieving”, learning, and teaching. The boy would be much less likely to make that same choice again then if I had simply yelled at him. With this approach, he sees the association between action and outcome as well as how emotions play into it.
How much more pleasant would this world be if we could all own our emotions?
Another thought I had was, perhaps we don’t often own emotions because we are afraid that it will somehow make us admit we have false, harmful beliefs. Like an example is with shame. Say we are shaming ourselves for a choice we made. We tell ourselves that we are stupid and we believe it. Well by acknowledging that emotion we begin to become aware of the belief we hold of being stupid. But we know deep down that that is not true and therefore have to change it, but it’s hard to change it and would require us to acknowledge other emotions we feel which can be more painful.
But we do need to remember that it is actually healthy and more beautiful in the long run. . . I mean I would rather have a little bit of pain flushing out a bad belief and be happier afterwards, then to have to live in ignorance of the belief and continue to have painful, bad, shameful thoughts every time I make a “mistake” which will happen God knows how much because I am definitely not perfect.