an extremely strong reaction of anger, shock, or indignation: her voice trembled with outrage. • an action or event causing anger, shock, or indignation: the decision was an outrage.
Angry. You may well say that has been my second main name in my family, “an angry girl.” For years, having heard my parents speak despicably of my anger in front of me (as if I was not listening or understanding –why do parents do that?) made me think I had in fact been born with a “huge flaw.” Coming from a family of socially charming individuals, funny, beautiful and intelligent, I continuously struggled to deny and “cure” this anger, making it only bigger and stronger, eventually even hurting my health. The interesting thing is, anger came only at home. With friends, in classrooms, it was inexistent.
During college though miles and countries away from home, this anger came to “haunt” me again. This time though, it came in the library when I was reading “the massacre of El Mozote,” again when learning of Reagan and the financing of contras in Nicaragua, the burning of schools in Guatemala, and the School of the Americas. Outrage. Not precisely anger, outrage, fed by the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness, feeling incapable of changing. Constantly flaring with the questions on my head -Why had I not been though about these events? Why as a Latin American was I not aware of any of these? I shut them down as I had no idea how to easily deal with them. I shut them as I became horrified of the anger haunting me on a different space.
Same feeling hit me again later that week, this time during an environmental science class. There I was, still miles away from home understanding the huge impact of my dad driving his car to play tennis at the club (less than 1 km away from home). This rage felt as that of my childhood: outrage, powerlessness. A burning scream from the bottom of my gut. A need to protest and act, yet no power to do any. I did not quite understand why I was angry at my patents growing up, yet then, a just turned adult, I begun to be outraged at my parents not having taught me the state of the world, at them not acting to change the inequality so evident in the streets, at them not stopping the forests I grew up surrounded by, to be completely depleted to the point of been entirely replaced by malls and parking spaces during my lifetime. Naturally sensitive to these events, I only felt lonelier as my parents and brother didn’t sympathize with my outrage, or if they did, did not accompany it with action towards change. I felt lonelier as I continued to judge them from a self righteous stance.
Been away from home worked as the best medicine for me, and allowed me to be free of the stigma and pain that I couldn’t understand and was so afraid to face. It even allowed me to have a “good” relationship with my family. This lasted a few years…and then… I got pregnant. Becoming a mother, from the moment a new life was placed in my female body, had the power of bringing all the “shadows,” the necessities, pains, fears, kept so meticulously under the rug, unavoidably out.
And out they were, in the form of anger towards my mother. By month three of my pregnancy I couldn’t even stand thinking of my mother without wanting to break something. Speaking to her or about her brought me to hyperventilation and even fading out in a restaurant. Troubled by my impossibility to keep this anger at bay, a friend gave me a copy of Laura Gutman’s “Maternity, coming face to face with our own shadow,” saving my life forever.
And here I am, sharing my story to introduce the woman who to me, is the eye, mind and soul opener planting the seeds of an evolved blue planet humanity. Gutman introduced me to the shocking idea of “systematization of abuse.” It just became so clear, what had happened, the birth of the burning feeling in my gut, the wanting to permanently scream and shout at my family. “Systematization of abuse” is to me, a too strong, too academic of a definition with a word I have been conditioned to abhor –abuse. I feel more comfortable calling it “hidden systematic mistreatment,” and every time I even mention it, I like to follow up with an example. First i’ll make it clear that my mother wasn’t a terrible mother, did not execute any violence or was clinically mentally ill, not at all. If anything you could look at my family from the outside and see only perfection. Yet Gutman uncovers what we have been conditioned to overlook, what culture and society have kept alive for generations, what our parents where victim to and are repeating. The behaviour we shall repeat unless we begin to understand, see, open our minds, heal our wounds, forgive and treat our children differently.
Here goes the example I like to use: A kid falls, immediately we do everything we can in order to avoid him crying, so we say things like: “don’t cry! everything is fine, nothing happened…if you don’t look at him he won’t cry, pretend you didn’t see.” Yet, something did happen, the kid fell, he felt pain, he got scared, so he cries as a normal human reaction to allow himself to calm again, to manage pain. Yet what we are taught culturally is to not recognise the fall, and so, not to recognise the embarrassment and the pain stemming from it. Instead we are taught to deny anything happened, avoid the cry, pretend, lie, cheat on the innocent one assuming he is too small to realise, and yes, when we are children we do not fully comprehend the scale of this. But neither do adults. Denying what actually happens teaches us to deny our emotions, we are lied to, we are taught we are wrong for feeling what we felt. And so we are also taught: I am wrong for been me. Like this, ordinary life carries multiple ways (some recently cleverly depicted by campaigns like Always’) of treating what is human nature as wrong and flawed. This was the birth of my anger, a constant denial of my feelings from my caregivers because they were too uncomfortable to deal with. I cried, it was uncomfortable, and as I was not free to cry, I started to shout and be angry, I was then told been angry is been wrong. As I grew up, I asked, I questioned, feelings, emotions, the world, only to be told questioning and my sensitivity were the root of my unhappiness. I was told I was wrong for been me, a woman sensitive to what goes on beyond herself and who questions religion, beliefs, politics, a system.
So now, what does one do with all of this?
I guess blaming and resenting felt ok for a while as I became conscious of the level of unrecognised mistreatment I had been through, yet, in the long run, it only served to further pain. Accepting the past, and accepting my parents became for me forgiveness. We each have a path, mine included different techniques and suuport. Eventually I have carried on and overcome my pain by showing myself that the anger, the sensitivity, the questioning in me are in fact, my best gifts. Reading Gutman pinpointed my unmet emotional needs as a child as the birth of my anger, lighting the way to walk a path of acceptance and eventually to be freed from them.
This is my story, and is unique to me. Yet, I am not alone, like me there area millions of humans (I dare to say most?) whose perceived shortcomings in adulthood have their root cause in childhood experience, that perhaps, like me, were tug under carefully constructed years of beautiful rugs. But bringing them to light, confronting them, accepting and even forgiving –the most difficult battles I have been confronted with- carry the key to our best selfs, to been ourselves. More importantly though, they are the key not to repeat these patterns with our children. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say, overcoming these battles and raising children by fully recognising human emotions, by been present, by been conscious, could lead us to have less crime, less wars, less corruption, less environmental destruction, more abundance, more respect, more compassion, more forests, more life.
We are all mammals with needs, among which is love. The need of the human touch, the need for comprehension, the need for protection, the need to be accepted and loved for what we are is permanent, but particularly important when we are children. Gutman, eloquently and in many forms reminded me of my mammalian natural needs, taught me how to overcome my pain of not having them fulfilled when growing up, and lifted me to become a conscious mother. Gutman raised my consciousness and changed my life.
Moreover, I believe Gutman’s ideas carry unmeasurable power. While writing this piece I came across the film GMO OMG. In one scene, Jeremy Seifert, writer and director of the film, is standing next to the White House’s organic kitchen garden. Having (earlier in the film) come to understand the laws and background lobbying that forbid the labelling of GMOs in most states in the US, looking at the irony Jeremy says “Where is the outrage?…Where is it?” Where are our actions to not let a few take over our food system, our soil, our Planet? Where are our actions in front of such incongruities? I can only speak from my experience, and it just so happens I am sharing my very personal experiences here, and in my case I can answer that my outrage turned into action came only as I found my sense of worth. As I valued my outrage and small scale power as important, as vital for all humanity. As I begun recognising my humanity’s perceived “flaws” and treat them as gifts. As I begun not to discourage my outrage. And all this came as I begun to raise my consciousness and heal my childhood wounds. Gutman’s arguments hold the power to heal inherited pain, to raise our consciousness to raise humans that are kinder to themselves, and thus, kinder to their society, the kind that act consciously from love and respectfully act to change the incongruities that are not fair to us all.
I am now proud of my outrage. I act on it at the smallest scale possible, my home. Yet it fuels my leadership and bravery. If I don’t act it stays, it hurts. When I act, it lifts me, it becomes energy, it becomes identity, it becomes a smile, it becomes compassion.
Laura Gutman: http://www.lauragutman.com.ar/
Laura Gutman in English: https://www.amazon.es/Maternity-coming-face-our-shadow/dp/0615247555
Teach girls bravery not perfection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fC9da6eqaqg
Always’s campaign “Like A Girl:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs
Brené Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability:”