Stop Damaging Ourselves

Posted on 03 May 2020

2019 CC BY SA 4.0 Intl Michal Klajban

So many of us were raised by people who were damaged and who controlled, judged, and manipulated us through physical and/or emotional violence. So many of us are damaged and relate to the world through that damage.

To survive others of our kind we resort to the strategies used to protect ourselves from predators: fight, flight, fawn, or freeze. We all use a mix of these in different ways at different times.


We try to please our parents, please our teachers, please the people in power. As children these are the people who are critical to our survival and we have no choice but to rely upon them. We expect their love.

As adults we may learn to flatter people in order to get what we want and need, but there may be little truth in the flattery. It is an appeal to fragile egos that are easily manipulated. We end up living in a world of glamours where we see nothing but complimentary images of ourselves.

The dark side of this is knowing that we do not match our images and become terrified of being found out. We become manipulable to those who recognise our secret and offer supposed solutions to our inconsistencies, while keeping us locked within them. We also live in terror of others finding out that we are not sincere, making our flattery ineffective and worthless.


Just nod and agree with everything. Don’t rock the boat. When we see someone being brutalised by another, just stand back and become invisible. Maybe the bully won’t see us.

We may pat ourselves on the back saying that we are the peaceful ones. We are the moderate ones. We are the good people. In reality we are the cowards who are empowering oppressors.

Bullies only need to harm a few people to terrify everyone else into fearful compliance. We could stand together to stop them, but most of us do not. Instead we turn our backs on the victims, saying that they somehow deserved this mistreatment–because that excuses us for remaining uninvolved.


A number of us stay as far as we can from other people. We go to work, keep our heads down, go home, sit in front of the tv or play computer games until bed time, then after sleep go through this same cycle again. If we get lonely, we may become involved in social media, chatting with people we will never meet in person. If someone suggests we meet, we run away, terrified that we will be controlled, judged, and manipulated.

We may become especially sensitive to differences. That person is dangerous because they are a different gender, their skin is different, their culture is different, they are in a different field of work, they have more or less money, they look weird, they are in need, they are too good for us…etc. Honestly, bigotry is only the most obvious beginning to this sensitisation that results in isolation, dehumanisation, and ostracisation of ourselves and others.


We live in a culture that idolises violence. We spend a significant portion of our lives absorbing stories about people in violent contact. We normalise violence in order to keep that tool handy to protect ourselves. People who win live to fight another day…as if we should want to fight other days. We even romanticise those people who turn violence against themselves in order to escape the suffering.

When we are damaged by our families we may choose to harm them by being the opposite of all they are. We may do the same thing to our culture. However, then we are a simple mirror image. Everything we do requires keeping our eyes on what the enemy is doing. True freedom would be to simply walk away and be our most authentic selves, even if parts will be like our family or our culture…but it will be a matter of careful choice.

We may choose to “kiss up and kick down”. We treat those of higher status with deference, then transfer all our fear and frustration to those who are vulnerable and can’t fight back. Sometimes people kick up. But that doesn’t mean they are kinder to those of lower status. Many will bond more closely with those like themselves and form a gang. People can fight for noble things like universal health care for all, then define “all” as those who are part of their gang…all others are interlopers. And some will manipulate the most vulnerable into a combined force in order to give themselves power, without caring about the damage they are doing to these people nor ever intending to make their lives better.


I have lived long enough to see my cultures ride a roller-coaster from mean to less mean to mean again. Many people either do not have the will or the time to reflect upon the core reasons for their unhappiness. Many are terrified that if they let go of the script they are using to get by, then they will lose everything. Some are terrified of losing even a smidgen of their privileges.

No one is wholly good. Only a number are wholly bad and are probably in need of medical attention. We have to be conscious enough to start giving one another the things we need to be kinder more peaceful people. The children of abusers tend to become abusers themselves, but the cycle can be broken. Aren’t we all tired of living insecure lives? Security will only come when we are big-hearted enough to leave no one behind. Anything less becomes a cancer that eats us alive.

Things can be better. Open your mind. Open your heart.

In peace and kindness,


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