“There are people in this world who can show their wounds only by inflicting them.”
-- Aurora Levins-Morales, Medicine StoriesI have been deeply touched by the many responses to my recent post about bullying. So many questions and topics have come up, that rather than responding to specific comments, I thought I would collect them and respond in one post. I see the entire question of bullying as deeply significant, capturing in it so much of what I want to transform in how we overall relate to each other in the world, and to our children in particular. I imagine that every child learns deep lessons from the prevalence of bullying and from seeing how bullying is handled. I want those lessons to be ones that will support them in trusting the possibility of workable systems and human relations, and in their own capacity to make a positive difference in life around them. If even a few parents or teachers are inspired to shift the environment within which bullying happens, it would give me the satisfaction of having made a difference myself. My hope and vision are far bigger, which if you read this blog regularly you already know anyway…
My Own Path
I was asked how I was able to transcend what happened to me and come to a place of being open and vulnerable. I am not surprised this question is coming up. I have pondered some version of this question for years. It seems big and huge to me. While it seems pretty commonly accepted these days that people who act violently toward others were themselves previously traumatized and often abused, it is equally clear that not all those who are abused pass the violence on to others. If I understood fully what made it never appealing for me to inflict harm on others, not even in my fantasies, perhaps I could use this understanding in supporting others. Why is it that what was most painful for me was my inability to understand why anyone would treat me, or anyone else, the way I was treated? Much more painful than the actual experience of leaning against a tree all night and shivering. The more I am able to understand, the more calm there is in my heart.
My friend Aurora Levins-Morales, poet and writer extraordinaire, wrote in her book Medicine Stories about having been tortured as a child, and knowing that her only way to remain human was to resist the temptation to hate her torturers. She understood, even while it was happening, that hating them was the first step toward becoming like them. I feel fortunate never to have hated those who tormented me.