Whether it was a parent, teacher, grandparent, uncle, aunt, friend, boss, sister, brother, classmate, or co-worker, at some point, everyone has been affected by damaging remarks, criticism, physical abuse, harassment, or sexual abuse.
You may think it extreme to say that we are all in recovery, but you don’t have to be a mathematician to add up the numbers: at least one in four women is a victim of sexual abuse, one in ten adults is addicted to alcohol, and one in four women is likely to experience domestic violence during her life. Then there are all the other issues flying under the radar, like elder abuse, bullying, and living with someone dealing with depression, guilt, hoarding, or addiction.
Each person who is directly affected by these issues indirectly affects many more. And how could that be otherwise? Even the kindest soul reacts to abuse either by taking it out on others, himself, or both.
When we look at the statistics, the chances of not having some toxic interactions are infinitesimally small. If that is true, and we are all negatively affected by verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, perhaps post-traumatic stress is far more common than we think.
Surely, growing up in a family with an addicted parent leaves one traumatized. The trifecta of unpredictability, lack of primal trust, and insecurity, often all shrouded in a family pact of secrecy, is more than enough reason to embark on a recovery mission.
If the Buddhists are right when they say our suffering is our benefit, we can all help by first recognizing how pervasive emotional trauma is and developing more compassion for ourselves, and each other.
What would happen if our society recognized this epidemic of PTS? (I don’t call it a disorder as it’s natural to be incredibly stressed after trauma.) Ideally, we would cultivate gentleness for ourselves and our fellow travelers. We would all embrace a culture of recovery by speaking more kindly, acting more considerately, owning our own issues, cooperating rather than competing, embracing our natural sensitivity, and remembering that everyone struggles at one time or another.
If we assume that each of us has been hurt, probably numerous times, we might be tempted to chalk it up to human nature and suggest everyone simply buck up; but, isn’t developing a thicker skin part of what led to these issues in the first place? Furthermore, how does burying our true feelings help in the long run? Doesn’t it make it more likely they will come out inappropriately in sarcasm, or even abuse?
What if we used our collective pain to catalyze our evolution?
What would our better selves look like?
Would we be more generous, more patient, tolerant, and sensitive?
What about how we treat ourselves? Could we show more generosity, patience, tolerance, and sensitivity towards our own sweet selves?
What if, for one day, none of us took anything personally? Remembering that each of us is carrying far more baggage than is obvious.
What if after being cut off on the road we thought, “I wonder what that person is dealing with that made them so distracted?”
What if we assumed that every single person was dealing with something difficult, and we cut them some slack?
What if we smiled at everyone, whether we knew them, or not?
What if we practiced compassion?
These days, there is a great awareness of how we have hurt the environment. When will we own up to how we hurt ourselves, and each other?
Isn’t our treatment of the environment, animals, and others merely a projection of how we treat ourselves?
I believe it is.
By hurting anything we hurt everything.
Today, why not vow to start a real new age by taking the very best care you can of your sweet self? If you do, you will watch that inner love manifest to everyone’s benefit.