Hello Dear Reader. It’s a much covered topic we see in news coverage these days, harassment and abuse. As we hear the news you and I are either in the group including 42 million others being triggered by the news or we are in the group impacted but not hurt by the news. It’s easy to hear the news and either be triggered or to feel sad but that it’s about “them”. However, the issues of harassment and of abuse are about us, all of us.
Consider this quote: “Selves are not separate from society. We’re conditioned to believe that acts of violence are isolated incidences rooted in the personal, in the individuals. This is not true. People are intertwined in a complex web of interpersonal and systemic influences; from family, to school and neighborhood, to large systems, institutions, history, racism and poverty.” — Sonya Shah, 4 Things We Can Do To Help Heal And End Sexual Violence as published in the Huff.Post 10/30/16.
As a woman I know what it feels like to be ignored, dehumanized, invisible, and to be treated like an object. I agree with Ms. Shah in that my instincts are to fight for justice while being grounded in empathy and compassion.
The media is helpful for promoting issues that need to be discussed, but we can’t discuss or post a simple #metoo if we don’t consider 1) how to care for our brothers and sisters who number in the 42 milliion survivors of sexual abuse (that’s just in the US) and 2) how to care for those who are growing up in this environment.
Harassment and abuse can be done without a word — whether is a look, obscene gesture or threatening behaviors, these actions as well as intentional actions inflict pain and impede emotional growth.
When the news triggers your pain
You are not alone in your pain. It won’t always be this way and it can change. Your brain, body, soul and spirit can and will be healed. Begin by understanding what exactly triggers you and then progress along your healing journey.
Understand the trigger and the meaning below. Triggers often come through images, sounds, or other sensory means, like smells. When the trigger happens, there is an internal process that connects to your identity or self-image. Understand why you don’t want to be perceived a certain way, understand what this trigger is trying to tell you, and understand how to remind yourself it’s a trigger and not the original experience. Realize that the trigger response to shame or trauma are the same and it is physiological, meaning we feel it in our bodies as well as we think something about ourselves too.
Practice healthy limits of media exposure. To the degree that you can control your exposure to the media, give yourself limits of how much time you will watch tv, read news, scroll on social media, and listen to radio or podcasts. Give yourself healthy alternatives to read, watch, and listen to that promote positive influences and affirm your humanity, your spirituality, and your healing journey.
Find a safe and healthy relationship in which to begin to share your story. This most likely will be supported with a professional who understands the multi-layers of harassment and abuse. Telling your story heals a portion of your heart and brings the pieces back together. Often, the story needs to be told a few times as each time memories will become more coherent and more healing comes to another portion of your heart and soul.
Learn how to express yourself, be you, and share your voice. Harassment and abuse attempt to steal our voices and to hide our true selves. If you are in a current close or romantic relationship where you feel safe and it has demonstrated to be a trustworthy and healthy relationship, and then consider helping the other person know how they can provide you with empathy, contextualization, and normalizing. Consider enlisting a professional on your healing journey team to help with the growth of this relationship too.
When the news triggers your desire for change
Understand how you can truly help change to occur. Getting connected to reputable local and global organizations is helpful for sure because you can partner your efforts with many others. You can also learn more about your own self-awareness and about how to care well for others.
Self-awareness will help you to be a capable, wise, and immediate change-maker. The most effective CEO’s and world leaders are also the most self-aware. Learn your own shame-triggers by studying shame researchers, like Brene Brown, or enroll yourself in classes, or coaching. Learn to express yourself and express what you need while also being kind, patient, and thoughtful.
Caring well for others means understanding the immense power of empathy and presence. When harassment or abuse occurs, shame enters the door and stays there until empathy and the healing presence of kindness, compassion, and perfect love kick it out. Know how “empathy drives courage, compassion and connection”, as Brene Brown says. When someone shares their pain or their story, don’t respond with a dramatic “Oh my!”, but respond with affirmation, connection, and a belief they are deserving of care.
It’s a whole-person issue
Harassment and abuse don’t just harm the body, they harm to mind, soul, and the spirit. We were created as whole people so when things happen to us or around us, we experience them as whole people.
True healing will address you as a whole person with physical, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual needs in the context of relationships. If we are hurt physically we will experience it every other area of ourselves as well. That’s why harassment and abuse can feel crazy-making or it can impact appetite or cause rapid thoughts or cause us to project things onto God. We are whole people so the healing we need must address not only our physical and relational needs but also our spiritual, emotional and intellectual needs too. And that healing happens in healthy relationships throughout our communities.
Why its an Us solution
The solution is not individualized, it’s something we all participate in, so it’s an “us” solution. The violence of harassment and abuse starts way before the actual act. It starts with the acculturation we do to children. For many males they are expected to kill off the emotional part of themselves. If they can’t or wont do it themselves, there are ways many men have been taught to handle emotions and many male children are taught those same ways. For females we are often taught to relinquish our own needs, to prefer others wishes, to silence our voices, and to defer. With the combination of just those two typical cultural educations, not even addressing privilege or racism, sexism or ageism, we’ve already set up ourselves for some form of harassment or abuse. We must counter the cultural educations and be individual as well as community fighters for healing communities.
That’s not even considering the most common abuse: Emotional abuse is the unseen fallout of all other forms of abuse: physical, mental, verbal, sexual, and even spiritual abuse. People often minimize the importance of emotions. Emotional abuse strikes at the very core of who we are … crushing our confidence … wearing away our sense of worth.
I know Dear Reader that it’s not easy to talk about abuse. And it’s hard to know where to go for help or how to help someone who has come to you.
Abuse is often done under the cover of silence. It needs to be addressed in the context of healthy community and brought out to the healing light. We all need each other together in healing journeys. Why? Hurt people, hurt people. AND healing happens in healthy relationships.
What most helped you from this blog? OR what will you put into practice today?
Connect with me to help you either join your healing journey team or to help you care well for others.
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She provides clinical Christian counseling that is psycho-educational and short-term. She is based in Austin, Texas and with husband David Lawrence co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me
Photo Credits: Photo from Pexels.com, Graphic on Canva