Despite feeling scared of standing up for what is right for fear of triggering more abuse or being revictimized all over again, abused people have a strong ability to sense suffering in those around them, but don’t know what to do with these additional feelings. They struggle enough to understand their own feelings from their abuse without having to cope with the additional feelings created by feeling compassion for others. Even so, people who have been abused still have a special ability to notice the reality of what is happening around them.
If people who have been abused are more aware of the injustices around them, and maybe sometimes even feel crushed by this level of understanding, then maybe also the bigger issue is that our society increasingly accepts as ok, many issues that are really not ok at all. How many ordinary people will see a colleague being bullied at work, but do nothing because they fear for their own job. Or maybe, others see a person speaking abusively to a shop assistant or a friend, but do nothing, because it “is nothing to do with me.” We can look at news stories of children suffering from neglect or being beaten to death by their carers and mourn the loss of innocence.
But the reality is that too often, it is easier to go with the crowd and ignore the very issues we most disagree with, than to actually do something. A traumatized person who still tends to freeze when confronted by any situation involving conflict, at least has an excuse. There are times in my life when I could have helped another person, and for various reasons chose not to. I’m not proud of it, but am learning what I can do and how to choose my own battles or causes with more care. For a while, I tended to be drawn towards what was most popular or current, but now am realising that it is more important to choose what feels right in my gut and what moves me emotionally.
When we find ourselves freezing up, then the first step is to start the process of standing up for what is right, inside ourselves first. We may never change the world or even our current political system, but we can be prepared to accept the need for a type of healing that builds our confidence enough to speak out about issues of justice or fairness that matter to us. We don’t have to have the best words, or the best attitude, or to speak with deep passion, but if we speak out because we believe something is right, or stand up for someone else who is doing this, then maybe we are making a start in enabling our society to rediscover its heart, one person at a time.
I’m amazed at how many ways it is possible to make a stand in gently reminding others that kindness matters, by demonstrating it in our own life and actions, by reminding ourselves, our friends and our neighbours tat we are all connected, and the most self centred acts of greed and selfishness do affect everyone. And even if we are mocked for it, ignored or threatened because of it, at least that night we can go to sleep knowing that it mattered enough for us to try, and we can resolve that tomorrow, we will continue to hold up the belief that people matter and to show it.