Pollyanna Propaganda: The Distressing Trend of Victim-Blaming in Spirituality
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Article ID: 15973
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 470
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Author: Gaiana Ravenlynx
Posted: June 13th. 2016
Times Viewed: 2,549
Lately, I have noticed a situation that crops up more and more frequently. Many times, it seems to stem from the belief that people's lives would be better if they could only believe hard enough. Or meditate more. Or "just let it go", "forgive and forget", "it must be your karma", or any of the other generic platitudes that are floating around.
Don't get me wrong, as a long-time Pagan, I tend to believe in a lot of things most would consider "out there" and I definitely can get behind the idea that our thoughts and attitudes affect the course of our lives and our happiness. For that matter, without believing in the power of visualization and positive belief, I would probably be dead by now.
The problem comes in with the assertion that people's suffering is entirely their choice, as well as their fault. It is the idea that somehow, just forgetting about or burying traumas and the results thereof will free a person.
This blithely ignores the fact that other people have free will and can choose to hurt others and there are very real chemical imbalances that come into play (both in traumatic mental issues and others) . Also, severe trauma can literally rewire your brain (as in PTSD) . The messy and inescapable truth is that sometimes people do horrible things to other people. Furthermore, things like microbes, trauma and various other sources of illness/injury exist and our biology tends to work within certain parameters.
Do I believe these things can be healed? Do I believe in the power of faith and thought? Absolutely. I also believe strongly in personal responsibility. We are in charge of our own healing process and in making the choice to begin it.
However, things are not generally improved by ignoring them. That's like hoping a wound will heal around a giant metal shard. Even if we somehow escape infection, the shard remains, causing pain and possibly worse issues. This is dangerous, both in the literal, physical sense as well as in the sense of "invisible" injuries. If we ignore our wounds, they might scab over. They might even look healed on the surface, but the cause remains and will work its way back to the surface and cause even more trouble. We have to actually deal with the root of the problem before it can heal properly.
It does not serve the people who have already been hurt in such ways if others encourage or even pressure them to forget or ignore such things. These things happened. Most survivors of major trauma already deal with guilt and feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness. To add insult to injury, so many are being bombarded by messages like "Why can't you just let go?" Or "Your suffering will only last as long as you decide to hold onto it."
I'm not saying people must or should remain in misery. I think there ARE ways to heal such trauma. However, as individuals, one size does not fit all. By heaping guilt trips on already struggling souls -- and by implying inferiority because someone can't let go of something that the person suggesting such things most likely has never experienced (and therefore cannot truly comprehend) -- MORE damage occurs rather than the healing release that so many who push such agendas often claim as their motivation. This is NOT "tough love"; this is not "healing". This is further bullying!
Compassion, most often, is listening. Caring. Supporting. Making safe space for people to root out the cause of their pain and finally do whatever is necessary to truly heal. Cramming propaganda down someone's throat does nothing except drive him or her further into their shell and isolation. Especially if it is someone who has already had the right to choose what happens to their own body taken away from them. This sentiment holds true for survivors of violence as well as people with health conditions (physical or mental) , including chronic pain. Healing is a deeply personal, highly individual process. While we can share what has helped us, ultimately the person in question is the only one who can discover their own answers, their own path. Forcing your views upon them can feel like a secondary assault or trauma. It's part of what keeps people silent, and silence is a barrier to healing.
If you're not sure whether you should say something to a person, think how it would sound to you if someone said whatever it is after you broke a leg or got run over by a bus.
This behavior is doing harm, not good in our communities. If you simply can't help yourself spewing toxic rainbows at people, some of who are fighting just to be upright on any given day, at least have the bare courtesy to present it as a theory or as YOUR path instead of a Sermon of Absolute Truth. Furthermore, if you are an offender in this area, it might be time to look inward. I've noticed that many who use these tactics do so as a passive-aggressive method of distracting themselves from their own, unconfronted pasts.
We are stronger, as a whole, when we honor each other's paths and when we reach out with compassion and understanding. In a world already fragmented and suffering on so many levels, should we, who consider ourselves enlightened, not lead the way to holding space for each other and for every person's individual journey to health and wholeness? We can do better. Sometimes it is assumed that saying something, anything, will be better than saying nothing. It is my opinion, however, that when someone is fragile and struggling, active silence or simply offering acknowledgement without any specific direction or input can be one of the most powerful healing magics of all.
People, ultimately, do hold the keys to their own healing and liberation. Each person will do this at their own pace, in their own way. It is crucial for people to be able to express themselves, to acknowledge their deepest feelings without fear of being attacked or further damaged. Often, the greatest gift we can give is simply our presence and acceptance.
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Bio: Gaiana began her formal studies on October 15, 1988 and has remained a wide-eyed student ever since.
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