Learning from the toxic and letting it go.

Recently I experienced something that brought various uncomfortable but insightful emotions to my awareness.
I was generally feeling my emotions and energy more acutely that day, and so all the topics I would normally have a strong view or a passion for, were reeling me in with an even stickier pull.
Maybe about a year ago I met a lady on a night out whom in person on first meeting, came across as a shiny, warm and loving character. After that first meeting this lady went travelling, so a few Facebook clicks later we were social media ‘friends’.

I began to notice over the months that this persons news feed was an interesting mix of both compassionate and angry posts, which in the social media world is pretty normal. More and more I began to see the kind of posts that looked like the initial intention was supposed to highlight topics such as rape, racism, religious war and other situations that are creating anger, hurt and havoc within the world; revolutionary messages were often accompanied by disturbing images and videos. I was always up for a revolution and this seemed a like-minded person.

So I began to occasionally join in the discussions in the comments section of her posts, and initially my views were met with a like or two. Further on I’d get a comment back and eventually full on debates, usually from the lady in question. I became aware that my stance was developing into that of finding more peaceful solutions or of an overall objectivity; the makings of what I call a quiet revolution. Seeing as there’s already so much noise in the world, the quiet changes might be a welcome relief. Whereas the lady in question was after something quite different, she had a tendency to argue my, and others views with fiery, frustrated debate, even if I had not intended to enter into a debate but to merely offer a different view and just discuss with interest. I found myself consistently in a debate however, going into defence mode to protect my views, and often finishing with me agreeing that I may have misunderstood, just for the sake of keeping some kind of peace because I’d begin to feel emotionally drained by it.

I learned interestingly that I used to be just like that lady; if I had a view then I would not budge and woe betide anyone that disagreed with me or had something to say about it that did not match my views because I wanted the last word dammit! I wanted to be right so I could have my mini revolution and show people they had been wrong all along. Oh such exciting drama!
Maybe I just wanted to be heard.

I also learned while developing myself over the years, that to be heard, maybe I don’t need to ‘shout’ or to try to be of superior opinion, but to listen more to what’s going on within myself, before offering alternative solutions. I have slowly been turning into someone who no longer enjoys confrontation so much, though I certainly do understand it. I can remember well the rush of angry tensions that translated into what felt like power surging through my veins…fueling the fierceness that would arise in me, and like a bull to a red flag part of me would relish the opportunity to bark my views argumentatively to a whimpering audience. Temporarily I felt justified; a false power. Then would follow the deep slump into a dark cloud of frustrated tearfulness…for the barking only served to make my throat and head sore and offered no real satisfaction or refuge from the ‘big bad world’.

So it was interesting to notice myself changing…more able to consider both sides, able to dwell less on the negatives and to entertain the positives. I was becoming less attached to the drip of venom that is hatred inspired by anger, that is inspired by helplessness and fear.
I at one point decided not to engage with these debates anymore in order to preserve my sanity and my energies, so that they could go towards better actions. Not long after that decision I remember the lady in question posting a peaceful message and admitting to feeling weary of posts that incite anger; instead she wanted to spread some love with her pretty post.

Some time later, just the other day in fact, in my state of emotional awareness and weariness, I came across another post from this lady that showed a screen shot from someone else’s status; a twitter screen shot that had been doing the social media rounds and it was a vile status with some very ignorant, racist views. The lady posted this in an attempt to highlight racism and something possessed me to read the comments on the status, which just made me feel saddened. What I saw was predominantly comments about how awful this girl was, how she should be named and shamed, and most of the comments were snide, in a disgusted tone…which I don’t blame them for because that’s how it made me feel to see the racism in the first place. But the sadness came from the fact that being now in peaceful mode, I could see that this was doing nothing to deal with the racism and was in fact inciting more prejudice. To me it was only highlighting that hatred toward this girl was being incited and that everyone was going around in circles. Putting your energy into that which you don’t like, just gives it more power.

There was nothing new here, so I contributed a different tack by expressing the above and offering that perhaps we take the attention away from hatred to focus on what we DO want…to accept and celebrate the beauty of cultures and races etc. I can’t remember word for word but I do remember that my view was written from a place of love and a genuine desire to open new avenues and dialogues that did not involve purely putting down and reacting in anger; which to me is the unoriginal way out!
Well, what ensued was the lady unknowingly exposing to me that she unfortunately had quite a chip on her shoulder about it all, and also showing exactly how angry and world-weary she was. By choosing peace I had riled her up and was accused in various ways of assuming that all those in the discussion were idiots, of talking to them like they were children, and of it not being OK to tell them what they already knew.
In my shock I attempted to defend my stance by assuring that I in no way called anyone anything or meant to come across as any of those things. I admitted that I felt attacked by her, and offered again a broader explanation of my views, but to no avail.

What I really wanted to express was that I could see she was making me a scapegoat for her anger towards racism. I wanted to explain that if, as she claimed, my ‘sugar-coated’ views were my attempt to tell them what they already know in some condescending way, then why was she offering a post exposing yet more racism…don’t we already know racism over and over…centuries over? Aren’t we tired of the same old racism, and tired of the same old draining reactions to racists? Even she admitted to being tired of it all once, so who in fact was telling people things they already knew?
I wanted to express that if she thought I was talking to them like children, perhaps she should consider that actually children already know what I am saying, they have no racism issues, they are purer…it’s adults that need to be told. I wanted to show that we have been trying to highlight and highlight and we are still not seeing, we have been trying to fight fire with fire, and all there is, is burning with no water to put it out. By focusing so much of our attention only on what needs ‘highlighting’ and on our reactions to it, we are doing nothing but expanding the problem. I wanted to show that establishing a problem so as not to ignore, admitting to what the problem is and then rallying round to focus on what we want as our new outcome is totally different to what she was doing.
But before I could attempt to pour all my emotional energy into trying to get all of that out in a way that could be understood, she wrote in the discussion that I have no idea what ‘her and her friends’ discuss on her forums, and that I was assuming they all had no compassion.

Although I never once claimed they had no compassion, and though I felt attacked, bullied and tearful, I could not get the rest of my views, or should I say defence out…I wanted to add that she was right in the fact that I did not know her and her friends, so therefore how should I know if I am telling them what they already know or do not know, and why attack me for not knowing? Why not calm down and teach what they know? Had I really warranted being ironically made into the minority object of prejudice in her group?
I was asked to ‘walk a mile’ in her and her friends shoes before speaking. So was it she in fact, who seemed to think she knew me? Do all the other types of prejudice I have personally experienced become invalid just because they are not racism? Am I, with some black South African ancestry, a partner with Asian background who has himself experienced physical racism on the streets, mixed race cousins and good friends of all races completely ignorant to minorities and racism? Possibly yes to the first question, and a firm NO and NO to the rest. Wanting a solution and a reaction other than hatred does not condone any racism, and daring to speak a different idea does not mean I am talking complete nonsense.

That’s when it hit me. No. I wasn’t going to waste another moment of my heartfelt efforts to offer peace or to be someone with a different view in this particular forum, because it really did hit me that it was I who had hit a nerve in her. I had possibly hit her memories of personal racist experiences from her own life. What I had tried to show her and ‘her friends’ who had funnily enough gone a little quiet, was actually happening before my very eyes. I could see the proof right there even if she couldn’t; the incitement of more hatred…the expansion of another form of bullying and prejudice.
I was just someone else to turn the anger around onto, I was the weakest link; the minority in opinion there. I was to be feared for having a different view, for not reacting just like them in a disgusted and riled up manner, because they were still attached to their hurt from their memories. For the lady arguing at me, I was the perfect vessel to throw all that anger into, I was to be shot down, for in choosing to not give the racism anymore undeserved attention I must surely be condoning it, no?

I agree with highlighting things yes, but to highlight in a way that uncovers roots, in a way that says ‘this is currently happening, and it’s not OK, let’s get deep into this and really look at what we want instead, let’s focus on solutions and be that change’. Rather than purely posting things that say ‘Hey everyone look at this gross person, that’s awful lets highlight what a nasty ‘so and so’ they are, let’s teach them a lesson.’ Now there’s telling people what they already know a million times over if I ever saw it.

What I really did see was that someone just didn’t like their views being challenged because perhaps it made them feel like their history was being ignored. They didn’t like being met with a different possibility, because that would mean they’d have to change their story that had shaped them thus far. That would mean not having their angry, fiery revolution, and it would also mean having to own up to what they once claimed they were going to do less of from now on; less inciting posts and more love.
What would I rather have- a solution focused group that listens, or an angry mob that shouts you down unless you’re reacting the same way? Remind you of any prejudices out there?

I saw hypocrisy and bullying, I felt it, and in getting the brunt of it I recognised in myself that I liked the desire for peace in me. I liked that I spoke my truth even though I was feeling hurt and attacked. I liked the fact that I’ve come so far in my self-development that I’m now much closer to the other end of the scale. That’s where I really wanted to be, but it also means that I feel the divide a lot more when I come into contact with the opposite. The opposite side is where I used to be…stuck in perpetual angry reactions, kidding myself, righteous claims and preaching compassion when really all I fantasized about was to incite an angry revolution that would have kept me down in the mired depths of those I did not want to be like. Now that I’ve been moving away from that I can feel it more when I encounter it…I was becoming numb to it because I was enmeshed in it, now I feel the injustice sharply, it cuts my heart like a knife and so it should, for that’s the only way to feel it enough to move away from it and heal.
And that is the reason I still occasionally encounter it, because there is something left to work on, or another step forward to take.

I liked most of all my reaction once I felt attacked and hurt by the needless response towards me. Rather than continue to plead and beg my case, I cried a little to myself, gave some love from my tears to the world, took a deep breath, unfollowed and unfriended the lady and then wrote it all out of my system. Unfriending was not to be mean, but to practice what I preach- to put my focus even further into what I DO want, and to let go of what I don’t. I was ready to move on.

In spirit I thank this lady, for though she attacked I can see why I met her; to be pushed further into my quiet revolution and to like myself even more.

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