How do you write about something that people are afraid to see? How do you expose an undermining, but insidious, practice? How do you change peoples’ minds? How does a civilization heal from the wounds of abuse?
It has been a few weeks since I posted about abuse. I needed some time to refresh. It is a tough topic to bring one’s attention to weekly. It is challenging to discover new ways to talk about a very old topic that simply boils down to three words – it hurts badly. As I type that, it occurs to me that perhaps the three words are – it impacts everyone. And now I am thinking that if it hurts badly and impacts everyone, why is there so little discussion about it? Why is the topic shameful? Why are those speaking about it either vehemently reduced to blithering cry babies or met with silence, isolation?
Abuse is a taboo subject. Wikipedia defines taboo as “a vehement prohibition of an action based on the belief that such behavior is either too sacred or too accursed for ordinary individuals to undertake. Such prohibitions are present in virtually all societies. The word has been somewhat expanded in the social sciences to strong prohibitions relating to any area of human activity or custom that is sacred or forbidden based on moral judgment and religious beliefs. “Breaking a taboo” is usually considered objectionable by society in general, not merely a subset of a culture.”
If abuse is a taboo, then perhaps any discussion of abuse becomes an associated taboo. Maybe it is time to consider that abuse is not a taboo in our society. It is not vehemently prohibited, most offenders are not held accountable through the judicial system. The statistics would support that abuse is not accursed as a practice. And it seems that it is only objectionable in theory and not in practice. The recent public abuse Malia Obama endured is a good example that abuse is not taboo in our culture. Or how about the countless things Donald Trump feels free to express regarding the myriad of people he hates. Maybe abuse is covertly hidden in our fascination with celebrities; it would seem that we love to hate them.
So what is the deal with abuse? Is it possible we all shy away from the conversation because in our hearts we each know that our potential as humans contains the ability to abuse? Is it possible that we each know unconsciously that we abuse daily? Is it overwhelming to consider yourself as an abuser on the continuum of abuse?
It is for me, and I think that is why I needed a break. Sometime to process my own resistance to my own abusive practices. My instantaneous knee jerk reaction to a centipede, the illogical action of stomping on the poor creature. My judgement of someone’s competence that leads me to behave inconsiderately. My fear that I won’t be heard by another that causes me to lash out personally against them.
Abuse is a far too common practice, and the taming of it will require self-awareness and reflection. It won’t be easy. It will be hard. It isn’t only about what someone else does. It is about what we each do.
Tami Boehle-Satterfield, MSW, LCSW-C, NBBCH, HTP, a licensed psychotherapist in Boulder Colorado at attentiontoliving.com has challenged herself in 2016 to post weekly about the unpopular topic of abuse. Learn more about Tami at attentiontoliving.com