Where is the Outrage?

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.

Related/recommended Links:

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:”

English: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

Spanish: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=es

A different world starts within: The magic and blatantly difficult of the obvious and simple

One of Gandhi’s most famous insights, and what is preached by other wise minds, is that to change the world we have to start within: our thoughts and our actions to ourselves and then to the closest around us. Below is the story of part of my journey within, but mostly an introduction and an invitation to everyone to share theirs.

Yes it is cliché, (and I’ll be honest I am not too fond of admitting clichés in my life) going to Asia opened that “spiritual” door for me. I went for the first time when I was 23 looking to go as far away as possible from home. I was looking to explore a world as completely different from mine, also, I just wanted to proof everyone and myself I could go anywhere, but particularly (and perhaps the greatness motivator to endure an awful job for a whole year in order to save for the trip) I wanted to be admired to dare to go so far, alone. My intentions were selfish and in no way included spiritual awakening.

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Rock climbing, diving, and just exploring, became my day to day for the 4 months I was backpacking through South East Asia. Whoever has travelled alone knows, travelling by oneself by no means means being alone. I had different groups of “party” friends in each stop, partnered with about 4 different girls to go on trips or cross borders, and rarely did I ever eat alone. An extrovert by nature, but also, a hermit by heart, by the third month I was tired of having to have friends and having to make them over and over again…as well as bored of my introductory speech –From Ecuador… 23…travelling indefinitely… boyfriend is in San Francisco…no he won’t come… I rock climb…I looooveee Radiohead!- Tired and been so far gave me the courage, for the first time, to not give in to the social pressure of been accompanied, and I followed my need to be alone. I don’t know why, I just wanted solitude, a book…silence.

I went off the beating track, I read a book in 3 days and just slept, walked, read and ate at the only hostel in a town in the middle of nowhere in Laos where it was so cold, I didn’t even take a shower (no hot water available). The solitude of those three days wasn’t itself the awakening, but it allowed me to meet the person within me, it gave way for an inner voice to be acknowledged. Being 23 and growing up catholic, I had had an education that “good” meant giving to others, with the side effect of harshly judging me and the others I was supposed to give to. I left home at 18 to go to a very liberal college in the US; two years after focusing my studies on left Marxist theory political science and Latin American revolution history, I was self-declared “non religious.” To my eyes religion had traumatized me, taught me to be extremely judgeful, was boring, and had not done anything good for “my people.” Spiritual to me equaled religion, and having thrown my “God” and beliefs out of my life, I decided I would figure out how I felt about “all these stuff” sometime in the future.

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Yet, acknowledging that voice during those three cold days unexpectedly made my perception of the world different. After three months between Laos and Thailand, suddenly, I just began to notice the abundant Buddhist messages. Usually in tourist “new agy” stores, these messages were so simple and obvious, and preached different forms of what I understood as the following: Accept and love yourself entirely and all your problems go away, problems are not problems, live in the present, cultivate peace of mind (the key to happiness).

-Of course! I have to accept myself, my mistakes, give a fuck about what others think, of course! Obviously, I have to live in the present, I do that! Wait…do I do that?

None, nothing, in my up to that point 23 years of western upper middle class latin American and US college life, had told me such simple and obvious revelations.

But wait, who was I? At home those around me claimed I was a confident girl. Was I? I was miles away mainly looking for admiration and approval, sooo no, probably not that much. What did I have to accept that I wasn’t accepting? Peace of mind? What’s that?

Yes, I did not know what peace of mind meant.

I did not become Buddhist, I did not even begun to explore these questions any further. I was still, miles away from home looking for admiration and approval from the rest of the world. But a door opened, a seed was planted.

Years after, I have constantly wondered my place in the world. What is my passion and where I can have a real positive impact. Courageously I have dived into different professions, cities, countries, boyfriends and friends, absolutely loving them all and passionately succeeding and many times, making a complete splash. No, no spiritual digging took place, no exploration of those questions planted years back. They were simply denied.

However, the time came when one of those splashes involved so much I had to disconnect again from my side of the world. Sick, ashamed and hurt, once more Asia was my destiny, this time, my scape. The messages, this time in Bali, started resonating. I plunged into self- exploration, self-love, self-acceptance, and the understanding and construction of peace of mind as I urged to get out of the hole I had fallen in.

My intention is not to go into detail of that journey within, at least not in this post, but just to say that the obvious messages, so simple as “love yourself” –and basically “Fuck it” to everything else and just follow your heart- have been so incredibly challenging and difficult. Yet, they are, no doubt about it, the key to what has been the greatest accomplishments and happiness of my life.

Changing the world is possible. There is good out there, and this site aims to show it all to inspire us all. But no positive change is possible if it does not take place with our sincere conviction, which can only stem from our love. Loving our body, loving what we do, loving ourselves, loving our life. Sounds simple, but try doing it sincerely, no exceptions allowed, do you, do you know who you are? My spirituality is this: Change starts within, with ourselves, figuring out who we are, accepting us so we can accept others, so we have peace. Only then can we plant peace and love in others, and that is the key to it all.

I believe change within is the most important step towards evolving into the kind of society we need to keep living on this Planet. We have all been hurt, and to consciously learning to heal (by accepting ourselves) without having to hurt others, we cut the vicious cycle that boycotts our kind. If we can live our lives conscious of the impact our decisions and actions have on others we can begin to act together, act for ourselves and each other. We may have outstanding laws, but if most people don’t comply with them, then the damage done hurts the entire community, the entire Planet. On the contrary, there may be no laws to enforce good behaviour, but if we are conscious enough we can behave in ways that benefit us humans as well as the natural world that allows our life. I am no saint, I am no elevated wise mind, and I am for sure not a person who has achieved peace of mind or whose actions are entirely “evolved.” I am constantly working on this all, the path to a loving peaceful mind is a treacherous one. Yet, I am sure I am on it, and that is enough to create good.

This section *Evolution Within* is dedicated to changes within. Stories, tools, sites, people, and everything that we do around the world to change inside…so that we can be our greatest on the outside.