What do Western Capitalism , The Social Contract, Hotel California and our families all have in common? They’re dysfunctional prisons. Well technically, one is a song but the good news is, there is a way out.
Systemic oppression is alive and well and always has been. It’s just become more blatantly obvious since the invention of iPhones. The humiliation of resources and opportunities available to those on top of the heap, flood our virtual troughs. We mindlessly eat it all day long and it’s making us sick. The clue here is mindless.
Rich people can buy their way into elite colleges, well paying professions, giant houses, gorgeous clothes, upgraded bodies, illusions of self-worth and satisfying vacations on the Amalfi coast during a global pandemic. I’m jealous, but also, not really. Rich people are exhausted, anxious and miserable despite the appearance that they’re stuffing every orifice with self-actualization. There’s a huge difference between enlightenment and trust funds. Sure, they have organic food and a plethora of stock options, but having been a therapist to a handful of Uber wealthy folks, I can tell you, many refer to their inheritance as gilded cages. Basically, we’re all in some kind of prison, but theirs were designed by Versace. From the outside looking in, the extra square footage and aesthetics appear, admittedly, preferable.
The rest of us live on the flip side in crap-board, clap boxes made up of cheaply painted sheetrock, AstroTurf and condescending lies. We swallow the gaslight sold to us by wardens disguised as bosses, CEO’s, HOA’s, commercials and conservative Christians who tell us our hard work and moral suffering will pay off, eventually. ‘Now get back to work for the minimum wage I pay you because the system, which I’ve rigged in my favor, dictates I’m worth more.’ Let’s cut through the crap, shall we?
Trauma Theory 101
The human experience is traumatizing. We’re the most vulnerable mammals in the galaxy, requiring a minimum of two years of care from a capable, preferably loving, adult human in order for us to develop as we’re biologically, divinely designed to. Human babies can actually die if they’re not held. Similarly, the human spirit can be crushed if our hands are slapped away from the table one too many times. There’s no such thing as lazy. I repeat: There is no such thing as lazy. Procrastination, emotional and physical paralysis and learned helplessness are all, at their core, trauma responses. Many of us stop reaching because experience has taught us, no matter how far out of our comfort zone we push ourselves, nothing we do will ever be enough to make it in the construct of the Man. It’s called shame induced apathy, exhaustion, burn out. Instead of stopping to consider that maybe there’s something inherently wrong with the Man, we internalize our failures, vehemently persecute and punish ourselves or other people. Blame and shame are the wardens of Hell on earth.
Because survival is fraught with the constant threat of death, the so-called adults we once relied on have been rendered fallible; meaning they make a lot of mistakes. Oops. The cradle fell out of the tree top again. Oh well. We’ll just buy more. Good thing they’re disposal. We, modern western human cogs, are the product of roughly 200,000 years of inter generational exploitation, oppression and unacknowledged abuse. We’ve been living in serious denial, and not just about wearing masks.
Fun fact: Our modern definition and understanding of child abuse is less than 200 years old. The first validated case of child abuse was a little white girl in New York named Mary Ellen Wilson. Now, it’s great that a bunch of woke, east coast missionaries realized you shouldn’t beat and starve little white girls, but how ’bout thousands of years of global slavery? For many of us, abuse doesn’t end in childhood.
Meritocracies Perpetuate Bullies, Rescuers and Victims
Why? Because we’re all terrified of dying before we actually live and we can’t all be talented geniuses. In a meritocracy, only talented geniuses, or people with enough money and therefore power, to declare themselves talented geniuses, survive. Let’s be honest, not everyone who paints gets to be a famous artist. You have to already be somebody to be somebody, or be so profoundly amazing that after you die, people say, That guy could really paint. Good thing he’s dead now though cause he could’ve really stolen my thunder and my ego can’t handle competition like that. Hey everybody! Look at my dead friend’s awesome paintings!
Barely scraping by sucks. Especially when we’re sold the insulting fantasy that if we just worked harder, we too could fly around the globe in our own private jet pretending we’re immune to a pandemic and other bad stuff that only happens to poor, lazy, stupid, immoral people like us. Hmm…I wasn’t very good at algebra but I also never operated a child sex trafficking ring. I guess my definition of smart and moral are way off base.
Most of the poor people I know, myself included, work harder than any of the rich people who ever tried to buy me. Don’t get mad at rich guys for trying to buy me. They knew they couldn’t have me any other way. Also, for the record, I said no. The fact that at least one of them pretended not to hear me is irrelevant now.
A dear friend of my mine, whose father made a million dollars a year doing something called business, told me she was raised to believe manual labor was beneath her. She said she felt that doing manual labor would’ve meant she’d utterly failed at life. The message she was raised with encouraged marrying well. What else could I summarize but that rich people see those of us who shine their shoes, fix their cars, toil in their factories, raise their children, mow their lawns or build their palaces are total and complete moral failures? I am, by my friend’s father’s definition, a total failure. I didn’t marry for money and went into debt so I could work harder in a different way. For the record, this particular conversation was one of many iron sharpening transformations for both of us.
My friend went on a mission trip and ended up sucking flood waters out of a bathroom on her hands and knees and decided that moment was one of her life’s greatest achievements. I’m unimpressed with all the bathrooms I cleaned in my days as a maid but context is everything. She considered her mission trip a divine calling. My janitorial services just paid the rent. We all get to experience different lessons in life.
What’s a Bully?
A Bully is someone who was separated from Love and responds with fear, anger, denial and retaliation in order to try feeling safe, loved and good. They hurt other people and themselves in the process.
Who are Bullies?
- People who hurt themselves and others by loving too little because they are ruled by fear.
- Wall Street…traders?
- Drug dealers and Big Pharma (The only difference between a street dealer and a drug rep are policies.)
- Pimps (aka human traffickers)
- The Food Industry (Dear Kraft, Mac n Cheese is not a breakfast food…but it is delicious. I love cheese.)
- Insurance Companies
- Karen’s (I’m truly sorry from the depths of my soul if your name is Karen. It’s not a nice thing what they’re doing to your name but apparently some Karen’s are bullies.)
- Abusive parents (who were once abused kids)
- Gaslighting governments
- Gaslighting employers
- Violent Criminals (We commit crimes after being victims and, not all crimes are committed by bullies. Some crimes are committed by rescuers disguised as NPO’s. )
- Addiction (addiction is the bully, addicts are victims of their addiction)
- Your television
- The beauty and diet industries
- People who take more than they give because of how empty they feel.
To name a few. I suppose we could add that guy who smashed your face into your locker for all of middle school but his dad was probably smashing his face into something or someone at home, in which case, was he really a bully or just a hurt person doing the only thing he’d learned to do?
Oh, and Covid. Covid is a bully. And because of Covid, some of us are protecting ourselves by being bullies.
What’s a Rescuer?
Rescuers are martyrs and saviors who were separated from Love and sacrifice their own well being in an attempt to get Love, avoid conflict and try to feel safe, loved and good. They hurt themselves and other people in the process.
Who are the Rescuers?
- People who hurt themselves and others by loving too much because they are ruled by fear.
- Codependent nurses
- Codependent non-profits
- Codependent, self-nominated ‘heroes’ (like cops and women of the year and rotary club people and stuff)
- Codependent public servants
- Codependent social justice warriors
- Codependent ’empaths’ (Hi, I’m a licensed clinician here to inform you that an empath or Highly Sensitive Person is just a codependent without a special title. Sorry. But if having a special title makes it easier to learn to love yourself then by all means, specialize away!)
- Codependent cashiers who take extra shifts and do everyone else’s job because they’re petrified of getting fired
- Codependent teachers
- Codependent single mothers
- Codependent single fathers
- Codependent therapists (Guilty as charged except I’ve done ten years and counting of recovery work so now I set unpopular boundaries.)
- Codependent poor people who pretend to be grateful for total crap situations, like forcing to pose in pictures with middle-class do-gooders who do charity work for their church and think it’s totally selfless to instagram pictures of themselves ‘saving’ you. (By the way do-gooders: This is humiliating and makes us feel like disgusting burdens. Please stop.)
- People who try to ‘save the world’ from a place of fear
- Umm, yea, a bunch of us are basically codependent because we’ve been encultured to see codependent behavior as morally good by Capitalists who benefit from our silent, suffering, self-exploitation. They’ve conditioned us into believing we’re only a day away from being rescued by a millionaire if we just keep tap dancing. It’s awful. It’s also not our fault because of neurobiology and the trauma of systemic oppression which I’ll explain in a minute.
What’s a Victim?
At first, we are faultless, blameless, innocent victims of horrible experiences. This is called: Life. There are several moving targets when it comes to pinning the tail on the original jackass who ruined Utopia for all of us but honestly, that rabbit hole goes no where. So, let’s skip ahead to solutions cause I really wanna have a summer next summer.
Here is the very tricky part: at some point, even if the horrible experiences keep happening, we can choose to respond in new and empowering ways. We can get out of the toxic triangle of playing into these three roles even if nothing in the Man’s world changes.
- There are people who get sober even though Kate Hudson just launched her own brand of gluten free vodka.
- There are people who stop binge eating even though Kraft just declared Man N Cheese a breakfast food.
- There are people who learn to stop people pleasing even though mothers are still getting Ph.d’s in Guilt Tripping.
- There are people who’ve stopped using drugs even though everything from crack to winning are technically drugs.
- There are people who stop having sex with everybody even though Disney movies are still full of innuendos.
- There are people who stop compulsive shopping even though Jeff Bezos is stalking all of us.
- There are people who learn how to stop dissociating even though the world is perpetually full of living nightmares.
- There are people who live in and fight against injustice, oppression and discrimination with dignity, nonviolence, compassion and strength even though blatant racism is actively parading around the globe.
- Basically, many of us have figured out how to grow through Fear into Trust to evolve into a living expression of something that’s bigger than all of our greatest enemies.
Who are the Victims?
Victims are hurt people who use our hurt status to meet basic needs, get protection, feed our ego and solve problems by being the winner of helplessness. It’s also a great way to get attention, Love and a much needed break from being hurt. Victims, just like Bullies and Rescuers, hurt ourselves and other people in the process.
- The stars of Lifetime television movies
- Anyone who lives their life like they’re the star of a Lifetime television movie
- Those of us who are looking for a better way to be but haven’t found it yet.
- We’ve all been and played The Victim. While I’m not a fan of being type cast, sometimes we don’t get a choice, …until we do.
Some of us are forced into the role and are really trying to get out. We try so hard we end up plunging back into one of the three roles; vicious cycle. And this is human history.
Please help me feel better about myself immediately.
None of this is our fault. (But it’s also all kind of our fault.) We were born into a ruthless and cruel world full of hurt people who’ve brainwashed us into systemically prescribed roles that intentionally pit us against each other in brutal competition for basic needs, let alone peak experiences. Remember those awful moms who lied and said their kids were disabled so they didn’t have to wait in line at Disney? Yea. That’s the kind of low life behavior we succumb to in a sad effort to have what we’ve been convinced are ‘nice things’ in life. What’s nice about capitalizing on fake disabilities? Nothing. It’s all horrifically traumatizing. Which is my point.
Fight Flight Freeze
Bullies, Rescuers and Victims directly parallel our involuntary survival response. We are literally fighting, flighting and freezing in reflexive response to the horrors of human existence which are exacerbated by the media. The media might be the living Antichrist. Maybe. Probably.
We’re so tired from all our fighting, flighting and freezing we don’t have the energy to come into conscious awareness that there’s actually a way out. There is. Aren’t you psyched?! I’m psyched! Not really. I’m bitter and exhausted but I love you so much, I just really wanted to tell you this in a way that made plain sense.
Soooo, how do we get free?
Simple, get out of our Primal Brain, go through biopsychosocialspiritual puberty and live solely from the Executive Function of our Prefrontal Cortex. We make an internal paradigm shift from fear to unshakable faith or trust, through love.
Here’s a short list of suggestions on ways to do that:
- Practice delayed gratification
- Go to therapy, if you can afford it
- Get EMDR, if you can afford it
- Kill your ego. Don’t like die, just connect to a source of unconditional Love and disconnect from all the cheap substitutes like sugar, sex, social media and coke.
- Pick a Higher Power and figure out what it means to follow them instead of following…the herd?
- Eat a vegetable…or at least, think about how that slab of beef ended up in the cardboard box on your lap.
- Eat. Forget what I said about dead cows and just feed yourself, if you can afford it.
- Go on spiritual retreats, if you can afford it. (I can’t. But I really want to go and then never come back.)
- Go on a road trip and pretend you’re on a spiritual retreat. (I recommend driving through the desert while listening to free talks by Gabor Mate on YouTube. Not as fancy as staying at a Plum Village but you get the same-ish benefits.)
- Challenge all accepted social norms and popular ideas by joining a Philosophy Club.
- Nonviolent Revolutions, although this can be debated in your Philosophy Club. Do we need violence in the name of equality and justice? Maybe?
- Hug somebody. Preferably somebody who feels safe and isn’t extorting you for personal gains.
- Make art. Just don’t expect to turn it into a full time job unless you already have money, or you’re like, insanely talented.
- Do Step work. Step Four, while it will gut you alive, might also be the secret to world peace.
- Get a sponsor. Makes the Step work actually work.
- Practice radical acceptance.
- Play. If you’re a grown up who didn’t get to play when you were little, this will feel weird. But try it anyway. (Sorry, you still also have to do grown up things like laundry. Try making laundry a playful game. I hear socks like playing Hide and Seek.)
- Radically accept the fact that the people who made you did the best they could even if they were sociopaths. Their inability to love you had nothing to do with you.
- Love. Love how you wanted to be Loved, starting with you.
I wish there were an easier way to restore Utopia. It probably seems much quicker to just show the little Monopoly Man our boobs but, if we really want to get out of jail, the long way ends up being fastest in the end.
This ended up being so long! Like this pandemic. I know it’s a protective defense mechanism, but I’m losing patience with people’s neurological noodliness. I resent our mess sometimes. And yet, I understand. And yet, it’s hard. And yet, I’m grateful. And yet, I just wanna go outside. And yet, whatever. xo