Showing posts with label conscience. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conscience. Show all posts

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Not So Overhead Projecting

There are times, in my role as mother, when I'm not the wonderfully empathic, serene, understanding, personification of perfection I'd have you all believe. I know, right? Who could have seen that coming?

It's happening right now, actually. I'm trying to write a post (which usually takes about an hour these days, when you take into account remembering the html, picture finding, and actual writing, but has been known to take five or six hours in the past) within the next two hours so I can hit the time-stamp deadline. The kids are playing behind me, and so far I've asked them to "just f**k up", at which they asked if they got to be hypocrites too...

Ahh kids. Always so completely honest. And blunt. You don't get to be an arse in my house and expect to get away with it. They have dispersed from the lounge, however. They don't want to risk standing on my land mines and have me project my frustration into them a little more.

Had a quick yap with Mr. Me on facebook chat. (Yes he's in another room on another computer doing his own important work; no we can't swap, what are you, mad? I can't write a blog post on someone else's machine!) To which he promptly quoted me U2:

Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief

Well that's apt.

You see, I had decided to write about some projecting that was happening last night.

One of my kids has fears that are irrational. Big fears. I find it impossible to validate them, because I feel they're invalid (they are valid because they are unresolved from a time when validity wasn't in question). So it's basically my fault they're still happening now, and weren't resolved half a dozen years ago, when they would have been more understandable, but unfortunately I was less emotionally aware.

I try now to be more understanding, but I have to fight down my feelings of disgust. And that's a really cruel thing for a kid to deal with, even if he only knows in a subconscious "Mum's not being genuine in her concern" sorta way. So he doesn't come to me with his pain, he goes to Mr. Me, and that triggers me too, because then I feel not good enough.

It's all my own trash-bag of emotional garbage that I'm carrying around, and the projection part is me saying "here, I'm tired, you carry this for a while." It's completely unfair, but I want to do it anyway. We all do from time to time.

Here's an example:

Random small boy and his father are playing in the park. All is well and fun until the small boy falls from a swing and begins to cry. Father is immediately disgusted and ashamed because he was made to feel shame about crying when he was small. Father picks up small boy and tells him he's not a baby and to stop crying. Small boy now feels shame, and his father less so. The father has projected his shame into his son.

It's not the son's shame. It's most probably not even the father's, or his father's. It's hand-me-downs, inherited through generations, and now the small boy gets to carry it in his trash-bag of emotional garbage too.

So last night, it was all I could do to just not pass on my emotional baggage by going to bed early and talking to no one. It's pretty much all I could do before to ask politely to be left alone, even though I'm in a communal room and everyone else has important things they're using it for too. And I wonder how common an occurrence this is, when we feel like punishing our children for things completely outside their field for blame.

There are a lot of very public examples of projection that have been normalised.

I think Prime Minister John Key and his gay red top comment was a good example of projection, which needed to be addressed. Why else but because of his own discomfort would he be so publicly offensive? It's certain he's been well taught in the art of interview, speaking publicly and being politically correct, even if he doesn't think that way, as all politicians must have to reach as high an office as he has. It's all the more obvious because he's trying to rationalise it as well! Someone who makes a genuine mistake doesn't try to do that.

So, if we're going to raise healthy children, we need to get rid of this projection business. We don't have a right to pass on hate and bigotry, or in my case disgust at fear and slow-learning.

Children have enough emotional baggage of their own to carry without carrying ours too.

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Monday, 5 November 2012

To Help or Not To Help

Imagine you're walking down the street with two friends on a calm, overcast autumn day. There's hardly any traffic. A girl you know, about 14 years old, is walking on the opposite side of the road to you, a little bit ahead, travelling in the same direction. None of this is out of the ordinary and you're chatting with your friends.

A car squeals around the corner behind you and immediately, easily breaks the speed limit before sliding to a stop next to the girl. A middle aged woman jumps out and starts pummeling the girl with fists and forearms about her shoulders and head, all the while screaming unintelligibly. The woman then forces the girl into the car, gets in and drives off.

All this takes about fifteen seconds.

What do you think you'd have done? Anything?

Imagine you were 14 years old when you saw it, and the girl across the road was a classmate. Does that change how you think you would have reacted?

It's a true story. I knew the girl, and I knew the middle aged woman was her mother. I also knew that sometimes she didn't live with her mother.

I did nothing. Well, nothing except discuss with my friends what we wished we had done, for the rest of the walk home.

Nothing except stare in horror as a classmate was beaten. Frozen to the spot. And nothing afterwards, because I knew the woman to be this girl's mother. Though it was likely legal behaviour at the time, I still knew it was wrong. My friends and I, we longed to have had super powers to react and to protect.

I think I felt as powerless as my classmate did. In a different way, of course, because I've never been subjected to what she was, and as I say it, I feel a crushing weight that you all might think I'm comparing my experience of watching with her of being the victim. No way. But I did feel completely, utterly powerless. Afterward that day I pretended it never happened, and I wouldn't be surprised if she did the same.

I thought it would embarrass her if I mentioned it, so I didn't.

I thought she wouldn't want anyone to know, so I told no one.

And that's probably how she did think, because when people grow up with that, they think it's all their own fault. That they're a horrible person, otherwise why would awful things happen to them? She probably had it internalised and normalised. She was probably very ashamed. Toxically shamed.

All this happened more than half of my lifetime ago.

I still think about it often: probably about once a month, these days. It made an impression. I'm very haunted by the fact that I did nothing. It's cliche, but I wish I knew then what I know now.

I wish I had known that the way to break through that shame wasn't to pretend awful acts never happened, but to recognise that they were indeed awful acts. To let her know that nothing she could possibly do would deserve being treated that way. That the beating was wrong and it wasn't her fault. That she didn't make her mother do that, no matter what her mother said. You can't "make" a person beat you - it's their choice.

It's the aggressor's choice. Their emotions. Their actions. Their psychological baggage. Not the victim's. All the victim is guilty of, is stepping on a hidden landmine.

But I didn't know then.

I didn't know how important being a sympathetic witness is, but I know now.

It's important for that child being scolded in the supermarket for singing too happily - though you may not feel you can step in, you can make eye contact with the child in a way that lets them know they're not bad.

It's important for the person at your office who serves as your boss's scapegoat.

It's important for that bullied kid at school to know that he's not to blame.

And it's important to know, that even if you can't step in and stop something from happening, that a lot of good can come from letting the victim know it's not their fault.

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